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Odd history; Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon embrace both old and new for The Odd Couple

- February 18th, 2015
Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon, episodic
It’s a “dream come true” for Matthew Perry to play super-slob Oscar Madison in the new version of The Odd Couple, which debuts Thursday, Feb. 19 on CBS and CTV.

“I mean, it’s big shoes to fill,” said Perry (pictured above left), acknowledging previous performances by Walter Matthau (in the 1968 film) and Jack Klugman (in the original sitcom, 1970-75). But we’re doing our own thing and playing it differently.

“I do a slight Walter Matthau impression in the pilot. But I think the funniest joke in the pilot was from the original source material, that was in the play (1965). So in writing the pilot, we came up with our own stuff and we used some stuff from Neil Simon. And the funniest joke was written (50) years ago.”

As for the meticulous Felix Unger character, this time it’s being played by Thomas Lennon (pictured above right), following in the footsteps of Jack Lemmon (film) and Tony Randall (original sitcom).

“I thought long and hard whether it was even attemptable, because Tony Randall is a major hero of mine,” Lennon said. “And I was worried that I might be doing an impression of Tony Randall or something.

“But then I remembered that he was really like the third Felix Unger and I might be something like about the fifth. So I felt maybe there was something new to bring to it.”

To read the full-length column I wrote about Perry, his various post-Friends series and his approach to this new version of The Odd Couple – “If this one doesn’t work, maybe I’ll go to dinner theatre or something” – click here.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv​

Archer and Agent Carter read The Book of Negroes and start an Empire with Glee; TV for the week of Jan. 4

- January 4th, 2015

Anna Faris, Allison Janney, People's Choice Awards

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Jan. 4

1 Marvel’s Agent Carter
Debut
Decades before the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, there was Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). She pledged a similar oath, but as a female in the 1940s, she had to fight from being marginalized when all the men returned home from World War II.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 6 on ABC, CTV

2 Downton Abbey
Fifth-season debut
Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) feels a bit insulted when the townspeople choose someone else to head up a local project. Meanwhile, Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) has trouble keeping her distance from her big secret.
When: Sunday, Jan. 4 on most PBS affiliates

3 People’s Choice Awards
Live
From the Nokia Theater in L.A., awards season kicks off by honouring fan favourites in movies, music and TV. Anna Faris and Allison Janney (pictured above) from the sitcom Mom are the hosts, with musical performances from Iggy Azalea and Fall Out Boy.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 7 on CBS, Global

4 The Book of Negroes
Debut
Six-part mini-series follows the harsh journey of Aminata Diallo (Aunjanue Ellis), who was abducted and enslaved as a child, but eventually returns home to West Africa. Also with Cuba Gooding, Jr., Lyriq Bent and Allan Hawco, among others.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 7 on CBC

5 Empire
Debut
Music-company kingpin Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) learns he has a disease and must choose one of his three sons to take over. But it gets even messier when Lucious’ ex-wife re-emerges unexpectedly and is determined to claim her share.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 7 on Fox

6 Archer
Sixth-season debut
Notice something different about this long-running animated series? The producers announced last fall that the spy agency no longer will be called the International Secret Intelligence Service – a.k.a., Isis – for obvious reasons.
When: Thursday, Jan. 8 on Teletoon

7 Sunnyside
Debut
Canadian sketch series featuring Kathleen Phillips and Pat Thornton centres on a quirky town where, for example, a voice from an open manhole replaces the internet. It’s the voice of Norm Macdonald, so I assume it’ll be sarcastic.
When: Thursday, Jan. 8 on City

8 Say Yes to the Dress Canada
Debut, back-to-back episodes
Set at a Toronto bridal boutique, Canadian brides must be more patient and polite than their American counterparts, right? Hello? Well, maybe brides are brides wherever you go, and they all speak the international language of tension.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 7 on W

9 UFOs Declassified
Debut
“Take me to your leader” aside, this six-episode series purports to present a balanced examination of the subject matter, with state-of-the-art CGI based on both eyewitness accounts and government/military documentation.
When: Friday, Jan. 9 on History

10 Glee
Sixth-season, two-hour debut
Upon learning that Sue (Jane Lynch) has banished the arts at McKinley High, Rachel (Lea Michele) endeavours to re-establish the glee club. More and more of the old gang will return home to help. Thank goodness this is the final season.
When: Friday, Jan. 9 on Fox, City

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv​

The McCarthys trial; loud and proud, sports-mad Boston clan focus of new sitcom

- October 26th, 2014

The McCarthys cast, two

There are family connections everywhere you look on The McCarthys.

If you tune in for the debut, Thursday, Oct. 30 on CBS and CTV, the first thing you’ll notice is the lead character is played by Tyler Ritter, brother of Jason and son of John.

