Category Archives: sitcom

The Drew Carey Show (s.01, 1995-96)

The Drew Carey Show is a major US sitcom comedy that ran for 9 whole seasons between 1995 and 2004. It tells about Drew Carey, assistant director of personnel in a store Louder’s, and his friends since school – Kate, Oswald and Lewis – as well as several other characters, including Jay, another school friend, Lisa, a romantic interest of Drew, Jules, Drew’s neighbour, and Mimi, Drew’s sworn enemy. In season one Drew finds a job for Kate in the cosmetics department rejecting Mimi Bobek, who also applied for it. Kate starts working at the store, and Mimi gets hired as Mr. Bell’s personal assistant so that she won’t sue the company. Soon after Drew hires Lisa to work on the displays around the store; and although they are attracted to each other from get go, they have to suppress their feelings because the company rules dictate that people from management cannot date employees; when that doesn’t work out, they date each other secretly, constantly sneaking around, which causes a good deal of frustration to both of them. Over the course of the season Mimi and Drew compete at bugging each other, pulling pranks and trying to hurt the other party in various ways. At some point Jay shows up in Drew’s life, about which Kate feels very negatively, but then takes that one step that separates hatred from love. In the finale of the season it becomes known that a Dutch company is buying the store, and a lot of people are going to be fired, so Drew goes into business with his friends, and starts making beer, including the coffee-flavoured kind, but later it turns out that everybody below management are going to stay, and Drew also manages to save his job. Otherwise: Drew fires mr. Bell’s lover; attaches a funny cartoon to the memo, and gets sued for that by one of the employees; coaches girls’ basketball team; almost dates Janet, Lewis’s sister; goes to the Rolling Stones concert; almost becomes a personal assistant for Mrs. Louder, the owner of the store; celebrates his birthday; gets introduces to a racist club by his dad; fires Earl, the crazy guy; trains Mr. Bell’s nephew to be his replacement; survives the storm and goes to the church; gets Mimi for an assistant; asks out his hairdresser Suex; has to decide between Lisa and Kate for the new opening (personal shopper department); makes a commercial for the story with animals, which works, until it backfires. Kate comes up with an idea of day spa, and mr. Bell puts one of his lovers in charge of that; becomes one of the leaders of the employees strike; sells a giant bottle of perfume for less than it costs; invites everybody to dine with her mother on her birthday; and almost breaks up with Jay. Mimi charms Drew’s father; and joins forces with Drew against mr. Bell’s nephew. Oswald goes through a number of low-qualification jobs, including working at cosmetics department of the store during the strike, post-office, and drugs testing. Lewis, who works as a janitor, almost becomes Oswald’s legal guardian.

So, this here is a not so bad comedy. Actually, it’s pretty good most of the time. I have some reservation, of course, but they are mostly related to the format itself rather than to the quality of the implementation. There are also some re-setting tendencies that irritate me a little bit – that is, most of the stories are one episode long, and so the next would start as if nothing even happened at all. Ultimately, though, it’s a minor issue.

Important here is that the humor is quite good, the characters are funny and relatable – although there could have been more Lewis and Oswald-specific stories, whereas these two characters are mostly playing supporting roles. I really loved the chemistry between Drew and Mimi – that spicy, confrontational relationship is exactly what’s needed to fetch out all the benign qualities of the show, which otherwise would’ve made it all too goody-goody. All the major characters are quite interesting and nice to follow.

The execution is pretty much what can be expected from the 1990s comedy, with occasional curious and relatively unusual (for the times at least) devices.

All in all I enjoyed the show quite a bit, and I have a feeling that in the following season it would become better – there are definitely some preconditions for such evolution.

