Tag Archives: Christopher Meloni

Meloni mines for laughs in Fox’s Surviving Jack

"Surviving Jack" premieres tonight on Fox.

Dr. Jack Dunlevy (Christopher Meloni, right) shares a rare supportive moment with his teenage son, Frankie (Connor Buckley), in “Surviving Jack,” premiering tonight on Fox.

Surviving Jack, a new sitcom premiering tonight on Fox, gives Christopher Meloni a chance to show off his formidable comedy chops after intense dramatic turns in HBO’s prison saga Oz and NBC’s long-running police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Based on an autobiographical book by Justin Halpern and set in 1991, Surviving Jack stars Meloni as gruff oncologist Dr. Jack Dunlevy, who has decided to cut back his hours at his clinic so he can take over parenting his two teenage kids while his wife, Joanne (Rachael Harris), pursues her long-delayed dream of law school. Their daughter, Rachel (Claudia Lee), is mildly irritated by this household change, but her younger brother, high-school freshman Frankie (Connor Buckley), frets that his dad, an ex-military man, will now have even more opportunities to make his life difficult.
That’s a rational concern, given that Jack has been known to send his son out to run laps in the middle of the night and plants a large box of condoms in Frankie’s booksack to embarrass him at school. And while Jack dotes on his wife, he seems to harbor more ambivalent feelings toward Frankie.
“I love that woman,” Jack sighs, watching Joanne leave for class. “If an asteroid were to hit this Earth, and she and I were the only two people left alive, I’d be OK.”
“What about me?” Frankie asks.
“Well, obviously, there would be a grieving period,” Jack replies. “I’m not an ass.”
Halpern previously adapted another book into the ill-fated CBS sitcom euphemistically called Bleep My Dad Says, which also featured a crusty father figure who was a doctor, played on that show by William Shatner. Surviving Jack is a far more polished sitcom that makes even better use of its time period than ABC’s similarly themed The Goldbergs (there’s a funny running gag about Michael Crichton’s then-red-hot book Jurassic Park recurring in tonight’s pilot episode).
It helps, too, that Meloni has the good sense to underplay Jack’s bluntness. The character never shouts at his children, he just doesn’t mince any words or waste any tact in dealing with them.
My only concern is that tonight’s premiere seems to be too much of a one-trick pony that depends too much on ways that Jack benignly tortures Frankie. Some of it is laugh-out-loud funny, but I hope Surviving Jack will develop more of an ensemble feel in the weeks to come. Certainly Harris, a sitcom staple who also has a hilarious recurring role on USA Network’s Suits, is far too bright a comedy performer to remain stuck in the role of a largely absent mom. Buckley also is a real find as Frankie, although it’s stretching credibility to buy him as a freshman in high school.
Those minor quibbles aside, the prospects of Jack surviving look pretty good right now.
"Surviving Jack" on Fox.

Rachael Harris stars with Christopher Meloni in “Surviving Jack,” tonight on Fox.

New on Blu-ray: True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season

true blood 5
Less than a month before Season Six premieres, HBO Home Entertainment today releases last season of its hit series True Blood on a special features-packed five-disc Blu-ray set that also includes a DVD and digital copy, capturing a cycle of 12 episodes that received a decidedly mixed reaction from fans when they originally aired on the premium service last summer. (Note: What follows reviews general highlights of season-five story lines, although I have tried to avoid any genuine spoilers. If you haven’t seen these episodes, proceed at your own risk).
Most of the viewer unhappiness stemmed from the creative decision to spend much of Season Five with fan favorites Bill Compton and Eric Northman (Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard) held captive in the New Orleans headquarters of The Authority, a vampire shadow organization headed by an autocratic Guardian named Roman Zimojik (guest star Christopher Meloni). Supposedly dedicated to mainstreaming vampires into the global culture, the group had, in fact, been infiltrated by the Sanguinistas, a vampire splinter faction driven by the fanatical worship of an ancient goddess named Lilith, who urged her disciples to seize control of the world and view humans only as food.
While that might have been a provocative notion for a limited secondary story line, this tedious and claustrophobic plot played out predictably and gave the True Blood screenwriters free rein to indulge their worst tendencies when it comes to exploring topics of religion and politics, using a sledgehammer to drive home “metaphors” reflecting real-life world events. Mercifully, things improved significantly mid-season with the return of Denis O’Hare as campy but terrifying vampire Russell Edgington, partnered with an unlikely but inspired new companion: Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian), the anti-bloodsucker fundamentalist firebrand from earlier seasons, now claiming his new identity as “a proud gay vampire-American.” The duo’s wonderful chemistry together injected a critically needed transfusion of comic relief into the otherwise dour Authority doings.
Elsewhere, the season’s biggest game-changer arrived in the opening moments as Sookie (Anna Paquin) made the high-risk choice of saving her dying BFF Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley) by having her turned into what she hated most in the world: a vampire. The season-long fallout from that decision gave a much-needed reboot to a character who had been turned from a feisty firebrand into an exhausted victim by the events of previous seasons, and Wesley seized the opportunity. In the most poignant Season Five development, the show’s resident Romeo and Juliet, sweet-natured Hoyt Fortenberry (Jim Parrack) and baby-vamp Jessica Hamby (Deborah Ann Woll), faced a series of painful decisions in the wake of his Season Four discovery that she was carrying on a passionate affair with Hoyt’s best friend, Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten). Don’t miss a quiet but devastating scene between these three characters around a table at Merlotte’s in the 10th episode of this Blu-ray set. If it doesn’t have you reaching for the Kleenex, you’re made of stone.
As usual, technically these discs are flawless and include the company’s expected extras such as commentaries by cast members and production team members you can listen to while the episodes unfold, as well as a “flashback” feature to remind you of the significance of what’s happening in a scene. For example, Season Five opens with Bill on the phone at his mansion while Eric, in the background, cleans up a gory mess. The flashback feature, if enabled, shows you the Season Four scene in which they assassinated Authority bigwig Nan Flanagan, so you know whose remains Eric is frantically cleaning up.
Also, be sure to catch an “autopsy” of the action-packed episode six, in which the actors, producers and design team members reveal a lot of genuinely fascinating production detail that you might otherwise not even have noticed.
All in all, a stunning record of a True Blood season that was, in terms of story, a very mixed bag.