“I was very impressionable as a young kid, I grew up around the sets of Hearts Afire, which was also a multi-cam sitcom,” Tyler Ritter said. “I got to see my father enjoy himself at his work. And I think any young child who sees that starts taking notes subconsciously. So I did that all my life.

“I got to see my brother on The Class, also in the same format. And I got to see him just loving every second of it, all while preparing and being responsible with their work and getting to make a couple hundred people (in the studio audience) laugh once a week.

“So I don’t actively try to emulate their work. I think we share enough mannerisms and physical characteristics that if I added anything on top of that, it would be disturbing.”

At which point Brian Gallivan, executive producer of The McCarthys, chimed in, “There would be moments where we said, ‘Oh my, that’s John Ritter,’ but with Tyler putting his own wonderful spin on it. So we feel very lucky to have him.

“I think I was writing (the character played by Ritter) as a young Brian Gallivan, but we shifted because actual Brian Gallivan became old Brian Gallivan. We were just looking for the actor who could bring this character to life, and Tyler was by far our favourite choice.”

As you may have gleaned from Gallivan’s comments, The McCarthys loosely is based on his own family.

“They demanded I tell you that, especially my sisters,” Gallivan explained. “But they also said, ‘You tell them we’ve never had a DUI. We’ve never carried a dead man’s baby.’ So now I’ve told you.

“I pointed out to my family that, in creating a sitcom, sitcoms need characters with flaws. So I had to add flaws that aren’t there in our family in real life. And sitcoms also require heartwarming moments, so I also had to add heartwarming moments that don’t exist in our real life.

“They were like, ‘Okay, that seems fair.’ ”

The McCarthys is about a close-knit, sports-crazed Boston family. Son Ronny (Ritter) is fine with the close-knit part of it, but as a gay man, he is considering moving away for a new job, becoming more active in the singles scene and trying harder to find a partner. On top of that, Ronny isn’t a sports aficionado, which always has set him apart from his clan.

Ronny suddenly is presented with a new option, however, when his father Arthur (Jack McGee), a politically incorrect high school basketball coach, stuns everyone by offering Ronny an assistant coaching position.

Ronny has two brothers and a sister – Gerard (Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block), Sean (Jimmy Dunn) and Jackie (Kelen Coleman) – who are far more qualified from a hoops perspective. But maybe Ronny has something in his personality that they lack.

Either way, mom Marjorie (Laurie Metcalf) simply is thrilled that this might mean Ronny stays put in Boston.

“We tried a single-camera version of this show (no studio audience) two years ago,” Gallivan recalled. “When I was first writing it, I was working as a writer on Happy Endings, rest in peace, which was a single-camera show that I loved. So that was sort of the mode I was in.

“But then, because this family (on The McCarthys) expresses love through insulting each other and being hateful, in a single-cam that was a little dark. With a multi-cam, we found it was more fun to have the audience laughing and enjoying it.”

So insults are more palatable in front of a big group of people, got it.

Then again, maybe that’s more of a TV lesson than a real-life lesson.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Jayma Mays understands parental discretion is advised when watching The Millers

- October 17th, 2014

Nelson Franklin, Lulu Wilson, Sean Hayes, Margo Martindale, Will Arnett, Beau Bridges, Jayma Mays and J

According to recent studies, more than half the adult population in North America is dealing with, or supporting, or in some way taking care of aging parents.

Maybe you’re just worrying about your parents as they get older and a bit goofier, which can be a burden on its own.

I would wager this is one of the reasons The Millers connects with TV audiences.

“Yes, well, my parents started going goofy at a very young age, so I was ahead of the curve on that, I have a really kooky mother,” said Jayma Mays, who plays Debbie on The Millers (pictured above on the far right of the couch, and below).

“I didn’t know there were that many people dealing with aging parents, it seems incredibly high. But on the flip side, with the economy, a lot of (adult) kids are having to live with their parents, too. So these multi-generational homes are becoming more common, I think.”

The multi-generational homes on The Millers are in flux as season two begins, Monday, Oct. 20 on CBS and then Thursday, Oct. 23 on CTV.

Will Arnett stars as Nathan, and Mays plays Nathan’s sister Debbie. Season one saw Nathan and Debbie’s parents – Carol, played by Margo Martindale, and Tom, played by Beau Bridges – split up, with mom moving in with the recently divorced Nathan and dad moving in with Debbie and her husband Adam, played by Nelson Franklin.

“In season two, mom decides to move out, so that’s a big plot change for us,” said Mays, who also is well-known to TV audiences for her roles on Glee and Heroes. “Mom is exploring her independence and freedom. And also, Sean Hayes has joined our cast as her new kind of best friend, and also Nathan’s nemesis. Sean has a two-parter there.

“For Debbie, what they’re doing this season that I love so much, they’re exploring the relationship between Debbie and Adam a little bit more. That’s great, because they’re kind of a buddy-buddy misfit couple. We’re learning more about him, like he was raised in a commune, there’s a whole episode about that.

