Tag Archives: The Good Wife

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.’

Mike vs. Mork

Tonight’s TV lineup is packed with the return of such hits as The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy, Parks and Recreation and Elementary, but it’s the return to series TV of two A-list stars, Michael J. Fox and Robin Williams, that’s the most noteworthy. Their respective sitcoms, NBC’s The Michael J. Fox Show and The Crazy Ones on CBS, both show a lot of promise, but NBC’s decision to launch Fox’s series with two back-to-back episodes means that, tonight only, the two shows are time-slot rivals at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific.
CBS is giving The Crazy Ones a dream lead-in with a double episode of The Big Bang Theory, but even so, I suspect The Michael J. Fox Show may very well win tonight’s face-off. While a lot of people probably assumed Fox’s career was pretty much over when he went public with his status as a Parkinson’s disease sufferer in 1999, he has rebounded in recent years via his very popular (and Emmy-nominated) recurring comic role on The Good Wife as Louis Canning, a Parkinson’s-afflicted attorney who aggressively exploits his disability to score courtroom points.
Fox and the creators of his NBC sitcom have taken a page from that same playbook for his role as Mike Henry, who was a beloved presence on the New York TV news scene before a Parkinson’s diagnosis led him to retire five years ago to spend more time with his schoolteacher wife, Annie (Betsy Brandt, Breaking Bad), and their three kids.
Since Mike left, ratings at his old station have steadily fallen, and his former boss, Harris (Wendell Pierce, Treme) is begging him to return to work. Mike’s understandably reluctant, however.
“I don’t want a pity job,” he tells Harris. “We both know that if I come back, NBC is going to milk it by showing me in slow motion with lame, uplifting music in the background.”
Eventually, of course, Mike decides to accept Harris’ offer, setting up the show’s split focus between family life and workplace. It’s a solid set-up. I just wish it were funnier.
You can’t blame the cast for that. Mike and Annie’s three kids may be standard sitcom issue, but in addition to Brandt and Pierce, clearly relishing this chance to show off their comedy chops after years of intensity on their respective drama projects, the show also co-stars two-time Tony Award winner Katie Finneran as Leigh, Mike’s comically neurotic younger sister, with recurring roles for Candice Bergen and Charles Grodin (as Mike’s parents) and Anne Heche as Susan, Mike’s bitchy anchor rival at the station.
Nope, the problem, as usual, is the writing. Fox and Brandt have a wonderful, sexy chemistry together, so they can make even underwritten moments seem funny just because they feel so true. Otherwise, though, the story lines seem sitcom-stale. Mike develops a crush on a pretty upstairs neighbor (guest star Tracy Pollan, Fox’s real-life wife and former Family Ties co-star). Teenage daughter Eve (Juliette Goglia) tries to up her hipness by befriending a lesbian. Hypersensitive Leigh pressures Annie for her opinion on Mane Attraction, a ghastly teen novel Leigh has written about a boy who turns into a horse at night. (OK, that last one is pretty funny.)
The writers compound the problem by falling back on the tired mockumentary device of making Eve a vlogger, so she’s constantly taping the other characters, allowing them to talk directly to the camera. What once seemed fresh in a single-camera sitcom like this one now just feels more like lazy writing.
Despite that, The Michael J. Fox Show has done so many things right that it’s impossible not to hope the show will grow into a bona fide comedy hit. NBC certainly could use one, but then, so could we.
The Crazy Ones, on the other hand, is a much harder show to call. The sitcom, from executive producer David E. Kelley, stars Emmy and Oscar winner Williams as Simon Roberts, a former advertising wunderkind who is starting to doubt himself now that he’s reached AARP member status. His no-nonsense daughter and creative director, Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar), worries about him, and, in tonight’s premiere, the future of their company: McDonald’s, which represents 60 percent of their business, is leaning toward going to another agency.
Simon’s only hope is to land a major talent to star in a series of new ads, but when he and his handsome protégé, Zach (James Wolk, Mad Men), pitch singer Kelly Clarkson on the prospect, she agrees to consider it only if they’ll tailor it to the sexy new image she’s trying to cultivate.
“So we just need to come up with a meat-related sex song,” Zach sums up.
“…for a family restaurant,” Simon adds. “How hard could that be, really? It almost writes itself!”
The two men then launch into what such a song might sound like. This heavily improvised scene is comedy gold, with Wolk (who knew this guy could be so funny?) and Williams riffing seamlessly like longtime improv partners.
Given that each episode will feature a different real-world client (and, presumably, a name guest star playing himself), it’s hard to imagine what this show will look and feel like on a week-to-week basis, especially because Clarkson, I have to say, absolutely throws herself into her guest role, scoring her own big laughs and, I suspect, launching a credible acting career, if she chooses.
Then again, Simon’s motto, often referenced in tonight’s pilot, is “Leap and the net shall appear.” After years of watching him work without a net, I’m inclined to give Williams the benefit of the doubt, but mark my words, if this show becomes a hit, it’s Wolk who’s going to be red-hot and superstar-ready.
The Crazy Ones may take a ratings hit on its first outing tonight, if The Michael J. Fox Show opens as strongly as I expect it to, but next week Crazy will be up against the premiere of Sean Hayes’ weaker new sitcom, Sean Saves the World. It’ll be interesting to see how this Thursday-night network rivalry eventually shakes out.
James wolk
James Wolk