Names and figures

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Black-ish (s.04, 2017-18)

In the 4th season of Black-ish the twins take part in the school play about Columbus; invent a special handshake in order to stay everybody’s favourites, but all in vain; bends the rules with homework; do a puzzle with Junior; participate in the science fair; Andre reinvents Juneteenth; looses a ball game to Junior for the first time; does charity; gets diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; fights with his sister over inheritance; and freaks out about Devonte not walking at the age of 1. Rainbow suffers from postpartum depression, and so hard at that she even kicks Ruby out of the house; invites Dre’s cousin Omar, who was recently freed from prison, to stay with them; goes back to work, but then decides she’d rather stay at home; bans internet from the house, and discovers mommy-net; goes to yoga; learns to say ‘yes’; and grieves the death of her father. Ruby gets scammed, and scams others herself; and gets competitive about twins’ attention with Mason’s grandmother. Diane falls in love with Zoey’s first college boyfriend; gets her first period; and thinks that Jack is not as funny as her. Jack gets emotional about his height; gets haunted by Devonte; gets straight As and forces Dre to get him a dog. Zoey goes to college and appears in the family house rarely. The family plays monopoly; receives Bow’s family for Easter, including white cousins; and celebrates Devonte’s first birthday. Junior gets expelled and starts going to a public school; fails his first driving test, but eventually gets better; works as an assistant to Santa-Monica, who becomes Santa-Maria after finding Jesus; looses his virginity; breaks up with Megan; falls for his new teacher, Barbara; gets accepted to both Harvard and Stanford; and graduates from school with honor. Pops celebrates his 65th birthday. Dre and Bow run into a serious trouble with their marriage and even separate for a while thinking about divorce.

The overall quality of the show remains on the same high level. Some of the episodes are quite brilliant, such as #1, with the stage musical, and on the average they are at least good. Zoey is almost never there, although for a good reason – still, I wouldn’t have minded a couple of episodes with her student life, like in the previous season.

The final part of the season is flavoured with a strong intake of drama, which is not really funny, but on the contrary – bitter and frightening. The execution is extremely fine here: the separation story is fused into the family history seamlessly, and seems to be an organic part of the narrative line, including the snapping-out-of-it in the result of Bow’s father’s death.

The humor is pretty great; the writers continue to please the audience with various interesting topics, some related to the black history of the US, while others – of more general background.

All in all, the show is amazingly consistent; I feel like its development is very much natural, and that its crew takes into account the accomplishments of their peers while staying original at the same time. Hopefully, they will continue to be this wonderful in the future as well.

Names and figures

Black-ish (s.03, 2016-17)

In the 3rd season of Black-ish the family visits a Disney World with VIP pass; throws a gender-reveal party; then throws a baby shower. Andre leaves Microsoft account on Charlie; gets scared of a little girl in a lift; goes to the Home Owners Association meeting; runs from the cops; goes to therapy; decides to name the new baby Devonte; reunites with his old crew after the death of one of them; performs his jury duty; develops a campaign for golden standard of shipping; decides not to take a paternity leave; hires Richard Yongster; puts some UVO on it; learns that his mother is no saint; and creates an ultimate slide-show. Bow gets needy because of the pregnancy; deals with mixed race issue; gets internship for Zoe and ends up doing everything herself; helps Gigi with her newborn; proves that she can cook snaks too; permits everybody to swear as they please; fights for black dolls everywhere; competes for partnership at work and looses to the Holiday Hanna; receives her sister Santamonica and gets to know her better; and has baby prematurely because of her age. Bow’s brother Johan joins the family and lives with them through-out the season; he’s a self-proclaimed poet known as ‘They call me Johan’; and earns by life-coaching people, including the kids. Zoe realizes that she might not believe in god; arranges new room for the twins; goes for internship in a fashion magazine and nails it; gets busted by cops on a party; breaks up with her father; decides which college she wants to go to and chooses CalU of Liberal Arts; befriends a girl named Miriam and falls in love. Junior runs for student body president and wins; competes with his father and outpranks him; gets a white girlfriend Megan; goes to work for a pizza company Possum pizza; delivers ‘I have a dream’ speech; receives courtesies from Shelly, Zoe’s friend; trains to be a counselor; and gets high on a party by accident. Ruby declares the Purge night on Halloween; reconciles with her old-time friend, Earl’s sister Avy; takes Junior as her Spades partner; and cooks a single dinner for the whole family. The twins get career tested. Diane sees porn for the first time; and has to wear a pootato costume. Pops spends a lot of time with his daughter; and has to give up his condo money. Dre’s work crew gets reinforced with Leslie Stevens’s son Connor; Lucie also comes back due to a lawsuit outcome; everybody go through a post-election depression. Charlie turns out to be an adjunct professor at a university.

