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Get Smart, Again! (1989)
'Nude Bomb' vs. 'Get Smart, Again!'
'The Nude Bomb' might be the worst TV reunion movie ever, and 'Get Smart, Again!' might be the best.
'Get Smart, Again!' is genuinely funny, and has a storyline that actually works on its own. The writers, director, and producer of 'Get Smart, Again!' realized they had to create a funny, well-written script before filming ever started -- and they did.
Too many reunion movies assume that nostalgia for the old show will be enough to satisfy fans. But it isn't enough. 'Get Smart, Again!' is as well-written as many episodes of the old show. And it was great to see virtually the entire surviving cast -- Adams, Feldon, Bernie Kopell, and the actors who played Larrabee and Agent 13. Plus, the choice of Harold Gould to play the villain was inspired, since he'd played a villain in an episode of the original show.
Excellent made-for-TV movie -- as I say, maybe the best TV reunion ever.
George Burns Comedy Week (1985)
Hilarious Series: Fresh, Inventive, Clever
This was a terrific comedy anthology series that aired on CBS in 1985. Every week, it was something different. It was a half-hour show, with each episode shot like a movie, without a laugh track.
Two episodes stand out. In one, a town has fallen on hard times. To get money from the federal government, the townspeople fake an earthquake. I can't do it justice, but the idea, and its execution, were absolutely hilarious.
In another one, a guy moves into a neighborhood. He meets the other husbands in the neighborhood, and they talk him into going on a weekend outing with them. Turns out, these bland, middle-class suburban husbands moonlight as Central American mercenaries. They take the new guy to Central America as they hunt for a war criminal. But the funny part is, they never change their "middle-class suburbanite" demeanor. They're firing grenades into a military strongman's compound, while they carry on a conversation about the best way to battle crabgrass.
These were two of the funniest TV programs I've ever seen. I would love it if this show came out on DVD. Unfortunately, I doubt many people would buy it. The show wasn't on the air that long, and I doubt most people remember it.
Date Movie (2006)
Burn The Negative
Quite possibly the worst movie I've ever seen, in more than 30 years of viewing movies. As many have pointed out, this movie does little more than re-create scenes from other movies. I expect SOME original material in a comedy. Endless copying of OTHER movies just doesn't cut it -- especially when you ADD nothing witty or satirical to the reference.
To make matters worse, 'Date Movie' is also peppered with the most juvenile, witless "gross-out" humor I've seen in a long time. (SOME MIGHT CONSIDER THIS A SPOILER) The liposuction scene, ANYTHING with the cat, etc. When I saw this movie, the audience was doing more groaning than laughing.
Any comedy -- even a low-grade "satire" like this -- still needs a coherent, logical storyline and some three-dimensional characters. This is just a bunch of repeated scenes from other movies with some junior high school-level gross-out humor thrown in. This thing barely ran an hour!
This genre has been on the decline for a while, thanks to the 'Scary Movie' series and stuff like 'Not Another Teen Movie.' As far as I'm concerned, 'Date Movie' is the last nail in the coffin.
Why did Alyson Hannigan do this?
First Family (1980)
Great Cast, Lousy Script
This had the potential to be a great movie. The cast is first rate, Buck Henry CAN write a good script (though he didn't do it here), and the basic idea is sound. But the storyline is bad. (Even a comedy has to have a interesting plot that makes sense.) And the script is weak, with too many unfunny scenes and jokes. That's really the bottom line: this movie just isn't funny. It's a shame, because this is a first-rate cast. Bob Newhart is one of my all-time favorite comedians. Madeline Kahn, Gilda Radner, Richard Benjamin, Fred Willard, Harvey Korman, and the rest deserve better than bathroom jokes. Newhart is the best thing in the movie. He's actually quite believable as the president of the United States. Usually, fictional presidents are played by the same type of actors: Hal Holbrook, Gregory Peck, etc. The mild-mannered Newhart is a nice change of pace. I wish someone had really written a solid, funny script for him. With the right material, either in a movie or a sitcom, Newhart could be a very funny fictional president. I hate to keep belaboring the point, but this movie was bad when it came out of the typewriter. Bad script equals bad movie. Still, I don't hate watching it, because of Bob Newhart. As I watch it, I keep imagining the better movie that COULD have been.
