Nov 28, 2010

RIP, Leslie Nielsen

Actor Leslie Nielson has died at age 84 from complications fromyoung-Leslie-Nielsen--leslie-nielsen-254217_288_219 pneumonia. Canadian born Nielsen got his start as a serious actor, appearing on TV in the 1950’s in at least 150 live dramas and in movie classics such as Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure.  But his greatest success came with a switch to comedy, beginning with the 1980 classic, Airplane! He continued the dead-pan style used in that film playing Detective Frank Drebin in the short lived but leslie_nielsencritically acclaimed 1982 TV show Police Squad. In 1988, Nielsen took Frank Drebin to the big screen for the very successful Naked Gun series. He continued to make spoof movies and to work in movies and TV until his death. Planning for a fourth Naked Gun film was underway. 

Surely Leslie Nielsen will be missed. He will be missed, and don’t call him Shirley.

RIP, Leslie Nielsen, February 11, 1926 – November 28, 2010

More to Come.

Nov 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Prayer

 

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;

When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;

When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;

When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,

And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.

Amen.

- Samuel F. Pugh

 

Happy Thanksgiving to All. There’s parades and football on TV, but don’t forget to tune in to the ones you love.  Wm. Adams, Adams on Television.

Nov 22, 2010

TV Net Work, 11/22

I work the Net so you don’t have to

Not Lost Anymore, Part 1: “Hurley” does a guest spot on HIMYM tonight.  http://goo.gl/3ZfUL

What, Mel Brooks didn’t get it right?  OK, that’s one opinion.  http://goo.gl/SeIft

It had to be her dancing right? Nothing else about her would lead to such emotion.  http://goo.gl/USfs1

Not Lost Anymore, Part 2: “Hurley” to go to a different island.  http://goo.gl/Z54IM

Remington Bond is returning to TV playing a real life investigator.  http://goo.gl/bm0nK

A Lost producer and the producer of Pearl Harbor are teaming up to produce a drama set during the Civil Warhttp://goo.gl/YokLD

More to Come.

Nov 20, 2010

Don‘t You Like to Laugh? (Part 2)

The second of a short series focusing on three shows that I enjoy a lot that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

Keep Hope Alive!

So over on Fox TV, there’s this new sit-com called Raising Hope that you’reraising-hope-6-10-10-kc probably not watching. What’s it about? Well, at its core, it’s about a young single dad raising his infant daughter with the help of his parents and great grandmother. Sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Like there’d be lots of sweet little “aww” moments and learning and growth and stuff, like a 30 minute version of 7th Heaven or something?  And pretty much unwatchable, right?

Well it would be, except that this situation is run through the filters of the creative team that brought us My Name is Earl, so it’s not quite as tidy and wholesome as it sounds.  Let me recap how we got to the basic situation of the show.

Twenty-three year old Jimmy Chance, played by Lucas Neff (The Beast), lives with his parents and works as a landscaper and pool cleaner for his dad Burt, wonderfully played by Garret Dillahunt (Deadwood, The 4400).  Jimmy is good natured and likable, if a little simple, and is starting to wonder if he should want more out of life. He then has a chance meeting and one-night stand with a hot blond in the back of the family van. The next day, the family sees a news report identifying her as a serial killer. She is captured and sent to Death Row.  Eight months later, Jimmy learns that she is pregnant.  Cut to Jimmy, holding his infant daughter in the viewing gallery of the baby-mama’s execution in the electric chair.  Jimmy now has to raise his daughter, christened Princess Beyoncé (“…but I think I may change that.”) and needs his family’s help in figuring it all out. And all this occurred before the first commercial break.b39b4_101101mag-raising-hope1

Trouble is, Burt and Jimmy’s mom Virginia, a housecleaner, were never the best at childrearing themselves, as we see in frequent flashbacks.  Virginia is played by Martha Plimpton (The Goonies, Running on Empty) as both exasperated and overwhelmed (her first thought is to drop Hope at the fire station. But you have to hand it to someone, the box out front is for canned goods and puppies). Possibly the smartest member of the bunch, she isn’t without her eccentricities, including hoarding all of the items she’s collected from the trash piles of her clients.

raising-hope-halloween-twoRounding out the family is Maw Maw, Jimmy’s great grandmother. Maw Maw is played with award-worthy enthusiasm by comedy legend Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), as a very old woman who has lost most of her mind. Generally having only 5 lucid minutes a day, she frequently imagines she’s 9 or believes that Jimmy is her dead husband (including giving him a kiss so hard, Jimmy exhaled her cigarette smoke) and is often seen in only her bra and some stretch pants.  Leachman has long since given up on any sense of vanity and takes Maw Maw to the brink.  She’s rarely the focus of the show, but her scenes are priceless.

Also on the scene is Jimmy’s new found friend, Sabrina, played by Shannon Woodward (The Riches, Grounded for Life). Sabrina works at the local grocery store because she has nothing better to do. Jimmy is smitten with her, but she has a boyfriend away at college and doesn’t seem to notice Jimmy in that way.

This dysfunctional group does their best to care for Hope, as she was thankfully renamed. Hope is played by two sets of twins, and they are some dang cute babies. The expressions they milk out of the baby actors are priceless.51296410001_602793821001_ari-origin29-arc-185-1283551819985

The comedy in Raising Hope comes from the tension of wondering if Hope is in safe hands, and in watching this blue collar family stumble through life doing the best that they can.  These aren’t bad people, just un-smart people working to make it through life, now even more challenging with a baby in their midst.  The comedy is broad and both verbal and physical. There was a nice meta reference to Earl Hickey in the pilot. One of the biggest laughs I’ve had in a while was when Hope RollVirginia and Jimmy were driving little Hope home in the very old car seat Jimmy picked up at the pawn shop (Sabrina: Nice car seat.  Jimmy: Oh yeah, thanks, it's a used one.  Sabrina: I can see that. Who used it, baby Jesus?)  Virginia points out that the van doesn’t have a seatbelt, so how are you going to strap it in. “What do you mean ‘strap it in‘?” Cue the sight gag of Virginia making a turn, and baby Hope, in car seat, rolling across the back seat.

Raising Hope is easily the best new comedy of the season. Of course it didn’traising-hope-s1e5-Family-Secrets-01-550x365 have a lot of competition for that title (I’m talking to you, Running Wilde [good riddance]).  Fox is running two episodes a week for a while, one new and one repeat so you can catch up, plus you can watch complete episodes here.  So tune in to one of the funniest shows you’re not watching and see if Princess Beyoncé, err… Hope will survive the Chance family. I’m betting she does OK.  Her name is in the title, after all.

Raising Hope on Fox TV, Tuesdays at 9:00|8:00c

More to Come.

Nov 15, 2010

TV Net Work, 11/15

I work the Net so you don’t have to

Mysterious blimp stalks Jay. “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”  http://goo.gl/2sfYP

NBC adds two more comedies to Thursdays for a 3 hour block.  Welcome back, P&R.  http://goo.gl/iBpN6

All I know is the Corpus Christi sports talk radio station bumped Jim Rome for this guy and I went back to NPR. That gets him a TV show?  http://goo.gl/Gn9N4

Will he be there long enough for us to resurrect our “Hi Bob” league?  http://goo.gl/JH6UD

Maybe they could save money by putting him in stretch pants this time.  http://goo.gl/f7xCC

Nothing at all to do with TV, but it’s the Beatles! On iTunes!!  http://goo.gl/KELt6

More to Come.

Nov 11, 2010

TV Net Work, 11/11/10

I work the Net so you don’t have to

Glee Fans, here’s a nice profile of Dot Marie Jones, Coach Beiste to you and me. 15 world arm wrestling titles.  Damn.  http://goo.gl/ZL5jt

Tina Fey receives the Mark Twain Award for American Humor. Look for the broadcast on PBS this Sunday. I want to go to there.  http://goo.gl/HXZje

So many shows have given up using long titles sequences. EW has a slideshow of 25 of the most famous.  Here’s the story… http://goo.gl/WkmwF

Valerie Bertinelli and Bonnie Franklin will reunite on TV in January. That’s fine, but where’s Schneider?  http://goo.gl/JeaXt

I guess this is our payback for Crocodile Dundee IIhttp://goo.gl/B4N0k

Homer may outlast us all.  http://goo.gl/MXdmV

More to Come.

Nov 9, 2010

TV Net Work

I work the Net so you don’t have to

Charlie O’Donnell, the long time announcer on Wheel of Fortune, passed away this week.  http://goo.gl/FRH2P

In other Wheel of Fortune news, a woman solved a seven-word phrase puzzle with only one letter revealed.  http://goo.gl/LNFC9

Enjoying the new Hawaii Five-O? Enjoy it more by playing Five-O Bingo while you watch.  http://goo.gl/Elw4W

Tim Allen Rrr-Rrr-Rrr-turning to TV.  http://goo.gl/5ySYD

After only two (freaking amazing) episodes, AMC orders a second season of The Walking Deadhttp://goo.gl/eC8C4

Mary Richards and Sue Ann Nivens, together again.  Meow.   http://goo.gl/mkpdD

Gene Shalit is still on the Today Show?  Who knew?  http://goo.gl/lmsGX

More to Come.

Nov 6, 2010

Don‘t You Like to Laugh? (Part 1)

Did I ever mention how much I like TV? I did? Well, I like all sorts of TV shows, but by far, the venerable Sit-Com is my favorite type of show. I grew up with some of the greatest, and I’ll write in depth about them another time.  Currently, there are a lot of really good sit-coms on the air, and quite a few stinkers, too (I’m looking at you, $#*! My Dad Says).  But I want to bring your attention to three really great ones that you’re probably not watching, but ought to give a try.  Today, I’ll post the first of a short series focusing on three shows that I enjoy a lot.

