Tag Archives: Saturday Night Live

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.

Harmon-y restored as Community begins Season 5

'Community'' kicks off ifs fifth season with two back-to-back episodes tonight on NBC.

Sleazy lawyer Alan Connor (Rob Corddry) urges a depressed Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) to assist him in a suit against Jeff’s alma mater in the Season 5 premiere of ‘Community,’ tonight on NBC.


For a show with a title that suggested people pulling together, the NBC sitcom Community has had a rocky run during its first four seasons. While critics largely praised creator Dan Harmon’s sharply written comedy set at a downscale community college, mainstream audiences never flocked to the show, despite its knockout ensemble cast that included Joel McHale (The Soup) and Saturday Night Live veteran Chevy Chase.
To make matters worse, Harmon and Chase – whose character, bored millionaire Pierce Hawthorne, was hardly a fan favorite – had a fairly tense working relationship that occasionally spilled over into social media. After three seasons, Harmon was unceremoniously removed as show runner for Community. Season 4, during which Chase finally quit, was just so-so without Harmon’s lunatic vision and ended with all the remaining members of the main cast graduating from Greendale Community College.
Season 5, which begins tonight with two back-to-back episodes, finds Harmon back at the helm, and as a result, Community feels once again as subversive and funny as it did in its first two (and best) seasons. The season premiere opens in a dark place, as Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) watches his career as a crusading attorney crashing and burning. Jeff is so depressed that he’s easy prey for his sleazy courtroom nemesis, Alan Connor (guest star Rob Corddry), who urges Jeff to reconnect with his inner shark and assist Alan in a devastating lawsuit against Greendale. “Jeff, I once saw you convince an arson victim that he liked his home better burnt!” Alan reminds him.
When Jeff shows up on the campus of Greendale (motto: “Ranked America’s Number 2 Community College by Greendalecollege.com”), the smitten Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) instantly jumps to the conclusion that Jeff has returned to save the day and, shortly thereafter, Jeff’s study buddies rush to his side to help, not aware that he is working a secret agenda. We soon learn that, like Jeff, the rest of the group also has seen their dreams denied in the months since they graduated.
Tonight’s first half hour is called “Repilot,” and in the show’s self-referential style, Abed (Danny Pudi) explicitly comments on how it’s a reboot of the series (“This could be like Scrubs, Season 9!”). By the time the first half-hour is over, Harmon and co-writer Chris McKenna have come up with a comical and fairly credible way to keep Jeff and his former study group at Greendale for another 13-episode season (although Donald Glover’s Troy is being written out for several episodes to allow the actor to focus on a new project for FX). An upcoming – and absolutely hilarious – episode scheduled for Jan. 16 also explains why Chase’s character will not be returning to the show.
Although Harmon has worked a near-miracle in resuscitating his beloved sitcom, it seems likely this fifth season will be the show’s last hurrah. Then again, even the most ardent among us fans never truly expected to get a fifth season of a show that seemed to be wrapping itself up very efficiently with last season’s graduation-themed finale. If there’s one thing this dementedly funny show has taught us when it’s at its best, it’s that we never should assume anything where Community is concerned.
Jeff Winger (Joel McHale, center) reunites with his old study buddies tonight on NBCV's 'Community.'

The study group (from left, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie and Donald Glover) reunites in tonight’s fifth season premiere of NBC’s ‘Community.’