Path to War (2002)
Great Movie, With One Flaw
"Path To War" is a fascinating, mesmerizing movie with a terrific script, a great director, and marvelous acting all around. To me, it only has one flaw. I never quite believe Michael Gambon as LBJ. I'm sure he's a fine actor. It's always tough for an actor to play a real person whose real voice and mannerisms are so familiar to us. (And who's more familiar than a president of the United States?) But for whatever reason, Gambon just never convinces me. His effort to capture LBJ's Texas accent doesn't work. Simply put, he just doesn't sound like Lyndon Johnson. Gambon's effort at a Southern/Western-type accent ends up sounding unlike any accent I've ever heard. It doesn't sound natural. Even Gambon seems uncomfortable at times. There are even times when I can't understand what Gambon is saying! I had to rewind my tape a time or two just to understand some dialogue. Next, he's not physically imposing enough to play Lyndon Johnson. In most roles, I would say that an actor's height is unimportant. But LBJ used his size (he was 6'3") to intimidate his aides and his political colleagues. It's an important part of Johnson's personality. And Gambon doesn't capture that. In short, it just didn't feel like Lyndon Baines Johnson. I know it seems like I'm dumping on Michael Gambon. That's not my intent. He seems like an excellent actor who was simply miscast. I'll say it again: it's hard to play a real president. Those are big shoes to fill. I didn't buy Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon or Gary Sinise as Harry Truman. I still enjoyed the movie, because everything else about it was terrific. It had a fantastic, literate script and wonderful performances from Alec Baldwin and Donald Sutherland. I just wish the LBJ character had been more convincing.
Much Better Than Its Reputation
I admit it -- I like "The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo." And I don't consider myself a fan of lowbrow TV. I hate stuff like "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Baywatch," and I don't watch wrestling. "Lobo" was the show critics loved to hate when it was on the air. And since then, the word "Lobo" itself has become synonymous with bad TV.
But it's not a bad show. First, the cast had a genuine chemistry. Claude Akins and Mills Watson had a terrific rapport. If they had been on any other show, critics would have praised them as a terrific comic team. They really clicked. (On any other show, Watson would have become a superstar.) The rest of the cast was solid, and the show had good guest stars, including Pat Paulsen, Sid Caesar, and Larry Storch.
And while it wasn't Shakespeare, the writing was much better than the critics would have you believe. Unlike "The Dukes of Hazzard," the show did have different story lines. It wasn't the same show every week, like the Dukes. (And it didn't have anywhere near as many chases as the Dukes.)
I believe that the "Dukes" connection is the main reason critics hated the show. "Lobo" came along at the same time as the Dukes, it was also set in the South, it also had car chases, and it also had scantily-clad women. It was easy to dismiss "Lobo" as a Dukes clone because of some similarities on the surface.
But look closer, and you'll see the two shows were very different. "Lobo" had better scripts, better performances, better production values, etc.
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying "Lobo" is a great show; I'm not suggesting it didn't have problems. There were too many car crashes. The show's writing could have been sharper. It should have made more of an attempt to SATIRIZE police shows. And the move to Atlanta in the second season was a mistake. It was much better in Orly County.
But it's not junk, as some critics would have you believe. It's better than most of the stuff on TV today. And I'll say it again: Akins and Watson were a terrific team.
And the first season theme song -- sung by Frankie Laine -- was fantastic. I'd love to hear it on a TV theme song CD.
Another Great Show Cancelled Too Soon
"Lateline" was a well-written, wonderfully-acted sitcom that assumed the audience had a brain. And unlike just about every OTHER sitcom on TV, "Lateline" was about more than just sex. For those reasons, it didn't last.