“Despite being the weirdest ones on the show, Debbie and Adam have the most functional relationship. We’re the only ones still married, so we must be doing something right. We’re two weirdos who found each other.”

Now there’s something fit for a romantic-movie poster: Two weirdos who found each other.

“You can quote me on that,” Mays said with a laugh.

Coincidentally, some critical evaluations of The Millers have accused the characters of being too nasty. Sure, they can be nasty, in a comic sense. But given the wide scope of what’s on TV these days, I find it hard to accept that The Millers is the poster child for nastiness, if you know what I mean.

“Like, what are people comparing it to, exactly?” Mays agreed. “That does surprise me. But maybe it’s because, I like to describe the characters on our show as saying things to each other that you might think but might not actually say out loud. That’s why it’s funny, because you’re thinking it anyway.

“Personally I feel our show has a lot of heart. It reminds me of some of the sitcoms I grew up watching and loved, in that the family ultimately loves each other. And when you think about it, we actually put each other first in everything. That often is the message at the end of almost every episode.

“So maybe the people who are saying we’re nasty are only watching the middle bits and not watching the end?”

Fortunately for Jayma Mays and her cast-mates, the end is nowhere near for The Millers. Allow it to age gracefully, like fine wine and goofy parents.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv
Jayma Mays as Debbie

 

Saturday morning cartoons have officially died

- October 4th, 2014

Saturday morning cartoons are officially dead.

October 4 marked the death of a beloved past time almost everyone can relate to: waking up super early Saturday morning, dumping some kind of sugary concoction marked cereal into a bowl, overloading it with milk, and settling in front of a television set to watch cartoons.

The CW, the last remaining network who dedicated a block of programming on Saturday to children’s cartoons or animation, switched out their “Vortexx” portal in exchange for more live-action shows.

All of which resulted in the figurative death of cartoons, and the literal death of cartoon programming on any kind of network station, including CBS, NBC, and ABC.

Although they weren’t the first network to scrap their animated programs (Fox in 2008 and ABC in 2012), they were one of the last available options for families who didn’t purchase packages that included Nickelodeon or additional Disney channels.

The CW pointed to a multitude of reasons for the decision to scrap cartoons, from modern day DVR capabilities to animated shows becoming too niche for their overall market.

Whatever the reason network executives served reporters, the fact remains that cartoons have become as difficult to watch as ever.

The death of the children’s cartoon has been imminent for years, as more and more creators move toward making cartoons geared toward teenagers and adults.

From the obviously meant for adult programming like Archer or South Park to the questionable Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers, the idea of a safe haven for children to watch cartoons without worrying about the content has slowly been eroding.

Even shows like Adventure Time and The Regular show that appear on Adult Swim are far more lewd with innuendo than Scooby Doo ever was.

Long gone are the days of Hanna-Barbera’s Saturday morning treasures. There haven’t been any adventures in Bedrock or any slip ups from George Jetson in quite some time.

Long gone are the days of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fighting crime (that didn’t include a perverse amount of violence, etched in the mind of Michael Bay). Scooby Doo and the gang aren’t solving crimes anymore, Rocky and Bullwinkle aren’t heading out into the world to see all that they can, and even Yogi Bear is resting peacefully in Jellystone Park.

This generation of kids won’t have jovial theme songs to sing with their friends as adults, reminiscing over nostalgic Saturday mornings, hunched in front of the idiot box for hours.

Nor, as the networks don’t seem to comprehend, will they wake up ridiculously early on a Saturday morning to make sure Wolverine and Scott were doing okay in whatever X-Men series was playing that year.

Live action television is great, but it doesn’t replace the fantastical worlds only cartoons can conjure up.

Instead, kids will pick up a Playstation or Xbox controller and have to find their Saturday morning entertainment inside of a console, exploring new worlds with their friends over a microphone.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the same as sitting with a brother or sister, or even sitting by yourself with a bowl of cereal, and tuning in week after week to watch your favourite cartoon characters.

It was a different kind of immersive experience altogether. It was feeling like you could be one of Batman’s sidekicks, or feeling like you had become friends with different Pokemon masters on their journeys, because of how invested you were allowed to become in them.

It was a time honoured tradition, passed down from parent to child with each generation. It was discovering cartoons of years past during a repeat your mother or father sat down to relive excitedly, or embracing in the feeling of accomplishment when your parents discovered they enjoyed Sailor Moon just as much as you did.

Saturday morning cartoons were the last innocent world of adventure available to kids on television, and now that coveted time of week has been ripped from their grasps and replaced with mediocre live action shows geared toward families.

The world has become a little less Tigger and a little more Eeyore.

I hope children will understand what that means in twenty years time.​