Tag Archives: Jessica Walter

TV Land’s Jennifer Falls is a refreshing surprise

Jaime Pressly and Jessica Walter.

Emmy winners Jaime Pressly and Jessica Walter (from left) star in ‘Jennifer Falls,’ a new sitcom premiering tonight on TV Land.


The first time we meet Jennifer Doyle (Jaime Pressly), the title character in the new TV Land comedy Jennifer Falls, she’s getting fired from her job as a vice president at a Fortune 500 corporation. The grounds? Personality problems – specifically, “anger issues” that make her so volatile no one will agree to work with her.
Six months later, a still-unemployed Jennifer insists she is not discouraged. “Evidently, the men in the industry find me terrifying,” she tells us in a direct-to-camera comment, “but the women find me inspiring … and also terrifying.” With no other means of support and a teenage daughter (Dylan Gelula) to care for, however, Jennifer is forced to an option of last resort: moving back to her hometown and living with her acerbic mom, Maggie (Jessica Walter, Arrested Development), a psychologist.
Created by Matthew Carlson (Malcolm in the Middle), Jennifer Falls, which premieres tonight, diverges somewhat from the traditional TV Land sitcom template. Instead of recording in front of a live studio audience, as Hot in Cleveland does, Jennifer Falls goes the Modern Family route, using no laugh track and having the characters – at least Jennifer, in tonight’s pilot – talk directly to viewers now and then. The show also has a bit more edge than most other TV Land fare, although not so much that it clashes with its time slot neighbors.
What is does have in common with other successful TV Land comedies is a splendid cast of TV comedy veterans delivering lively and laugh-packed dialogue. In addition to Pressly, who won an Emmy for her role on My Name Is Earl, the cast also includes Pressly’s Earl castmate Ethan Suplee as Wayne, Jennifer’s brother, who owns a local sports bar. That helps in terms of giving Jennifer at least a short-term job as a bartender, but sadly, Wayne’s wife, Stephanie (the gloriously saccharine Nora Kirkpatrick from Greek), really calls the shots at the business, and she drives Jennifer nuts with her non-stop passive-aggressiveness.
Also on board is the always smart and funny Missi Pyle (The Exes) as Dina Sumac, Jennifer’s recently divorced best friend from high school. In tonight’s pilot, however, there’s tension between the two former besties, since Jennifer had just sent Dina a massage gift certificate when her marriage was cratering instead of showing up to lend a shoulder.
And then, of course, there’s Jessica Walter, who has been TV’s bitchy mom of choice ever since her Emmy-nominated turn as Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development. Her Maggie Doyle is a bit more maternal than Lucille ever was, but she’s still self-absorbed and tactless, as when she tells Jennifer she’s in need of some therapy to deal with her anger.
“Don’t worry, I’ll see you for free,” Maggie says, twinkling. “Or maybe a little yardwork. Just some light weeding.”
I’ve only seen tonight’s pilot, but based on that, I can definitely recommend that you check out tonight’s premiere of Jennifer Falls. Both the writing and performances are well above what passes for the sitcom norm these days.
Missi Pyle

Missi Pyle co-stars as the title character’s best friend in ‘Jennifer Falls,’ premiering tonight on TV Land.

Archer gets its Don Johnson on for Season 5

'Archer' returns tonight on FX.

A surreal wordless ballet sequence opens Season 5 of ‘Archer’ tonight on FX.


Apart from both shows being in their fifth season, I’ve never seen much in common between the elegant CBS legal drama The Good Wife and Archer, the cheerfully bawdy spy parody returning tonight on FX.
Just as Good Wife has earned kudos from both critics and fans this season for subversively blowing up its own central premise and heading off in a new and exciting creative direction, however, Archer is reinventing itself just as audaciously, and to hilarious effect.
Tonight’s premiere opens with a surreal, wordless prologue in the ISIS offices, as Sterling Archer arrives bearing flowers, a tribute to his mother, Malory, on her second fake 50th birthday (don’t ask, it’s a thing). Serene classical music plays on the soundtrack while staff members cavort balletically and gracefully as Archer makes his way to his mother’s side, hands her the flowers, and …
KABOOM! We’re into an insane firefight with the FBI that culminates in ISIS operations being shut down for reasons that I’ll let you discover for yourself (although as Archer would sum it up: “Classic Mother!”).
Suffice it to say, by the first commercial break, the former agents, whose personal assets have been seized by the feds, are living together in stately Tunt Manor, the family home of secretary Cheryl/possibly Carol Tunt, a vast mausoleum Archer dubs “Casa de Addams Family.” They’re all shell-shocked, but after discussing their options, they do what any of us would do in these circumstances.
They form their own cocaine cartel.
Thus, this season of Archer – or Archer Vice, as the opening credits have it starting with episode two – takes off in a wild new direction as these fractious characters fans have come to love find themselves in a vastly different context. Archer’s ex-girlfriend, Lana Kane (voice of Aisha Tyler), is now pregnant via artificial insemination, which ratchets up tension with both Archer (the sublime H. Jon Benjamin) and Lana’s other ex, Cyril Figgis (former Saturday Night Live regular Chris Parnell), who is now in charge of laundering the cartel’s money – or the money they anticipate making if they can keep former human resources director Pam Poovey (Amber Nash) from eating the cocaine like powdered sugar. While Lana, Archer and Pam are in Miami on their first assignments, Malory (Jessica Walter, Arrested Development) coordinates things from the New York mansion, where Cheryl/Carol (Judy Greer) is toying with changing her name to Cherlene as she embarks on her long-delayed dream of becoming a country music superstar.
And things only get zanier after that.
Since Archer is, in some respects, starting over, this may be an ideal time for new viewers to jump on the bandwagon, although hardcore fans will be rewarded by a delightful abundance of callbacks to earlier ISIS cases, situations and characters. Newbies still should find plenty of things to laugh about, but the longer you stick with Archer, the funnier it becomes. As silly as it gets, the show also is a very smart blend of pop-culture and literary reference points (Archer’s sorely mistreated English butler, Woodhouse, is a tip of the hat to British humorist P.G. Wodehouse, for example). This show has jokes so densely packed into each episode that some of the funniest – like Archer’s offhand reference to “Kentucky Jelly” – may not even register until a few seconds after you hear them. In short, for my money this is the most consistently uproarious half-hour on television right now.
'Archer' returns tonight on FX.

‘Archer’ cleverly reinvents itself for its Season 5 premiere tonight on FX.


I wish I could say the same for Chozen, the new animated series making its debut tonight right after Archer. No such luck, though. SNL regular Bobby Moynihan provides the voice of the show’s title character, a gay white rapper trying to readjust to society and re-establish his career after being framed by a childhood friend-turned-rival (Cliff “Method Man” Smith) and serving a 10-year prison sentence.
On paper, Chozen looked fairly promising, given its central premise that invites the show to skewer white artists who ill-advisedly try to appropriate a black cultural identity for career purposes. Archer creator Adam Reed is among the show’s executive producers, as is Danny McBride (HBO’s Eastbound & Down, along with several hit feature films), and the voice cast, in addition to Moynihan, includes such comedy power players as Kathryn Hahn (We’re the Millers) and The Mindy Project series regular and writer Ike Barinholtz.
Sadly, Chozen turns out to be pretty much a one-joke affair, and it’s a crude dirty joke at that, repeated tediously for shock value. Every now and then, a gag will pop – as when an endearingly nerdy character frets that if he doesn’t lose his virginity soon, ‘’I’ll be the laughing stock of my whole Quidditch team” – but such moments are few and far between.
Maybe it’s the presence of the hard-working Moynihan, who does all he can with his very thin material, but Chozen reminded me of one of those hapless SNL sketches that clearly doesn’t really work yet somehow keeps getting trotted out over and over again. Given the caliber of some of the people on the creative team, I guess there’s a chance Chozen will pull itself together over time, but after sitting through the five episodes FX provided for preview, I’m just not feelin’ it.
'Chozen' premieres tonight on FX.

Despite some power players on its creative team, tonight’s season premiere of ‘Chozen’ is pretty much a one-joke affair.

A long-awaited ‘Development’

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Jason Bateman and Liza Minnelli
Seven years after Fox canceled the Emmy-winning and critically acclaimed sitcom Arrested Development, the battling Bluths are back in 15 new episodes, available for streaming starting today on Netflix.
The new episodes, which the service cheekily presents as “A Netflix Semi Original Series,” reunites all the original principal players from the show’s original 2003-06 run as well as bringing back several guest favorites (hello, Liza Minnelli as Lucille Two and Judy Greer as Kitty Sanchez!). This time around, though, series creator Mitch Hurwitz is less interested in telling a conventionally linear story than in filling us in on each individual member of the extended Bluth family, ideally to form a bridge toward an Arrested Development feature film he’s been envisioning for years.
With that in mind, each episode focuses on a single character, although other family members are, of course, tangentially involved. Obviously, that must have helped during production, since not all principles were required for every episode, and it doesn’t reduce the number of solid belly laughs per episode (each of which runs to close or over a full half hour, not the puny 21 minutes-plus currently afforded a sitcom on a commercial network).
Still, there’s a bit of a loss in not seeing all the Bluth-Funkes together more often. I didn’t actually realize that until episode three, when suddenly I caught myself grinning broadly at seeing Michael (Jason Bateman), George (Jeffrey Tambor), Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), Lucille (Jessica Walter), Gob (Will Arnett), Buster (Tony Hale) and Tobias (David Cross) all in a room together for the first time in these new episodes.
But then, Arrested Development never has followed the conventional sitcom rules. Where else could you learn that one of the principal female characters has fallen in love with an accidental member of Al-Qaeda who suffers from “face blindness” and runs an ostrich farm and think to yourself, “Yes, that sounds about right”? Or see a sexually ambiguous male character who has resolved to make a new start in his life do so by buying a new vanity plate for his car reading “ANUSTART”?
There are so many fresh surprises and brilliant jokes in these new episodes that I’ll leave fans to discover most of them on their own, but my heartfelt thanks to whoever had the inspired idea to hire Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen to play the younger Lucille and George Bluth in recurring flashbacks, as well as 24 sweetheart Mary Lynn Rajskub as an “aura specialist” named Heartfire.
Waiter! More hot ham water, all around, on me!
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David Cross and Porta de Rossi