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Final Score (average of several classic cinematic qualities):
9.5 (out of 10)
Click. Fizzling sound. The light goes on. Standing underneath the bare bulb in glorious black and white is Christopher Titus. He's in a bowling shirt and looks like a combination of Jim Carey and that wide-eyed muppet with the wires coming out of the top of his head. He talks directly to us starting with something like "All patents suck" or "My mom is in a mental institute" or maybe "67% of homes are now dysfunctional". This is his life.
"Titus", which Fox abruptly cancelled after 3 seasons for being to "dark", "raw" and "edgy" for their line-up, was a sitcom like no other. It was a nearly exact translation of the award winning comedian's one man stage play "Norman Rockwell is Bleeding". Both are the autobiographical story of his life, the center of which is a dysfunctional family that puts the Bundys, the Simpsons and any other family on TV to an absolute shame. He's got a drunken, abusive womanizing father Ken (played brilliantly by Stacey Keach) and an alcoholic schizophrenic mother with a tendency to kill people (played by multiple actors, but best by Frances Fisher). Strong Cynthia Watros is a perfect co-lead with Titus in a female role that usually goes underwritten on shows like "Home Improvement" and "Everybody Loves Raymond". Extra props to David Shatraw' shamelessly hysterical portrait of Tommy Shafter- the flamboyantly "normal one".
Titus tells his story from the black and white neutral space- a metaphorical playground of the mind, which in a favorite episode allowed him to regress and talk to his 5-year old self. He often uses this space to explain to us the difference between normal people and "screwed up" people. Most of the action used the standard one-stage sitcom format mixed with lightening fast flashbacks and fantasy sequences. All of these characters somehow come together in each episode in "wacky adventures" that force them to face one social atrocity after another. "Titus" walked a line that no show before or after has dared to with entire episodes dealing with suicide, spousal abuse, homophobia, murder, drugs, guns and in a particularly raw episode that was initially banned, child molestation. For years sitcoms like "Roseanne" and "Grace Under Fire" have dealt with similar topics but in "very special" dramatic episodes. Titus was always a comedy and did it better. It utilized a fresh new form of comedy I'd never before seen on TV- cathartic humor. It was a show that laughed through pain and because of that many people didn't get it. And boy was it funny. The writing was sharp and swift, real next-level thinking with some good old fashioned "I Love Lucy" style slapstick. Sure, there were mis-fires and bombs but the show was so quickly paced you'd quickly forgive it.
Then while your trying to catch your breath laughing something shocking or serious would happen and swing the pendulum the other direction. It's perfect comic timing and sense of humor (and mostly because it was a true story) allowed it to swing in and out of the comedy and tragedy with the ease of a talented acrobat. There were episodes that I remember being completely floored by. You would just sit there on the couch in silence minutes after the show was over, shaken but yet also invigorated that TV could still be that good. It was a thrilling place to be. In it's to short run it dealt with multiple plot lines, involving Ken, Erin and Titus, but the most memorable episodes all involved his mother, Juanita. Her journey in and out of the "wacko basket" and attempts to kill Ken were always the best. The biggest triumph was the final few episode (which Fox postponed due to it's dealing with terrorism and airline security) when it all culminates in Juanita suicide. Christopher's monologue, at us, but to his dead mother at the end of that episode is THE most heartbreaking thing I've ever seen in a sitcom.
"Titus" like "Seinfeld" seems to be the work of non-TV people. People who don't know that a sitcom "is not supposed to do that" and kept pushing. It was brilliant and revolutionary. It broke the mold and re-set the standard. It's methods including breaking down the fourth wall and the flashbacks were stolen, recycled and used today in cheap, mainstream rip-off shows like "Grounded for Life" and "The Bernie Mac Show". To date, `Titus' ranks one of the best TV shows of all time. Fox may not have gotten it, but millions of us did. Thanks Titus! Click. Fizzling sound.
Network: FOX; Genre: Sitcom, Dysfunctional Family Sitcom; Content
Rating: TV-14 (for language, violence, nudity, strong sexual content,
crude humor & dark, adult content); Available: DVD; Classification:
Modern Classic (Star range: 1 - 5);
Season Reviewed: Complete Series (3 seasons)
If the sitcom is dying, nobody told Christopher Titus. "Titus" is the spiky-haired comedian's 1-man show, "Norman Rockwell is Bleeding", translated into a 1-set, multi-camera, studio audience sitcom. More than that, "Titus" is a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. It rocks the audience and the genre, breaking rules left and right and turns the mold of the sitcom inside-out in the process.
Like "Everybody Loves Raymond", "Titus" is a post-modern dysfunctional family sitcom in which what may have been the children of television dysfunctional families 2 decades ago ("The Simpsons", "Rosanne", "Married with Children") have now grown up and are trying to make their own way - unable to shake their parents and upbringing. "Titus" is the autobiographical life story of it's namesake lead who grew up with a drunken, abusive father (Stacy Keach) and a deranged schizophrenic mother (played by a different actress in each season). To help and hinder him along the way are his borderline retarded half-brother Dave (Zack Ward), his effeminate best friend and the show's "normal" character Tommy (David Shatraw) and the grounding support of his fiancé Erin (Cynthia Watros). Most sitcoms pair an average guy with a hot babe without explanation. On "Titus" there is one, but I wouldn't dare spoil it.