Title search

ALBERT TSAI, NATALIE MORALES, GIANNA LEPERA, RYAN SCOTT LEE, MALIN AKERMAN, BRADLEY WHITFORD, MARCIA GAY HARDEN, MICHAELA WATKINS
Trophy Wife, a very promising new sitcom premiering tonight on ABC, is blessed with a strong cast and some sharp writing, but saddled with arguably the worst, most misleading title of the season (more about the latter below).
Malin Akerman (The Comeback) stars as Kate, a beautiful girl who loves nothing more than partying nightly with her best friend, Meg (Natalie Morales, The Middleman) – until one karaoke night when Kate literally falls into the arms of Pete (Bradley Whitford, The West Wing), a slightly older environmental lawyer.
Romance ensues, and Kate soon becomes Pete’s wife – more specifically, his third wife, a position that comes with more baggage than a cruise ship. Pete’s first ex-wife, Diane (Marcia Gay Harden), is a brilliant medical doctor who regards the younger Kate with withering dismissal, an attitude immediately adopted by her teenage daughter, Hillary (Bailee Madison), although Hillary’s twin brother, Warren (Ryan Lee), is instantly smitten by his new stepmom. In fact, Warren’s school essays start to take on a disconcertingly erotic tone and feature a female figure who seems vaguely … familiar.
Pete’s second ex-wife, Jackie (Saturday Night Live alumna Michaela Watkins), is a neurotic, New Age-y mess and has a hyper-intelligent young adopted Asian son (scene-stealer Albert Tsai) who is completely unintimidated by the grown-ups around him.
Tonight’s pilot follows Kate as she tries to establish a meaningful place for herself in Pete’s crowded life, which means trying to make some connection with stepdaughter Hillary, who isn’t having any of it. The episode gives most of the cast members a chance to shine, none more brightly than Akerman, a starlet-pretty actress who also comes across as smart, funny, warm and accessible. Whitford, always a joy to watch, shows us how much Pete genuinely adores Kate, although his character seems to spend much of his screen time reacting to his extended family members (here’s hoping he becomes less passive in future episodes).
As the ex-wives, Harden, an Oscar winner who elevates any scene just by walking into it, makes Diane a formidable adversary for Kate while never crossing the line into stale bitchiness, but frankly I had a very hard time understanding why Peter ever would have married someone as scatterbrained as Watkins’ Jackie (the writers need to fix that, and soon).
In other words, from a creative standpoint, Trophy Wife is a likable enough show, but there’s a very real chance some viewers will never sample it because of its terrible title. Kate isn’t a trophy wife in any sense of the phrase. Pete cherishes everything about her, and she’s a strong, intelligent woman who actively engages with everyone else in his life, instead of just standing around looking decorative. Calling this show Trophy Wife sets up expectations of a sitcom that is far less appealing and engaging than this one is. And if you don’t think a misleading title can hobble a show’s chances, just talk to the creative team behind Cougar Town.
Trophy Wife already has something of an uphill struggle to find an audience in its insanely competitive Tuesday time period, opposite such established hits as The Voice, NCIS: LA, surging sophomore sitcom The Mindy Project and the long-running CW cult hit Supernatural. It doesn’t help that the lead-in to Trophy Wife is one of ABC’s feeblest new shows.
That would be The Goldbergs. Actually, I don’t want to be too hard on this doomed sitcom, because I suspect a lot of love went into it behind the scenes. Its creator, Adam F. Goldberg, based the show on his own upbringing back in the 1980s, when he grew up in a fractious but loving family headed by a blustering dad (Jeff Garlin, Curb Your Enthusiasm) who can’t articulate his love for his three kids and a doting mom (the glorious Wendi McLendon-Covey, Bridesmaids) whose love knows no bounds – or, unfortunately for her kids, boundaries.
The obvious template for this show is the Emmy-winning 1988-93 sitcom The Wonder Years. What Goldberg has overlooked, alas, is that we can’t all be the Arnolds from that cherished hit of yesteryear. There isn’t much that’s truly original or noteworthy about the Goldberg family except that most of them SCREAM A LOT FOR NO GOOD REASON. In fact, if the Nielsen ratings were measured in decibels, The Goldbergs probably would be the top-ranked show of the 2013-14 TV season.
Everything else, though, feels fairly generic, including George Segal’s dotty old grandpa character. How generic? The pilot revolves heavily around the father figure’s reluctance to teach his teenage son (Troy Gentile) how to drive. Coincidentally, Fox has a midseason comedy, Surviving Jack, waiting in the wings about an intimidating dad (Chris Meloni, in that case) who has a hard time expressing love to his kids. The pilot for that show has a pivotal scene in which Meloni’s character teaches his teenage son to drive. Did I mention that Surviving Jack is set in a recent past decade (the ‘90s) and based on the true-life teen experiences of its creator?
I suspect The Goldbergs tested through the roof with relatives of Adam F. Goldberg, but there’s not much here for the rest of us. There’s a good chance this show will be gone by Thanksgiving. I’m just hoping it doesn’t take Trophy Wife down with it.
PHOTO-showsheet_Goldbergs_Couch-1280

David’s HBO movie won’t make comedy ‘History’

