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To Tell the Truth (2016)
A Lot Looser and Funnier But True to its Roots
It's great to see another version of the classic panel game show To Tell The Truth. For the first time since the original Bud Collyer left the airwaves in 1967, the show is back in prime time with Anthony Anderson of Black-ish handling the hosting duties. He is really funny and steers the show away from the staid format of the previous versions into a looser and funnier version.
Let's not forget the panel. Casting Betty White as a regular was a great move by the production staff since she has played the game many times in its 60 year history and asks really good questions. Also contributing are NeNe Leakes and Jalen Rose with a guest panelist each week. Give an assist to Anderson's real-life mother Doris who serves as the scorekeeper and contributes to the comedy.
But the hallmark of the show is extraordinarily talented contestants. In the episode my girlfriend and I saw, there was a female competitive eating champion, a man who was struck by lightning twice, a seven time lottery winner and a couple who got married 50 times. Kudos to the casting director for the great spots.
If you haven't seen this version of To Tell the Truth, it won't be on very long since ABC ordered only six episodes. It pays homage to the original Bob Stewart creation as Anderson quotes the famous phrase "Will the real...please stand up!" Missing from this version is another familiar phrase "Number One. What is your name please?" It has potential to be another game show hit for ABC.
F Troop (1965)
Deserved a Longer Run
i remember watching F Troop and to me it was a very funny satire of the Old West that took place in the post Civil War era. The first season theme song with vocals did a great job in explaining the premise on how Parmenter became captain of F Troop. Unfortunately, when the show went to color in the second season, they canned the vocal theme and went to an instrumental.
Also, the show had an outstanding cast, anchored by Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, Ken Berry and Melody Patterson. Patterson actually lied about her age to get the role of Wrangler Jane. There were also Frank De Kova as chief Wild Eagle and Don Diamond as Crazy Cat. Also adding to the mayhem was James Hampton as the inept bugler Dobbs.
But it was Storch who stood out as he played a number of dual roles including cousins Lucky Pierre and Russian Agarnoff. It showed his true talents as an impressionist.
There were numerous guest stars, including Henry Gibson, prior to Laugh- In as jinx Wrongo Starr. Though F Troop was still getting good ratings, ABC canceled the show after two season because of high production costs. It deserved a longer run since it was a very funny sitcom. Sound the "Charge" call that was heard at the end of the closing credits to end this review.
A Classic Ensemble Comedy
When Jim Brooks, David Davis, Ed. Weinberger and Stan Daniels left MTM to form their own production company, they applied what worked well for them on shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda to create and produce their own show and it would become Taxi.
The show was a true ensemble comedy like The Mary Tyler Moore Show with outstanding writing and a great cast with nobody dominating the story lines like Fonzie on Happy Days and Urkel on Family Matters,
The cast was anchored by Judd Hirsch, who played career cabbie Alex Rieger. He's the father figure of the bunch and supportive to would be boxer Tony Banta, played by Tony Danza, aspiring actor Bobby Wheeler, played by Jeff Conaway and the lone female driver Elaine Nardo, portrayed by Marilu Henner.
Also adding to the hysteria was Andy Kaufman as mechanic Latka, who comes from an unidentified foreign country. He created his mannerisms and language that brought a lot to each episode he was in.
But to me, the best character on the show was Louie DePalma, the nasty dispatcher that turned out to be the role that put Danny DeVito on the map. DeVito's portrayal of Louie turned to be the meanest boss on TV since Mr. Slate on The Flintstones. One the other side of the coin, Taxi was also the show that he worked with the woman who would become his wife, Rhea Perlman.
Another character who to me was very funny was Reverend Jim, the Christopher Lloyd character who became a regular in the second season after Randall Carver was let go. His portrayal of a burned out hippie, especially in the episode where he took his driver's test was outstanding.
One other character who came along later in the run was Simka Dahblitz, played by Carol Kane. She would later marry Latka.
The show would also be the launching pad for brothers Glen and Les Charles, who would later team up with James Burrows to create and produce another classic comedy, Cheers. Though Taxi won 18 Emmys and had a healthy five year run, it was sent to the garage after moving to NBC in the 1982-83 season. I'll close with the tag line that was heard after the closing credits "Thank you Mr. Walters."