Titus breaks the 4th wall and narrates these stories from a bare room furnished only with a wooden chair and overhead light bulb - these scenes filmed in raw black & white. This "neutral space" serves as a metaphorical playground of the mind, representing sitcom Titus' thoughts and self-perceptions. In the tour de force episode "The Breakup" (that will no doubt separate the drive-by sitcom viewer from the show's hardcore target audience) Titus gets into a fight with Erin to sabotage his own happiness and "neutral space" Titus becomes a boxer. When his parents appear to reconcile, his inner child comes out and "neutral space" Titus literally regresses to 5-year-old Titus.
Not to insinuate that "Titus" with it's occasional moralizing and fascinating abundance of psycho-babble is anything really sophisticated. Actually, the show is stupid humor at its funniest. It is fast, shameless and brazen in it's stupidity. There aren't many places where you will see people thrown through plate glass windows or getting hit in the face with a rake handle (twice!) for a laugh, but "Titus" is goofy enough to go there. Sometimes I laugh in spite of myself, sometimes the gags flop on the floor and inspire a cringing wince. But the show is at such a constant fever pitch that duds are quickly lost in the avalanche of lunacy that is heaped into the lap of the audience. Amid the insanity, the scripts are spiked with an acerbic wit.
The skill and chemistry of the cast sell the show in it's more childish moments. Christopher Titus is new to the game and at times it shows, but he bounds around with endless energy, delivers a fresh voice to the TV landscape and displays a rarely seen naked honesty that fills the lead role of this televised therapy session just fine. Shatraw has an impressive skill for physical comedy, throwing his body around in a way that many actors now wouldn't have the guts too. Watros is sublime and gives the show it's biggest anchor of credibility. Keach, of course, is an absolute joy. Ken Titus is an instantly classic character. Watch him liven up any scene with just a look. Everyone here is in pitch perfect harmony with the tone and vision of the show. They all come to the project with a single-minded determination and belief in what they are doing. The show has the look and feel of a play with all the players doing a dance. They are excellent.
The show also pioneers a style of comedy you never see on TV: the cathartic laugh. The story lines herein are made up of such traditionally audience repelling topics as spousal abuse, child molestation, alcoholism, murder, suicide and post-9/11 airline fears. In finding humor in what is essentially a tragic story, it seems that creators Christopher Titus, Brian Hargrove and Jack Kenny have crafted an entire series out the "Very Special Episodes" that would grind any other sitcom to a melodramatic halt. Uncomfortable tension broke with fits of laughter. In the wrong hands, this type of material could easily be a disaster but Titus and Kenny hone the show with expert precision. They do a brilliant thing by wrapping this edgy too-hot-for-Fox material in a stupid-funny sitcom wrapper, giving the audience a tangible chaser to help swallow it all down. Many times a "Titus" episode would end on a note that glued me to the couch in silence for a few minutes, both out of shock at what I'd seen and out of pride and admiration for how well they where able to pull off this high-wire act.
"Titus" had a high hit-and-miss ratio. Dave's ability to get a dog to drink milk from his mouth ranks as a low (or high) point. But warts and all it is the soul vision of it's creator - and how unique is that? It was a NASCAR series before NASCAR fans became a political voting block. It is a serrate look at modern America that took the gloves off and left marks. It is the dysfunctional family sitcom updated and on steroids. "Titus" wasn't quite perfect, but it pushed the limits of the sitcom further than anyone has before. Based on Fox's cowardly reaction we will not likely see something like it any time soon.
* * * * ½ / 5
In one of the episodes of Titus, Christopher Titus tells us that the LA
Times has announced that 70% of American families are dysfunctional. I
wonder why the networks have never noticed this before.
Coming from a family of alcoholism and mental illness myself, I must say that Titus is probably the most accurate and intelligent portrayal of the American family in quite some time. I don't watch sit-coms, because their sugar-coated family life and staged, lame humor do not appeal to me. Titus gets through all that, he tells jokes and presents situations in the way that most people from my economic background do. You have to be able to laugh at the horrors of the world you end up.... well, you just don't end up.
Yes, at times it seems mean-spirited, but I must be honest I find the show cathartic. To see that someone else had as lousy a childhood as myself, and can laugh at it (like myself) just makes me all warm and toasty inside. I love this show, and hope to see it for years to come (although I doubt it). The show is intelligent, funny and, at times, touchingly poignant.