clearhistory01-jpg_221741
From left, Jon Hamm and Larry David
The previews for Clear History, the Larry David movie comedy premiering Saturday on HBO, look promising, if only for the cast. In addition to David, who knows funny, supporting players include Jon Hamm, current Emmy nominee/Saturday Night Live veteran Bill Hader, Michael Keaton and Danny McBride.
Despite a promising set-up, however, this TV movie likely will please only hardcore fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm, David’s cult sitcom hit for the same premium channel, because Clear History – which, like Curb, is improvised by the actors based on a story line devised by David and longtime writing colleagues Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer – plays like a feature-length episode of the sitcom.
Let me just say right up front, this is not a good thing in my book. I’ll give David his props for coming up with some of the most brilliant comedy in TV history with some of his scripts for Seinfeld, but I’ve never warmed to Curb Your Enthusiasm, which revolves around a central character (played by David) who is, quite frankly, a self-absorbed jerk who is barely tolerable in a half-hour dose.
In Clear History, we spend most of the 90-plus-minute running time with David’s alter-ego Nathan Flomm, a selfish, grating dolt who spends the entire movie seething over misfortune that is entirely of his own making.
I had high hopes during the opening scenes which flash back 10 years, introducing the hippie-ish Nathan as the marketing executive at Electron Motors, a start-up electric car company run by lifelong friend Will Haney (Hamm), who is preparing to launch a new electric car prototype called the Howard, after Will’s young son. OK, that’s pretty funny, because the Howard is a ridiculous name for a car, and Nathan tells Will it will be impossible to market a car with such an idiotic name (“It’s like naming a restaurant Hepatitis!” he screams). Unfortunately, as with many of David’s characters, Nathan takes his argument way past a civil debate with his boss, throwing a tantrum and walking away from his job, which includes a 10 percent share in the company.
Against all odds, however, the Howard is a phenomenal success, earning the company billions of dollars. Soon, news of Nathan’s ill-advised resignation becomes public knowledge, turning him into a pop culture laughing stock.
Zipping forward to the present, Nathan has given himself a style makeover and moved to Martha’s Vineyard, where he is quietly living under the name Rolly DaVore. His contented life is disrupted, however, when Will and his wife (Kate Hudson) move to the Vineyard and begin building an ostentatious new home that only rubs salt in Nathan’s wounds. It’s not long before Nathan begins hatching a revenge scheme.
You’re probably ahead of me in spotting the basic flaw here. Nathan is seeking revenge for something that Nathan did to himself and, just as much to the point, he wants payback from someone who, we learn, is actually a very decent guy. How and why are we supposed to pull for Nathan?
An even bigger problem is the improvised nature of the film. Comedy is all about the timing, and while David, Hader and McBride are pros at improvisation, many other cast members are not, so we get a lot of exchanges that sound like this:
“I have no idea what to do.”
“You have no idea what to do?”
“Yeah, no, no idea at all.”
“You mean, like, absolutely no idea at all?”
As a result, instead of building up steady momentum that carries us to the climax, Clear History meanders, strolls, shuffles and, mostly, stumbles in its storytelling. It’s significant that one of the few moments that really made me laugh out loud, a visual joke involving a swing set, was something that was NOT improvised.
For what it’s worth, the cast seems to be having a good time, and if you’re wondering why Liev Schreiber, who has a fairly substantial supporting role, doesn’t appear anywhere in the credits, David recently told a gathering of TV critics in Los Angeles that it was because Schreiber currently stars in Ray Donovan on HBO’s rival, Showtime. That seems a little silly to me, but in any case, it works out well for Schreiber, because I can’t think many of these actors will want to include this limp, disappointing TV movie on their credits.
clearhistory08-jpg_221744
From left, Kate Hudson, Larry David, Jon Hamm

Hulu’s new ‘The Awesomes’ falls well short of its title

KeyArt_TheAwesomes
It only makes sense that the streaming service Hulu would try for its own slice of the original-programming pie that has proven so lucrative for its chief competitor, Netflix. Unfortunately, The Awesomes – an animated superhero spoof premiering today on the service – isn’t likely to make much of an impression among viewers.
Co-created by Seth Meyers (Saturday Night Live) and Michael Shoemaker (Late Night With Jimmy Fallon), this new half-hour program has very little original to offer. Its very title sounds like a knockoff of The Incredibles, an infinitely superior animated superhero project, and its central premise, built around a team of C-list heroes, is reminiscent of comedies like the live-action movie Mystery Men, not to mention countless TV comedy sketches, including Meyers’ own SNL.
The series opens as Mr. Awesome (voiced by Steve Higgins) announces on his 90th birthday that he is retiring from his longtime job as leader of the valiant team of heroes known as The Awesomes. His son, Jeremy (Meyers), is aghast, however, when none of the other heroes is willing to take up the mantle of leadership and, when Jeremy volunteers for the job himself, the team pointedly disbands completely.
The U.S. government gives Jeremy, aka Professor Doctor Awesome (“Prock,” for short), 48 hours to put together a viable new team, but the only likely candidates are former rejects such as Frantic (Taran Killam), a speedy but scatterbrained loose cannon; the Impresario (Kenan Thompson), who can conjure hard-light images to combat villains, although those images usually take the form of his smothering mother; and Gadget Gal (Paula Pell), who can transform an everyday item like a spatula into a lethal weapon.
Prock’s most trusted ally is Muscleman (Ike Barinholtz, The Mindy Project), his super-strong yet dimwitted best friend, who tries to help Prock build popular public support for his new team in the face of more headline-friendly competition from charismatic Awesomes alum Perfect Man (Josh Meyers, Seth’s brother).
The most valuable member of the voice cast, no surprise, turns out to be the brilliant Bill Hader as archvillain Dr. Malocchio, a nefarious master of mind control, but otherwise, the actors – which also include Rashida Jones from Parks and Recreation – are at the mercy of material that seems to have been dashed off during an SNL lunch break. There are some funny performers here, but they can’t work miracles with desperately tired jokes, which are the rule rather than the exception in the two-part pilot currently available on Hulu.
It’s possible that The Awesomes will get better over time – Hulu has ordered 10 episodes for this first season – but I’m not optimistic. What I’ve seen so far is just lazy, unspired and self-indulgent, as if the show were a mere vanity project. I can’t for the life of me see what there is to be vain about here, however.
TheAwesomes_1.01_1
Perfect Man and Mr. Awesome