The Lucy Show (1962)
Lucy Doesn't Miss a Beat
Five years after I Love Lucy ended, Lucille Ball returned to TV in her second sitcom, titled The Lucy Show. Unlike Lucy Ricardo, she played a widowed mother of a daughter named Chris, played by Candy Moore and a son named Jerry, portrayed by Jimmy Garrett. Also adding to the hysteria was her former I Love Lucy sidekick Vivian Vance, a divorced mother of a son named Sherman, who was played by Ralph Hart.
As the show progressed, the kids were no longer seen on the show and Vance left after the third season. Also adding to the mayhem were Gale Gordon as Mr. Mooney and Mary Jane Croft. Ball and Gordon had outstanding chemistry that would last until Here's Lucy went off the air in 1974.
Just like I Love Lucy, the show featured the slapstick and physical comedy that made ball one of the funniest female sit=com actresses of all time. I saw Lucy Gets Caught Up in the Draft and she constantly gives her commanding officer a hard time. It was also a very funny episode. There were also numerous episodes with guest stars, including several with Ann Sothern as The Countess.
From the cute animated opening in the first season to the full color episodes in it's sixth and final season, the Lucy show is laugh out loud funny and Ball doesn't miss a beat.
A Successful Teen Sitcom
Two years after Leave it to Beaver became the first show to look at life from a child's view, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis becomes the first sitcom to focus on a teenage perspective of life.
What made Dobie Gillis stand out was Dwayne Hickman's portrayal of the title character. His clean cut, good looks attracted lots of female viewers to the show. Also, he had one of the great TV sidekick as well as one of the most offbeat, Maynard G. Krebs, played by Bob Denver.
Denver, who would go on to greater success on Gilligan's Island would portray not only TV's first beatnik but also one of the first breakout sitcom characters. He wore a goatee and a sweatshirt and shuddered when anyone said the work "Work." I should also point out that Maynard's other catch phrase was "You rang?" The line was also used by Lurch the butler in The Addams Family.
The show wasn't just about Dobie and Maynard. There were also Dobie's parents Herbert and Winnie, played by Frank Faylen and Florida Friebus. Winnie was a patient, understanding mom like June Cleaver and Herbert would sometimes say in the early episodes "I gotta kill that boy." Let's not forget an early TV appearance by Warren Beatty, who played Dobie's rival in the first season Milton Armitage. When Beatty left the show, he was replaced by Steve Franken, who would play one of the most popular characters on the show Chatsworth Osborne.
And there were the girls. The actresses who appeared as Dobie's girlfriends would make some of their early TV appearances such as Michele Lee, Sally Kellerman and Marlo Thomas.
Even though I haven't seen a lot of episodes, I did watch a few on the new Decades channel and I though it was a pretty funny sitcom. Unlike Beaver, Hickman breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience. It was an added dimension to a successful teen sitcom. And that was Dobie with a "b".
The Odd Couple (2015)
Not as Good as the Original 70s Sitcom
I remember watching the 70s incarnation of The Odd Couple with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman and to me it was one of my favorite sitcoms.
I also remember with the New Odd Couple with Ron Glass and Demond Wilson and it wasn't very good since many of the episodes were remakes of the Randall-Klugman series.
Now, more than 30 years later, The Odd Couple is back, with Thomas Lennon as Felix and Matthew Perry (who is also the executive producer) as Oscar. It doesn't look a lot like the first two versions since there is a different supporting cast. Instead of the poker gang of Speed, Vinnie and Roy and also the Pigeon Sisters, there's Dani, Oscar's assistant played by Yvette Nicole Brown and Lindsay Sloane as their upstairs neighbor Emily.
The one character that's absent from this version is Murray the Cop. Al Molinaro made the character famous in the original and John Schuck took over the role in the Glass-Wilson version.
Also, Oscar is no longer a sportswriter, he's a sports radio talk show host. Felix is still a commercial photographer.
On the plus side, Lennon and Perry have good chemistry as Felix and Oscar. On the minus side, the episodes have a lot raunchier humor than the Randall-Klugman version.
The one thing the producers did right was bringing in Garry Marshall, who produced the first two versions as a consultant. With The Big Bang Theory as a lead in, it has been even more successful in the ratings than the first two versions. But can it sustain itself without Big Bang?