I guess the thing that really made the difference was the show's tone. It had funny situations and dialogue, not one-liners. That separated it from everything else on TV. The cast was fantastic: Al Franken, Robert Foxworth, Miguel Ferrer, and the gorgeous Megyn Price. They all acted and sounded like REAL PEOPLE, not sitcom characters shouting jokes. The show had a laid-back tone sorely missing on TV today.
If you didn't already know, "Lateline" was a spoof of network TV journalism. I work in TV news myself, and I can tell you: In addition to being funny, it's easily the most realistic depiction of journalism I've ever seen on a TV sitcom. ("Murphy Brown" isn't even CLOSE to getting it right.)
Fantastic show! NBC was crazy to cancel it. The network should have slipped it into its "Must See TV" Thursday lineup, and it would have run for years. Why does junk like "Suddenly Susan" last for years, while "Lateline" gets the shaft?
Please, TV Land and/or Comedy Central: rerun "Lateline"!
Funny, Unique Show
CBS's decision to cancel "Thanks" says a lot about the sad state of modern-day network television. This show at least attempted to be different. Unlike almost every other sitcom on TV, "Thanks" wasn't set in New York, wasn't about a bunch of whiney twentysomethings, and wasn't just a collection of tired sex jokes. "Thanks" probably never had a chance. It wasn't the kind of show a focus group would have approved. Maybe it wasn't the best show of all time, maybe it was imperfect, but at least it tried to bring a fresh kind of comedy to network TV. It was different. It didn't try to be the umpteenth "Friends" clone. It deserved a longer run, in part because it dared to be original. "Thanks" lasted five or six episodes. "Suddenly Susan" ran for years. That's modern television in a nutshell.
The Good Life (1994)
Good Thing I'm Union!
Absolutely hilarious sitcom! It had a fresh, distinctive comic tone, unlike anything else on the air before or since. The acting was great, the writing was crisp, and the situations and characters were unique. And above all, it wasn't just another sex-sex-sex sitcom, like every OTHER show on TV. So naturally, it was misinterpreted by critics, ignored by audiences, and only lasted a few months.
Caponera and Carey had a fantastic chemistry. If the show had lasted, we'd be talking about them as one of TV's great teams. Eve Gordon was hot(and funny) as Caponera's wife. The whole cast was good. They had a fantastic rapport.
"The Good Life" ran two or three months, tops. It's just another example of NBC squandering a good show while they keep garbage on the air for years. "The Good Life" and a wonderful Al Franken sitcom called "Lateline" got the shaft while junk like "Suddenly Susan" ran for years. What a way to run a railroad!
One fast anecdote: in one episode, Monty Hoffman's character Tommy is playing ping-pong when the boss walks through the office. Instead of scrambling to get back to work, Tommy just shrugs and says "Good thing I'm union!" I still use that line.
Where can we get this gem on tape? I'd buy every episode offered without hesitation.
She's Great; The Show Isn't
I'm writing this after seeing the second episode of the show. It was much better than the pilot, though almost anything would be. In a nutshell, Chenoweth is wonderful. She's beautiful, talented, and full of life. When she's on screen, the show is tolerable. Without her, it's dead.
I have to ask this question: do we really need ANOTHER show set in New York City? I have nothing against New York, and there's nothing wrong with having a FEW shows set in the Big Apple. (Indeed, "Seinfeld" and "All in the Family" were great shows that SHOULD have been set in New York.)
But enough already! It seems like NBC can't do a sitcom set anywhere BUT New York! There's a whole COUNTRY out here, guys. Would it kill you to do a show in Peoria, Paducah, or Pocatello, Idaho? America doesn't stop at the Hudson River.
Back to "Kristin": keep Chenoweth and lose the office setting. Jon Tenney doesn't add a thing. In episode two, the scene with Kristin at her church was by far the best scene. Play up the "innocent Oklahoma girl tries to break into show business" angle.
The pilot was bad. The second episode was better. I'm rooting for this show to improve each week. Kristin Chenoweth deserves a good show. She could be a TV superstar if a network can fashion a quality show around her.