Monthly Archives: February 2011

Is Mr. Sunshine ABC Network’s Next “Hot” Sitcom?

In 2009, ABC Network launched Cougar Town, one of the funniest, most well-written sitcoms on television.   Courtney Cox (of Friends fame), and the rest of the ensemble cast brilliantly bring each character to life.  On the heels of Cougar Town’s success, ABC Network has once again gone back to the Friends well for their new sitcom, Mr. Sunshine, which stars Matthew Perry as Ben Donovan.

Perry’s character is the General Manager of the Sunshine Center, a second-rate sports arena in San Diego.  While the name of the character has changed, Ben Donovan could have easily been cast as Chandler Bing in his new career.  He is well-suited for this role, but Mr. Sunshine doesn’t shine as brightly as Cox does in Cougar Town, which is not necessarily an indictment of his acting ability.

The Cougar Town cast was as perfectly assembled as the cast of Friends was.  The roles of the characters on Mr. Sunshine are still being developed, but it didn’t take long to realize that Allison Janney’s character, Crystal Cohen (owner of the Sunshine Center), will be the one to receive most of the accolades if the show takes off.

Janney’s character is wildly inappropriate, has little to no filter and is almost as politically incorrect as Archie Bunker.  She plays the role perfectly, and even though she is not the focal point of the show, you can’t help but look forward to hearing what she will say next.

In the pilot episode, before hosting a charity event for Himalayan children because someone was bitten by one of the dogs at the Himalayan dog track that she invested in, Crystal Cohen wanted to make sure that the event would put her in a positive light.

“Now Alonzo” she said, “Make sure that you have a good mix of kids for the photo op.  You know…black, white…the Himalayas are in Asia, right?  Get me an Asian kid.  Oh, and I’m going to need some kind of trophy.  Have the Asian child hand me some kind of a trophy.”

In the second episode, a number of blind children were invited to attend a concert at the Sunshine Center.  Upon leaving the room full of blind children, Cohen very casually said…

“I envy the blind.  I sometimes think that I too would give my sight to play the piano that way.”

Overall, Mr. Sunshine is a quirky sitcom centered around a series of unlikely scenarios and sometimes outrageous dialog.  Because there is a different event each week at the Sunshine Center, there will be no shortage of potential storylines.

The show is not as clever or well-written as Cougar Town, but it has its share of laughs, and offers ABC Network the potential to fill a regular time slot with a sitcom anchored by another former Friends cast member.

Share

Life After Friends: Grading the Cast Members on Their Post-Friends Careers

For ten years, millions of people tuned into NBC every Thursday night to hang out with Ross, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler and Joey.  We saw them go from single in the city to married with children and moving to the suburbs.

Television shows that last as long as Friends don’t come around very often because it is hard to keep things fresh and entertaining for viewing audiences.  It’s difficult to go out on top, but Friends managed to do so.

Once the show went off the air, the cast members faced the challenge of moving on to other roles while being typecast as their respective Friends characters.  It is the blessing and the curse that actors face when becoming a particular character in the eyes of the world.

The cast members of Friends have enjoyed varying degrees of success since taking their last sip of coffee at Central Perk.

The following is a report card of each cast member’s post-Friends career (in ascending order):

David Schwimmer

GRADE:  Incomplete

Schwimmer has not done enough in television or movies to be fairly evaluated.  His most notable role since Friends ended only features his voice (Melman the Giraffe in the Madagascar movies).  Aside from a handful of forgettable cameo roles on television, and a couple of movies that were far from blockbusters, Schwimmer has been virtually non-existent to any fan that hasn’t gone to see him acting on stage.

Matt LeBlanc

GRADE:  D+

When Friends ended, so to did the lives of most of the characters.  The only exception being Matt LeBlanc’s character, Joey Tribbiani, who moved out to Hollywood.  For 46 episodes, Friends fans were given the opportunity to see what Joey’s life was like living without his five closest friends.

The show named after his character, Joey, struggled to find its way early on, but eventually settled into becoming a decent sitcom.  However, it was far from successful.

LeBlanc recently resurfaced in a Showtime original series called Episodes. The show is about a British husband and wife comedy writing team who move to Hollywood to remake their successful British television series, with disastrous results.  The show is scripted, but it may as well be reality television because the premise of the show has actually come to fruition.

It is not necessarily LeBlanc’s fault that Episodes is unwatchable, but he doesn’t do anything to elevate the show to an even remotely entertaining level.

Lisa Kudrow

GRADE:  B-

Lisa Kudrow’s television career since Friends has been nothing to write home about.  Aside from a handful of cameo roles, Kudrow has starred in 13 episodes of a show that she created for HBO called The Comeback.  Clearly, one season does not a “comeback” make, so the show’s title is actually a bit ironic.

However, Kudrow has carved out a decent career on the big screen by starring in 10 movies since Friends went off the air, and she deserves credit for taking on roles that do not make you believe that you are watching Phoebe Buffay over and over again.  That being said, Kudrow has certainly not become a box office draw.  She is merely a good supporting actress who plays her roles well.

Matthew Perry

GRADE:  B+

Matthew Perry’s post-Friends career has been interesting, although great success in television and movies has eluded him to this point.

Perry starred in Aaron Sorkin’s uniquely clever show entitled Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Unfortunately, the show only lasted for one season, as it was prematurely cancelled by NBC. As an hour-long comedy drama, Studio 60 had a hard time finding its niche and building an audience large enough to justify keeping it on NBC’s slate.

Perhaps, NBC thought that having one show that was a behind-the-scenes look at a pseudo-Saturday Night Live on their schedule was more than enough.  It was somewhat confusing to have two new shows with the same basic premise on at the same time on the same network (30 Rock being the other).