Garfunkel and Oates (2014)
A Funny, Sometimes Dirty Reality Comedy
If you're a fan of The Big Bang Theory, then you probably heard of Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, who have played guest roles on the show. Micucci played Raj's girlfriend Lucy in a number of episodes.
But if you haven't heard of Garfunkel and Oates, the group that consists of Lindhome and Micucci, then the IFC show is your introduction to the funny female folk duo.
I have seen every episode so far, and to me their songs are funny and sometime dirty. I also like the avant-garde style videos that appear in each episode. It adds a lot to the comedy.
Even though IFC ordered only eight episodes, it's a show that deserves to be back for a longer run next season. It's a show that would also work on HBO since there are no restrictions on language. Give the show a chance, you'll see two outstanding and funny female comedy singers.
Mayberry R.F.D. (1968)
Didn't Miss a Beat After Andy Griffith's Departure
When Andy Griffith decided to leave his own show in 1968 to focus on a movie career, the show continued on under the title Mayberry RFD. Instead of Griffith, Ken Berry, a year after F Troop ended, portrayed a similar character Sam Jones. He was also a widower with a young son, played by Buddy Foster, the brother of actress Jodie Foster.
Also returning were the familiar characters of Goober, Emmett, Howard Sprague and Aunt Bee. Also returning was Arlene Golonka as Sam's love interest Millie. She brought beauty to the show. After the second season, Frances Bavier, who played Aunt bee since The Andy Griffith Show began in 1960, left the show and was replaced by Alice Ghostley as Aunt Alice.
Even without Griffith and Ron Howard, Mayberry RFD didn't miss a beat and turned out to be a very popular rural sitcom. Unfortunately, with ratings still high, CBS canceled the show as part of the Rural Purge in 1971. It's a show that hasn't had a long run as Andy Griffith and it deserves to be rerun on a network such as METV. Mayberry RFD continued the tradition of wholesome, rural sitcoms and shouldn't have been canceled while it was still on top of its game.
Kid Power (1972)
Ground Breaking Cartoon Doesn't Last
Seven years after Morrie Turner became the first African-American cartoonist to launch a comic strip with Wee Pals, ABC debuted an animated version titled Kid Power.
The show was the first to featured a multi-racial group of children as they learned lessons and solved problems in daily life. Some of the characters included Jerry, Nipper Sybil and Ralph the bully. They were members of the Rainbow Club.
I also remember there was a song in each episode sung by The Curbstones. They also sang the theme song, accompanied by outstanding and colorful animation from Rankin-Bass, best known for the holiday classic Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer. But unfortunately, the show didn't have any ratings power and after one season, the network moved the show to Sunday morning and showed only reruns. I should also point out that one of the voices was the son of the actor who played Tonto on The Lone Ranger, Jay Silverheels Jr. Turner recently passed away but his memory will live on with a show that tried to break racial barriers in Kid Power.
The Millers (2013)
CBS has Another Sitcom Hit
After watching TV's top rated sitcom The Big Bang Theory, CBS has another sitcom hit it the new show The Millers. Greg Garcia, the man behind such shows as Yes Dear and My Name is Earl, not only created and produced The Millers, he also wrote the pilot.
The pilot turned out to be a very funny episode, though it resembled Everybody Loves Raymond with the bickering parents premise.
The casting is outstanding. Will Arnett, a sitcom veteran from Arrested Development and Up All Night is great as Nathan, recently divorced from his wife and trying to adjust to singlehood. But then, his mother Carol, played by Margo Martindale, moves in and brings a Doris Roberts with a southern accent touch to the show. It's Martindale's first sitcom and she handles the format well. She is also very funny, especially in the scene where she tries to eat ice cream with a spatula. She could be considered for an Emmy nomination if the show stays on the rest of the season. I hope it does.
Beau Bridges is also hilarious as the dad, who has trouble with the remotes in Nathan's sister's home. He also handles his first sitcom well. Also contributing to the hilarity are JB Smoove and Jayma Mays, who also plays Emma on Glee.
Big Bang Theory fans don't need to change the channel when the episode ends. Stick around for The Millers. It's going to be a hit.