Category Archives: sitcom

RIP Jack Klugman

Award winning star of stage, screen, and television, Jack Klugman, passed away Christmas Eve in his home, surrounded by his family, apparently of natural causes. Born in Philadelphia, he was 90.

Jack Klugman was probably most well known in the role of Oscar Madison, the sloppy sports writer from TV’s “The Odd Couple,” in which he played opposite Tony Randall as the fussy photographer, Felix Unger. The sitcom ran for five years on ABC from 1970 to 1975, based on the movie, and the Broadway play by Neil Simon. While never having spectacular ratings, it found fame in summer reruns and syndication. As a kid growing up in the 1970s, “The Odd Couple” was a fixture in my Friday night TV programming.

Later in the decade, Klugman moved to NBC with the serious police/doctor procedural, “Quincy M.E.” With a coroner as the protagonist, Klugman had said once, it was the best of both dramatic prime time worlds. In the sixties, he also appeared in four episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” including “A Game of Pool” and “A Passage for Trumpet,” two considered classics.

Before, and after his television days, Klugman was in more than a few films, most notably he was Juror #5 in 12 Angry Men. He also performed on stage throughout his career, even more than a few times in The Odd Couple. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1974, and in 1989 lost one of his vocal cords to it, yet he continued to act, albeit in a much quieter huskier voice.

Jack Klugman was a terrific actor, and he will be missed.

Outsourced

Outsourced ~ “Outsourced” on NBC this past TV season was one The Bride’s and my favorite new shows. The story of an American who goes to India to manage the outsourcing of his novelty company’s ordering and customer service department was actually quite charming once you got past the racial humor which may or may not have been offensive. I vote for inoffensive based on the heart and warmth at the core of this sitcom. Sadly, like most shows we like, it was not renewed for a second season. Boo hiss, NBC.

This stranger-in-a-strange-land TV series, as well as the British version, “Mumbai Calling,” was inspired by a 2006 Bollywood movie also called Outsourced. When we saw it playing on one of the independent movie channels, and missing the show we loved, we decided we had to take a peek. The plot and premise of the film version is essentially the same only with less emphasis on the comedy and more on the drama and romance, which was at first hard to get used to, but then worked quite well.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s a fun movie, with, much like the TV series, a warm fuzzy center. Definitely worth seeing.

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No Ordinary Anniversary

A few weeks back I reviewed the new ABC TV series “No Ordinary Family,” and suggested it was on the brink of either being very good or very bad. Last night’s episode “No Ordinary Anniversary” showed marked improvement and possibly that the series was on the road to becoming something more than expected.

I had berated the new show for being an in-training superhero show rather than an out and out show about superheroes. Last night, despite the almost sitcom-like premise of the plot, it evolved. The aforementioned plot had the parents on a date celebrating their anniversary while leaving the kids at home alone, hilarity ensues. This could be the opening salvo of any 1970s or 80s sitcom, but it wasn’t.

The story very quickly became a superhero team-up while couched in the very comfortable trappings of light family drama. The Flash-like wife had to help the Thing-like husband stop a Human Torch-like villain, and even had their worlds collide as wifey got to see hubby’s superhero lair. And the battle between the ‘Flash’ and the ‘Human Torch’ was more like a real live comic book than anything we had ever seen on “Heroes.” This was indeed fanboy heaven.

I think the series has made the jump to something better, and I hope it stays this way. I wonder if costumes are the next step? Nah, that’s asking for too much…

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Mike and Molly

The Bride and I watched quite a few of the new series that debuted these new Fall TV season. We watched episode after episode, unsure if we really liked what we saw or not, and asking each other, sometimes comically, after each one – “Did we like this?” and deciding sometimes hesitantly – “We’ll give it another episode.”

One of these shows was “Mike and Molly.” Being proud geeks and nerds with no shame, we both like Chuck Lorre’s “The Big Bang Theory” quite a bit and were saturated with promotion for “Mike and Molly” during that program. It seemed like worth a look, so we gave it a shot. The series follows a couple, both quite overweight, a cop, Mike, and a teacher, Molly, as their relationship slowly evolves from dating to serious. As far as a relationship show, it’s successful, but the humor often flows from their size and weight.

We were not fans of “The Big Bang Theory” at first. We eventually caught up with it after a few seasons. The reason we didn’t dig it at first was that most of the humor was based on nerdiness, and was more of the laughing-at-us type rather than the laughing-with-us stuff. We tired quickly of being made fun of. Now, the show is more edgy and in sync with the subculture, and for us, funnier.

“Mike and Molly” operates on much the same formula, only against bigger people instead of nerds. I might be making much of this as fat people have always been made fun of, but really, isn’t this just lazy writing? Taking the cheapest shot possible. Racial humor is only a step below. It’s all discrimination.

All that said, “Mike and Molly” has a lot going for it. Their romance is heartwarming and awkward and real. Other than fat jokes, a lot of the more recent humor has been sexual in nature, much of it coming from the comic genius of Swoosie Kurtz. And the wonderfully talented Nyambi Nyambi as the coffee shop owner is the highlight of every episode. We’ll stay with this a while, and hopefully it can mature past the fat jokes.

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Lucky Louie

This isn’t a review of HBO’s cancelled sitcom “Lucky Louie” that starred comedian Louis C.K., although I loved that show. This is a review of the new Louis C.K. sitcom “Louie” on FX, but it seems strange to me after the odd reception the first series got from critics that he would get another one so quick. Either way, I’m thankful he did.

That said, I had to wait more than a few episodes before I could decide if I really liked it or not. It has elements of the HBO show in it as well as some things borrowed from “Seinfeld,” mostly the comedy club bits. But it also has something else, and it took me a while to pinpoint it. It’s Woody Allen.

It was the loopy old jazz music that first brought this comparison to mind but then it became much clearer. When Woody Allen was in his Annie Hall phase, he was still funny, but there was also the hint that he was trying to say something about his world, our world. This is what Louis C.K. is doing. It’s sharp, subtle and clever.

There is of course the problem of its lead-in, “Rescue Me,” which in the last season became a sad parody of itself, and so far this season, two episodes in, it has become a humorless cartoon. I hope it doesn’t affect “Louie.” Hopefully he’ll be luckier with FX than he was with HBO. Check it out, well worth your time.

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M*A*S*H The Blog

The newest of Rob Kelly‘s Family of Blogs is all about the classic 1970s television sitcom “M*A*S*H.” He’ll be taking a look at the series, episode by episode right from the beginning.

As a fan of Rob’s blogging work, and a latecomer to the series myself (my mom was a nurse who felt offended by the portrayal of nurses on the show, so we never saw it at home), I’m looking forward to this. Check it out here.