Thursday, April 12, 2007

Stan Daniels

When I heard that Emmy-winning TV writer and producer Stan Daniels died at the age of 72, my mind immediately went to the pilot of Taxi.

The Pilot of TAXI, Titled: Like Father, Like Daughter opens in the Sunshine Cab Company’s garage. Enter Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner), a part time receptionist at an art gallery. She first has an unpleasant encounter with the dispatcher Louie DePalma (Danny DeVito) when he finds out the she is just a driver. She then meets Alex Rieger (Judd Hirsch) who she informs that this is just a part time job. Alex responds with, "We're all part-time here. I'm part-time. I only work 60 hours a week. You see that guy over there? Now, he's an actor. The guy on the phone, he's a prizefighter. This lady over here, she's a beautician. The man behind her, he's a writer. Me, I'm a cab driver. I'm the only cab driver in this place." That quote alone tells the viewer everything that they need to know about the show and it did so within the first five minutes.

Good Night Mr. Daniels

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Never Judge a Show by it’s Pilot: Thank God You're Here.

When I first saw NBC’s promo for their new comedy Thank God You're Here I thought that this could either be very funny, or a train wreck. It later occurred to me that some executive at NBC probably thought that people would watch this show because it could either be very funny or a train wreck. After all people are tuning in to Dancing With The Stars to see if Heather Mills is going to kick off her artificial leg. Sounds like a Win-Win to me.

I have a great deal of respect for performers who would deliberately and professionally go into a nosedive then pull up at the last minute. I also know many actors/comedians (I will not give names) who would never risk looking like a fool on television or anywhere else for that matter. Thank God You’re Here reminds me a lot of the English and American versions of Whose Line Is It Anyway? Only here there are four costumed guest stars that have to demonstrate their improvisational skills along side a supporting cast as they walk into a sketch without a script. When the guest star walks through the set door they hear a cast member say, "Thank God You’re Here!" Maybe the costume will give them a clue as to what will happen... then again maybe not. Producer/Host David Alan Grier leads the guest star to the set’s door and the guest stars are later judged solely by Dave Foley. In the pilot the guest stars were Wayne Knight, Bryan Cranston, Joel McHale and Jennifer Coolidge. I want to be fair to all the performers because they come from different schools of comedy. Some sketches require the contestants, like Bryan Cranston and Joel McHale, to do funny things. Other sketches require the contestants, like Wayne Knight and Jennifer Coolidge, to say funny things (Actually Jennifer Coolidge comes from the school of comedy that comedians say funny things and improv actors say things funny). The show ends with all four actors in a sketch together. Of these four actors, Bryan Cranston, the winner that evening, was the only one who made me laugh out loud. That is not to say that the other actors were not funny, they just did not make me laugh out loud. This looks like a fun summer replacement show but I don’t see this as a weekly series and I would imagine that there are only a small amount of willing contestants. But then I never judge a show by it’s pilot.

Fortunately another episode followed the pilot.

The next episode featured Richard Kind, Edie McClurg, Mo'Nique and Kevin Nealon. Of the four Mo’Nique, the winner at the end of the show, was the only one who made me laugh out loud. The one thing that I noticed from both episodes is that the winners took control of the scene where the others became part of the scene. Ironically that is what you learn in improv class. It also looks like the supporting cast Chris Tallman, Maribeth Monroe, Brian Palermo and Nyima Funk delibretally stay away from the spot light except when they are instigating the guest star. I don’t think that the show will be around for the long haul so lets enjoy it for as long as they have willing and or funny contestants.

To quote the last words of British actor and director Sir Donald Wolfit, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa