Tag Archives: Scrubs

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.’

Ground Floor hosts a pitch-perfect mini-reunion

Red-hot actress Anna Camp guest stars on this Thursday's episode of the TBS sitcom 'Ground Floor.'

Former ‘Pitch Perfect’ castmates Anna Camp and Skylar Astin reunite in this Thursday’s episode of ‘Ground Floor’ on TBS.

I really liked the new TBS sitcom Ground Floor when I reviewed it here a few weeks ago, and this new romantic comedy from Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) has only gotten better since then. The first-rate ensemble has settled confidently into their roles, and the delightful chemistry between Skylar Astin (as ambitious money manager Brody Moyer) and dazzling newcomer Briga Heelan (as building service worker Jenny Miller) is starting to look like Sam-and-Diane for the new millennium.
If you haven’t checked out Ground Floor yet, let me warmly recommend that you catch a new episode airing the day after Christmas that is, in effect, a mini-reunion for stars of the hit movie comedy Pitch Perfect. Astin starred in that movie as Jesse, a featured singer for The Treblemakers, a male a cappella chorus. His Ground Floor castmate Alexis Knapp, who plays free-spirited Tori, also was in Pitch Perfect as Stacie, a hard-partying member of the Barden Bellas, the chief rivals of Astin’s group).
This Thursday’s episode opens as Remington Trust CEO Remington Mansfield (John C. McGinley) assembles his all-male staff to announce that their office has made a Forbes 100 list … of the worst places for a woman to work. Determined to set things right, Mansfield announces the first of what he says will be many new female hires: Heather Doyle (Anna Camp), a highly regarded graduate of Harvard Business School, Brody’s alma mater. There’s just one complication: Heather is Brody’s ex-lover from their college years, and her arrival has the unusually unflappable Jenny worried about how she can compete with a beautiful, sexy woman who also talks the same talk and shares the same career passions as Brody.
I doubt you’ll need reminding, but Camp – who also is dating Astin in real life – starred in Pitch Perfect as Aubrey, the tightly wound leader of the Barden Bellas who looked spectacular and sang formidably, but unfortunately tended to projectile-vomit anytime she got too upset. This South Carolina-born actress has been on a sizzling career streak since breaking out in The Help as one of Bryce Dallas Howard’s snooty socialite friends. Since then, she has played lusty, vampire-hating fundamentalist preacher’s wife Sarah Newlin in True Blood and beautiful but brainy law associate Caitlin D’Arcy in The Good Wife, among many other high-profile roles.
Add Heather to that list, because Camp is a comic whirlwind in this episode, a grinning female barracuda determined to annihilate anyone who gets between her and whatever she wants, even trying to dominate karaoke night at a local club. Executive producer Lawrence says that if viewers cotton to Camp’s character, Heather may resurface in future episodes. Fingers crossed, because she’s absolutely terrific.
Anna Camp (center) guest stars with 'Pitch Perfect' castmate Skylar Astin in this week's episode of 'Ground Floor' on TBS.

A tense romantic triangle develops between (from left) Jenny (Briga Heelan), Heather (guest star Anna Camp) and Brody (Skylar Astin) in this week’s ‘Ground Floor.’

TBS’ new ‘Ground Floor’: Take my laugh track, please

The promising workplace sitcom 'Ground Floor' with John C. McGinley and Skylar Astin (from left) premieres tonight on TBS.

John C. McGinley and Skylar Astin (from left) star in ‘Ground Floor,’ a promising TBS workplace comedy from ‘Scrubs’ creator Bill Lawrence.

Ground Floor, a promising new TBS sitcom premiering tonight, has enough things going for it that I almost feel churlish bringing up its one major drawback. Fortunately, that liability is something that would seem easily fixable, so let’s start with the good stuff.
This new workplace comedy comes from executive producer Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town), who co-wrote the pilot but apparently is not directly involved with the show on a weekly basis. Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect) stars as Brody Moyer, an Ivy League graduate working as a money manager at Remington Trust, a San Francisco investment company run by the very intimidating Remington Mansfield (Scrubs alumnus John C. McGinley). A self-made success story, Mansfield firmly believes that guys like Brody should spend their first couple of post-college decades busting their hump on the job and save the personal rewards like love and family for their post-40 years.
Needless to say, Mansfield isn’t happy when Brody, his unofficial protégé, falls hard for Jenny Miller (vivacious newcomer Briga Heelan), who works on the ground floor as part of the building service staff. Jenny is, Mansfield sternly warns Brody, a “life-unraveller,” the kind of woman who will seduce Brody into unproductive self-analysis and make him question his priorities.
And he’s right. Brody, an insecure metrosexual, is completely nonplussed that Jenny, after a mutually satisfying one-night fling with him, doesn’t seem impressed with his upwardly mobile status (maybe it was the way she gave him a high-five at the end of their night together). In fact, Jenny is in most respects more of a “dude” than Brody is, and he’s especially uncomfortable that she seems to be interested in him only for recreational sex.
“Talking to her is like drinking tequila,” he complains to his boss. “One second you think you’re totally in control, and then the next thing you know, you wake up naked in the yard and your mom keeps saying that you have ruined Christmas.”
Adding to the comic tension is Mark “Harvard” Shrake (Rory Scovel), Jenny’s bearded first-floor colleague who transparently harbors a crush on her and jealously refers to Brody as one of “the soulless upstairs tools.” (To be fair, apart from Brody and Mansfield, Harvard is pretty much spot-on in this assessment).
As with Lawrence’s two other well-known sitcoms, Ground Floor is blessed with a strong ensemble cast playing characters that pop. At first glance, McGinley is doing a reprise of his Dr. Perry Cox on Scrubs, but the actor has found a way to take some of the harder edges off that character without becoming sentimental. That makes for a nice mentoring chemistry with Astin, who likewise strikes some engaging romantic sparks with Heelan. As Harvard, Scovel lands some of the biggest laughs in the first four episodes TBS sent out for review and may emerge as the show’s breakout star.
When I say “the biggest laughs,” I’m referring to my own response, not those on the maddeningly intrusive laugh track. Unlike Scrubs and Cougar Town, both single-camera shows that didn’t/don’t film in front of a studio audience, Ground Floor is done in the old-school multi-camera style. As heard on the review episodes I checked, however, the laughter doesn’t sound remotely like the spontaneous response of an enthusiastic audience. It sounds canned, with nearly every line in the show – and trust me, I do mean nearly every line in the show – getting identical-sized guffaws. There are indeed several very funny lines in Ground Floor, but hearing raucous laughter following lines that I’m not even sure the writers intended to be real jokes eventually starts to suck the comedy out of the good stuff.
TBS mailed out those review episodes a few weeks ago, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that the obviously artificial laughter was a temporary track that subsequently was adjusted for broadcast. Ground Floor is written and performed by some pros who clearly know what they’re doing. Artificially enhancing the laughter is an insult both to them and their audience.
Rory Scovel, Skylar Astin and Briga Heelan (from left) star in the new TBS sitcom 'Ground Floor.'