Matters were further complicated by the fact that both shows were the only ones on primetime to feature numbers in their title.  One can’t help but wonder if Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip would have had more success if Sorkin had given it a more marketable title.

Perry has appeared in a handful of movies since Friends went off the air, but his most likely path to enjoying success again appears to be with his new show, Mr. Sunshine. Perry’s character, Ben Donovan, is very Chandler-esque, but that might not be a bad thing since it gives the show an instant familiarity.

If the first episode of Mr. Sunshine is an indication of what is in store for the future, Perry may very well have found another show with staying power.

Jennifer Aniston

GRADE:  A

Did the cast members of Friends collectively decide to call it quits because they felt that the show had run its course?  Or, did they think that they would be able to use the show’s success as a springboard onto the big screen?  If the answer is the latter, then Jennifer Aniston is the only one who got it right.

Aniston has successfully transformed herself from Rachel Green into a bona fide silver screen queen, starring in 14 movies since Friends went off the air.  Unlike Kudrow, who fills complementary roles, Aniston is the box office draw.  And though Aniston has made a handful of cameo appearances on television, she is no longer thought of as a TV actress.

For better or worse, Aniston’s romantic comedy roles always seem to remind movie-goers of Rachel.  And though she has played other roles that show her acting range, Aniston never really seems to make you forget that Rachel is always lurking somewhere in the background.

Courtney Cox

GRADE: A+

Courtney Cox played the role of Monica Geller to a tee.  She embodied the role so much that the thought of her playing any other television character seemed difficult to fathom.

Cox was basically off the map for the first few years after Friends. Like the other cast members (aside from Aniston), she didn’t achieve much success on the big screen.  But it didn’t matter.  Cox is made for television.

A few years after Friends went off the air, Cox brilliantly filled the role of Lucy Spiller in the FX original series, Dirt. Cox played the tough but sexy editor-in-chief of a magazine called “DirtNow,” which was created by combining “Dirt” (a typical tabloid magazine) and “Now” (a more respectable glossy magazine)

By the time that the first episode of Dirt was over, you forgot that Monica Geller ever existed.  Although both characters were controlling, Monica did it in a quirky, lighthearted way, whereas Lucy Spiller did it in a manipulative, cut-throat kind of way.

Unfortunately, FX pre-maturely cancelled the show after 20 episodes, leaving fans wanting more.  This dramatic show had more than its share of laugh-out-loud moments, but the drama was what made it compelling.

Like many hour-long dramas, Dirt was about character development and a continuing storyline.  FX never really gave it much of a chance to develop a bigger audience, which is a shame since the quality of the writing was outstanding.

If there is a silver lining to the cancellation of Dirt, it is the launching of Cougar Town (Cox’s latest series).

Cox’s character on Cougar Town, Jules Cobb, is a recently-divorced real estate broker living on a cul-de-sac with the rest of the ensemble cast.  Because Jules is a quirky, somewhat obsessive control-freak, it would be natural for shades of Monica to shine through. However, Cox is so good as Jules that Monica never enters your mind while watching the show.

The writing on Cougar Town is as good as any sitcom on the air today.  The ensemble cast, with Cox leading the way, plays off of each other brilliantly.  Like Friends, the half hour seems to go by so quickly that you are left wanting more.

Very few actors and actresses have been able to recreate themselves on television when they have achieved tremendous success as a particular character.  Some have done it in two roles (Jack Klugman, Caroll O’ Connor, Andy Griffith, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), but it’s hard to recall anyone else doing it in three roles.

Jennifer Aniston may have achieved the most Hollywood success out of all of the Friends, but Courtney Cox is the one who grades out the highest for her ability to embody multiple television characters in such a short amount of time.

Share

Fairly Legal – Thursday Nights – USA Network

When you think of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, it is not likely that you wonder what else they do besides cheerleading…until now.

Sarah Shahi, a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader who grew up just minutes away from Cowboys Stadium, shines in her role as Kate Reed on Fairly Legal (a USA Network original program).

In the opening scene of the pilot episode, Reed is awoken by her cell phone and finds herself in bed with her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Assistant District Attorney, Justin Patrick (Michael Trucco).  The sexy Reed, wearing nothing but a men’s dress shirt, leaps out of bed disappointed in herself and Patrick for sleeping together again.

On Reed’s first day back at work after her father’s passing, the lawyer-turned-mediator shows off her skills as she successfully mediates an attempted armed robbery at a coffee shop between a gunman and the coffee shop owner.  Although it would seem implausible in real life, Shahi makes you believe that she could pull off such a feat if she actually found herself in a similar situation.

Whether she’s mediating a dispute between an armed robber and a store owner, a father and son involved in a business dispute, a wrongly-convicted man and the state of California, or a high school football coach and the parents calling for his dismissal, Shahi uses her even-keeled manner and flexes just the right amount of sex appeal to get the job done.

The underlying story on Fairly Legal revolves around Kate Reed coming to terms with her father’s death while trying to keep the law firm that bears the family name from crumbling without its founder.  Matters are further complicated by the fact that she must do so with managing partner, Lauren Reed (Virginia Williams), the woman that she refers to as her “evil step-mother” even though the two are the same age.

Kate Reed’s only saving grace is that she has her super-assistant, Leonardo Prince (Baron Vaughn) to lean on.  The witty and entertaining Prince seems to know Kate even better than she knows herself, and as a result, always seems to fulfill her requests without being asked.

This light-hearted legal drama offers a unique twist which differentiates it from other shows in the genre.

Fans of legal dramas should set a season pass on their DVR for Farily Legal.  The first two episodes are currently available on Hulu.com.  New episodes air on Thursdays at 10pm EST/9pm Central.

Based on the first three episodes of the season, it looks like Shahi is going to give USA Network something to cheer about as they continue to add to their exceptional slate of original programming.

Share