An Aus-some new detective series

When it comes to period murder mysteries, you might think that the Brits have pretty much milked that popular genre to death. Leave it to the Aussies, though, to come up with something delightfully different in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, an instantly addictive new (to the United States) series centering around a vivacious young woman who is equal parts jazz baby and resourceful sleuth. Acorn Video this week released season one, encompassing 13 spirited episodes (on four DVD or Blu-ray discs) drenched in period detail.
Adapted from a popular series of detective novels by Australian writer Kerry Greenwood, the series is set in 1928 Melbourne, where wealthy Phryne (pronounced “FRY-nee”) Fisher (newcomer Essie Smith), a decidedly free-thinking 28-year-old, investigates dastardly doings, including one that occurred in her childhood and still haunts her. The richly drawn cast of characters also include Dot Williams (Ashleigh Cummings), Phryne’s devoted housekeeper and occasional sidekick, and her bashful cop boyfriend, Hugh Collins (Hugh Johnstone-Burke), as well as handsome police detective John “Jack” Robinson (Nathan Page), who begins to strike some romantic sparks with Phryne as the season progresses. Several episodes also feature the great British comedy actress Miriam Margolyes in a juicy turn as Phryne’s disapproving Aunt Prudence.
Production values are absolutely first-rate (Phryne’s dazzling Jazz Age costumes alone are worth checking out), and the copious behind-the-scenes featurettes in both formats include comments by Greenwood, Phryne’s creator, who is visibly over the moon at the care the creative team has lavished on the world she has created. If you’re a fan of witty, well-written period mysteries, I cannot recommend this set highly enough.
Other new releases from Acorn include:
No Job for a Lady, making its North American DVD debut in a three-disc set that includes all 18 episodes from its original UK run from 1990-92. Penelope Keith, a familiar face to PBS viewers from her work in such popular Britcoms as To the Manor Born and Good Neighbors, stars as Jean Price, who is somewhat dismayed to discover how lunatic the political world is after she is elected a Member of Parliament for the left-wing Labour Party. The solid supporting cast includes the wonderful Paul Young as Jean’s long-suffering Scottish officemate Ken Miller and George Baker as cartoonish conservative Godfrey Eagen, Jean’s relentlessly cheerful Tory nemesis. If you enjoyed Yes, Prime Minister, you’re sure to enjoy this clever comedy. No noteworthy extras, but all episodes are closed-captioned for the hearing impaired, as are all the other titles in today’s column.
Chance in a Million, which ran in Great Britain during the mid-1980s, was created as a vehicle for Simon Callow, who had just scored a stunning London stage success in the title role of Peter Shaffer’s then-new play Amadeus. Here he plays Tom Chance, a man cursed by fate and plagued by circumstance at every turn in his life. The performances strike me as a little too stylized and exaggerated for modern tastes, but it’s fun to watch Callow when he was just starting out. Future Academy Award nominee Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies) also stars as Tom’s chirpy girlfriend in this three-DVD set, which includes all 18 episodes, an alternate pilot episode and four episode commentaries by Callow and the two scriptwriters for the show.
I’ve never before come across A Mind to Kill, which aired in the UK (in both English and Welsh versions, mind you) from 1994 to 2004 and has gone on to become widely syndicated around the world, although frankly I’m hard pressed to understand why. Philip Madoc stars as Welsh detective Noel Bain, but neither he nor his character is particularly galvanizing (the supporting players are far more interesting, especially Ffion Wilkins, who plays Noel’s headstrong daughter, Hannah). Acorn’s 11-DVD set includes all 21 feature-length mysteries that aired during the show’s run, as well as a clip from the Welsh-language version of the series. If you enjoy playing “find that star of tomorrow,” guest stars include a pre-Horatio Hornblower Ioan Gruffudd and Archie Panjabi long before she landed her Emmy-winning role as Kalinda Sharma in The Good Wife.