What’s in a Name?
Sometimes a show—Modern Family, for example—knows exactly what it wants to be from the first scene of the first episode. Other shows take a little time to figure out what they should be. Such is the case of the worst named sit-com on the air, Cougar Town. The original concept for this show was to follow Courteney Cox (
Friends, Scream) as the lead character Jules, a recently divorced 40-something realtor who married and had a kid while young, started to re-experience the dating life with younger men. This lasted about three episodes,watch-cougartown then her young buck of a boyfriend made like Chuck Cunningham and just disappeared. Over the rest of Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2, Cougar Town has evolved into a wonderful ensemble piece featuring Jules, her family and her red wine loving friends.

The show still centers on Cox, but gives equal time to her cast of cohorts who revel in their dysfunctional relationships:

  • Ex-Husband, man-child and golf pro Bobby may be the breakout star of the show. Bobby lives on a boat. In a parking lot. He drives a golf cart CougarTownSeaonOne_Photo_05everywhere, one assumes due to a revoked driver’s license. Bobby tried to be a good husband, but he’s a bit simple and likes to have fun even when fun isn’t appropriate. He the kind of guy that turns loose change and a rusty coffee can into a sport. PENNY CAN!  Brian Van Holt (S.W.A.T., Black Hawk Down) plays Bobby as a loving ex-husband and father who enjoys the hell out of every moment in life.
  • Jules’ son, Travis, plays a Michael Cera-ish teen who has been ustv_cougartown_travissmothered by his mother’s love for his whole life. Dan Byrd (Heroes, Entourage) plays him as self-aware and bemused, offering sly commentary on his mom‘s latest bad decision or her desire to keep her little baby bird in the nest.  Off to college this season, Travis still makes regular appearances.
  • The best friend and neighbor is the ever snarky and better-than-all-of-you-and-want-to-make-sure-you-know-it Ellie, played by Christa Miller (The Drew Carey Show, Scrubs). Ellie is one part mean girl, one part 52431794attention-craver, and one part old-guys-in-the-balcony. She loves her husband and child, but would never let them know that.
  • Ellie’s husband Andy gives hope to overweight balding men everywhere. He’s got a hot wife, a good job, good friends, and a man-crush on Bobby. As played by Ian Gomez (Felicity, The Drew Carey Show), Andy is wiser than he lets on, as indicated in a recent episode that equated him with Keyser Söze, but willing to play the hen-pecked clueless husband because he gets to go to bed with Ellie every night. He really loves her, and she him, despite outward appearances.
  • Across the street from Jules lives Grayson Ellis, another good-looking cougar-town34(even with tiny eyes) 40-something divorcee. At the beginning of the show, Grayson was the surly foil to Jules’ weekly dalliances, commenting from his driveway as she stumbled home in the morning. Played as smug and aloof by Josh Hopkins (Brothers & Sisters, Private Practice), the Grayson character grew nicely in depth. The show moved him and Jules quickly through a Sam and Diane phase and into a relationship, and also threw him unwillingly into a friendship with Bobby and Andy, where the Stockholm Syndrome seems to have taken hold.
  • Finally, rounding out their self-named Cul-de-Sac Crew, there is Laurie, played by the incomparable Busy Phillips (Freaks & Geeks, ER). Laurie BusyPhilipps01works for Jules, but is also her friend and mentee. She’s a frequent target for Ellie’s insults, an object of desire for Travis, a drinking buddy for Bobby and a romance advisor (and one-night-stand) for Grayson.  Laurie is curvaceous, a little bit trashy, and has very few filters. Her references to the events of her life are frequently hysterical, like the time she and Travis ended up hiding in her ex-boyfriends closet, and she found the snacks she left from the previous times she had hidden there. Laurie has many insights on relationships, including this gem: "Sorry, Jules, but you're not in a relationship yet. It has to last at least nine days before I consider it real. It's the same rule I have for hair extensions or foster parents."

The broad and rapid-fire humor in Cougar Town comes from the interplay of these great and unique characters, their inability to stop themselves from crossing certain lines, and their complete willingness to say exactly what they are thinking.  The comedy style is not based upon punch lines, it is based on funny people in funny situations saying funny things.  It occasionally strays towards trying to pull your heartstrings or to have a moral, but never to the “very special episode” level. Courteney Cox is playing the same basic character as she did with Monica Geller, but it works. Her comedic timing is spot on, and she brings a hyper but likable energy to the role. She has also been willing so far to call in favors from her Friends, with guest spots by Lisa Kudrow and Jennifer Aniston.  The rest of the cast is just as good as Cox. Each of them has already been able to establish layered characters, and each of them has a distinct way of dealing with each of the others.
cougar title

Trust me, there’s a lot to like here; you just have to get past the title of the show. This has been such an issue for them that the producers seriously considered renaming the show over the summer (rumored to be the favorite: Friends & Neighbors. Get it?) Instead, each week’s title sequence now includes a sly acknowledgement of the issue by adding a little something scrawled over the top of the title: (Still) Cougar Town, (Badly Named) Cougar Town, Cougar Town—That‘s Not What It‘s About. 

Cougar Town is a solid and entertaining ensemble comedy with engaging actors and excellent writing. Pour a glass of red wine and give it a try.

Cougar Town on ABC, Wednesdays 9:30|8:30c

More to Come.