The subtle trick Showtime's "Penny Dreadful is that it is far less about the blood, gore and the specter of gruesome death than the sharp pain and exhilarating pleasure of living, and the terror of feeling alone even in close company. Read our review in the May Picks section.
Phil Hendrie himself claimed that he was somewhat happy that Phil at the Gate wasn't picked up for NBC. He worked on this show for nearly two years, and throughout that time his ideas and intelligence were challenged by network executives. While Family Guy and other shows go as far as the censors will allow, it was clear from the pilot of this series that Phil was not allowed to do so. Despite a talented cast, the show fell short in many ways but is still worth seeing if you get the opportunity. Having listened to his radio show for five years, I will admit I am biased, but I thought the show was adequate. In Phil Hendrie's world of comedy, however, adequate just doesn't cut it. Phil's humor brings the ignorance of certain aspects of society out in the open where they can be ridiculed as needed. The majority of the ideas he put forth about what his show would be simply did not come to pass, and his disappointment in the whole process was evident long before he got the news that the show wasn't being picked up. The premise of an ex-cop starting a security firm in a gated community was sound. Gated communities are the butt of some of Phil's most prominent jokes on his radio show, which led to Laurie Metcalf's portrayal of Phil's most popular radio character, the "suburban Nazi soccer mom" Bobbie Dooley, and French Stewart's suspicious and super-anti-terrorist character was so realistic that it was scary. Wealthy people who treat their neighborhoods like their own private dictatorships, old people who don't like children, and the trials of raising stepchildren gave this show an edge, but apparently it was too sophisticated for NBC's tastes. Phil changed a lot more than he felt comfortable changing, and the end result was a sitcom that lost out during its initial season to shows like Coupling, most of which were canceled after one season or less (perhaps the worst pilot season for NBC this century). NBC seems to be picking up some strength now, and hopefully the negative impact they had on this series will not repeat itself in the future. Phil's return to NBC this year for Teachers seems a good indication. Dumbing down comedy for a demographic market is a disaster, and Phil at the Gate is one of many examples.
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