Titus was one of the best shows Fox has ever produced. Where other
shows seemed to center around problems such as "Oh no, the landlord of
my giant, rent-controlled 2-bedroom apartment has died and the new
landlord isn't nice at all because he raised my rent by 5 dollars and
now I can't afford that 5th I-pod I've always wanted", this show
tackled real problems with some great humor. I can't say that my family
was as messed-up as Titus' was (in real life or in the show) but
through what I've seen happen to some of my childhood friends who did
have to live with that I can honestly say that if you're not able to
shake it off and laugh about it you're going to be sucked down. And the
way this show uses humor to shake off their problems is phenomenal! The
fact that they were able to discuss alcoholism, drug abuse, abortion,
spousal abuse, child molestation and god knows what else while having
me fall of the couch with laughter is amazing. Sometimes I even had to
rewind the tape because I had missed several minutes because I couldn't
stop laughing. Yes, there were the occasional duds and stupid or
obvious jokes, but when show employed such a high tempo you can't
expect every joke to be a classic.
I regret that this show has been canceled but I do understand why Titus didn't want Fox to get involved. If you ever get a chance to see a rerun watch it, I can't guarantee that you will like because the humor is too dark for some people but most people won't be disappointed.
11/10 (yes 11 out of ten, it's that good).
After years of okay shows and assorted crap, Titus is certainly a breath
The premise of the show is certainly unique. Comedian Christopher Titus narrates various stories loosely based on real life events, while supporting them with a string of humorous flashbacks. Titus' family, to put it kindly, is pretty damn dysfunctional, and those of us who haven't had to deal with such problems find it amusing, (though a little sad at times too). Chris Titus put it best in a recent episode when he stated, "Studies show that nearly 60% of American families are dysfunctional. That means WE'RE in the majority! When armageddon happens, all the so-called 'normal' families will be panicking, while the dysfunctional families will be thinking, 'No one's watching the Cadillac dealerships!'"
Don't be afraid of Titus because its another sitcom based on the act of a comedian. Chris Titus' comedy act is unique, and so is the show that is his namesake. I'm so glad that its been picked up for next season. Give it a chance. You'll be happy you did.
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars.
Okay, this show is the number one show I watch. It is funny, dramatic and did I mention FUNNY! I advise people to watch! My favorite character, as most people may agree, is Papa Titus. He may seem like a hard-ass, but he can make fun of everyone.
I just got hit by this show on Fox Portugal and have yet to research on Christopher Titus the person behind most of what's so witty, urbane, universal, hallucinatory and yet basically a healthy self-look at america as it enters/entered the 21st century - but I can already say this has got to be one of my favorite comedies ever. Did it got canceled, did it just come to a natural death(much doubt it)? The network is on a continuous loop of re-runs here, so it could have gotten frustrating. But hey, it's Titus! So - to paraphrase somebody else - put the damned thing on DVD now and with plenty of extras please! And keep region 2 in mind, OK?
Although I may not be as experienced in the television field because
my young age, I have seen many, many comedies and Titus has got to be the
best I've seen in years. Not only is the material original and
unpredictable, but the humour is so fast moving you'll never be at a loss
for laughs. In fact, if you tone out for more than 30 seconds you'll miss
hilarious squeal from Tommy(David Shatraw) or a silver-tongued comment
the charming Christopher.(Chris Titus)
I love the way the show has "real life stuff" in it, completely
different from the hit shows "Growing Pains" although that was supposed to
be realistic and take a gripping hold on teenage life. I should know, I'm
teenager, it didn't. Don't get me wrong though, I'm a big fan of
Anyway, I think that Titus in undoubtedly one of the funniest comedies
in the current line. Especially for Fox.
Titus is a fresh and funny show. The commentaries on Titus' past are hilarious, like the father giving swimming lessons. Priceless. On the outside it would appear like a Seinfeld rip off (It's Like, You Know...), but Titus certainly is not. Titus is good and ranks up there with The Simpsons and That '70s Show.
Meet Christopher Titus. His dad's gone through 7( or was that eight, or
nine?) wives, resulting with him and his dumb brother Dave. His dad's never
supported him, stopped him, and has laughed at his face for his whole life.
As for that brother, he has no idea what the hell is going on and is the
butt of the family joke. He creates custom cars, which brings out the, well,
um, side of him that shows he has a small obsession of being in charge. His
mom's a looney, his girlfriend is all loving and trusting( not a good
thing), a depressed drug-selling teenage girl was just forced to move in
with him and his best friend can't even tell himself if he's straight, or
Welcome to his world. Christopher tells his every-day story from a wooden room with a chair, a light bulb, and any diagram he can think up. He's screwed up and knows he's screwed up, always on the verge of cracking but not there yet, and walking the fine line between genius and nut job that a single toe out of place can unleash. He refers to the years of childhood torture to bring out the sunny side of things, or, that may depend on your opinion.
Fox never knew this shows' potential. If it would pick a damn timeslot and not only advertise it during the news and Futurama, they would have a hit. The writing is the best thing about this show. Titus's life is so full of trauma, it would make a regular man criple in a womanly nervous breakdown, but not for Screwd-Up Man. His lousy childhood( hilarious, I might add) makes him automatically say what we all think, and do what he wants to. His years of nothing but trial and experience gives him a cool edge to solve any problem, and his outlook on life with his many metaphors and "meaning of life" discoveries we all seek yet are given so casually make him probably the most unpredictable, entertaining guy there ever was. I have to find out these other guys' work.
Catch this before it's completely gone, or you'll regret it. I hope they release it on DVD some day.
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