Harvard (Rory Scovel, left) gets jealous when his co-worker Jenny (Briga Heelan) embarks on a relationship with Brody (Skylar Astin) in ‘Ground Floor.’

And witty little ‘Maids’ in a row

From left, Ana Ortiz, Edy Ganem, Judy Reyes, Dania Ramirez and Roselyn Sanchez
Starting tonight, Lifetime starts serving up a bracing glass of summer sangria in the form of Devious Maids, a featherweight but entertaining new dramedy from two former Desperate Housewives collaborators, actress Eva Longoria and series creator Marc Cherry. Adapted from a Mexican TV series called Ellas son la Alegria del Hogar (which means “they are the joy of the household”), the series revolves around four Latina maids working for (usually) demanding and insensitive wealthy families in some of the most fabulous mansions in Beverly Hills.
Devious Maids opens with the fatal stabbing of another maid, Flora, during a party at the home of her employer, Evelyn Powell (Rebecca Wisocky), shortly after the latter has upbraided her for allegedly seducing Evelyn’s husband, Adrian (Tom Irwin). Adrian and the party guests are horrified by the murder, but Evelyn is primarily preoccupied with the fact that she can’t find anyone to clean up the gore from the murder scene.
“(The agency) gave me attitude because Flora was murdered,” she complains to a friend. “I’d understand if I had had a few maids slaughtered, but I’ve only lost the one. It’s not fair.”
Meanwhile, Marisol Duarte (Ana Ortiz, Ugly Betty) has landed a job cleaning the home of the Powells’ neighbors, Michael Stappord (Brett Cullen) and his new trophy wife, Taylor (Brianna Brown), although Taylor is uneasy that Marisol has no accent and speaks as if she had gone to college (translation: “She has an attitude”).
Marisol soon begins to win over Taylor by listening to her frustration about living with Michael in a home that had been extensively decorated by his first wife (guest star Valerie Mahaffey), an insecure shrew given to dropping by at inopportune moments. Marisol also offers to help Evelyn by filling in at her home as well until a replacement for Flora can be found, and we begin to see that Marisol is more than idly curious about the murder.
In another mansion, Zoila Del Barrio (Judy Reyes, Scrubs) has her hands full keeping her aging and deeply neurotic mistress, Genevieve Delatour (Susan Lucci), from having a nervous breakdown, but she’s not too busy to notice that Zoila’s daughter, Valentina (Edy Ganem), has set her cap for Genevieve’s handsome son, Remi (Drew Van Acker), an infatuation that Zoila recognizes is a fast ticket to catastrophe.
At the home of soap star Spence Westmore (Grant Show, Melrose Place) and his B-list movie actress wife, Peri (Mariana Klaveno, True Blood), Rosie Falta (Dania Ramirez) picks up most of the slack when it comes to nurturing their little boy while struggling to find a way to bring her own young son from Guadalajara to be with her in Los Angeles.
Finally, relentlessly ambitious Carmen Luna (Roselyn Sanchez) keeps flirting with disaster – and her new superstar employer, Alejandro Rubio (Matt Cendeno) – in hopes that he will help her launch her own singing career.
Since Cherry created both Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids, it’s no surprise that the two shows share some creative DNA (a dark mystery at the heart of the story, a somewhat camp sensibility, strong female characters and even similar musical underscoring). I’m a little surprised that Maids has ruffled some feathers in terms of handling its ethnic characters since, by and large, the Anglo characters are far less appealing and sympathetic than the principal maids are. The ensemble cast is very strong, led by Ortiz on the domestic side and, on the other, the gloriously over-the-top Wisocky, who once guest starred as Bree’s mother on Desperate Housewives.
Devious Maids isn’t out to make any truly subversive sociopolitical points – or, if it is, it fails notably on that account. It is, however, an entertaining way to spend an hour on a summer night, and on that score, I suggest that you check it out.
Rebecca Wisocky