So, this season turned out to be pretty great. It has all the great qualities of the previous ones, and at the same time nothing that stands out negatively, such as 2nd season’s finale with a contrived 1970s parody. The overall development of all the characters seems to be natural, as well as the main theme of the season – Bow’s pregnancy, which was turned around in the finale to give the audience a little scare (not a new move, but quite effective nonetheless).

What I really like about modern comedies, of which Black-ish is one of the finest examples, is that children are actually growing and developing as personalities: this particular peculiarity was underlined by including tiny bits from season 1 that contrasted with the 3rd season rather distinctively.

All in all, the show keeps up with the level established in the very beginning – the quality of the story as well as that of the humor remains very high.

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Roseanne (s.10, 2018)

In 2018 Roseanne was resurrected after 20 years of sleep. Some of the later developments were rolled back (such as Dan’s death of heart attack), but the essence remained the same: Roseanne’s family is still a big, loud, poor and, in a way, insane one. Darlene and her two kids (Mark and Harris) has to move back with her parents after having failed in life. She is long separated from her husband David, who only occasionally shows up for kids’ sake. Later on Darlene has to settle for a job that aunt Crystal retired from, which is a waitress in a casino. Becky also works as a waitress; she has barely survived Mark’s death a few years ago, and now continues to struggle with nearly no hope of success of any sort. Even though she knows her age does not really allows it, she still steps into an endeavour of becoming a surrogate for money, which later fails for obvious reasons. Roseanne and Dan have lost all the gaining they ever had through-out their lives and now are poor again. In his respectable age Dan still does drywalling, which becomes harder and harder to do with illegal immigrant offering very low prices for their work. Roseanne works as a Uber driver. DJ served in the army; his wife Gina still does, and so he raises their daughter Mary by himself – of course, with the help from the big family. He wants to go back to the army, but they wouldn’t take him, and so he and Dan later decide to give the bike shop business another try. Jackie still lives alone; after Beverly gets kicked off from the elderly house, she invites her to live together. She also gets a dog. Darlene’s son Mark is a weird but strong kid, who likes to wear skirts and dresses. Harris is teen-age girl who goes through a typical phase of rejecting the authority of the adults.

The show was initially prolonged for a few more seasons, but later Roseanne Barr posted some really stupid twits (which she blamed on Ambien), and the executives cancelled it. And that’s too bad, because the result, even though depressing as fuck, turned out much more fun than I expected. Admittedly, I was pessimistic about the project from the start – for one thing, too much time has passed, and a lot has changed on television, – but they actually managed to gather almost everybody from the original cast (with appearances from many important characters), and the scripts for the show were pretty good, so in the end it all worked out just fine. Or would’ve worked out, should Roseanne be a tiny bit smarter.

Of course, this is a comedy and it’s not really depressing – only in the after-analysis, when you realize what the Connors had and managed to fuck up. But while watching the show, these thoughts do not turn up, for it is mainly concentrated on day-to-day activities, which have a lot of funny in them. Further more, Roseanne, being a Trump supporter, messes with the stereotype for that political stratum offering a picture more complex than an average individual would want to imagine. The show embraces the new times with heart open to possibilities and understanding, albeit tensed because of the characters’ poverty and insecurity arising from it.

All in all, this was really interesting – definitely an achievement of sorts; – the cancellation was a frustrating moment for me. Roseanne once again confirmed that it is worthy of a place on a pedestal, and should remain in people’s memory.

Names and figures

Black-ish (s.02, 2015-16)

In the 2nd season of Black-ish Jack uses the n-word in his school performance and gets temporarily expelled; goes to play basketball in a bigger league; and learns all the truths. Junior becomes eco-hero; prepares for the cyber attack; switches to a new barber; does not get catfished via a dating site by a girl named Kirsten; and hangs out with much richer friends. Andre starts to think about protection of the family and buys a gun;  comes up with a new holiday – Daddy’s Day; is afraid of flying; leaves the children with Charlie; gets a bad haircut; receives his best friend Sha in the house; has to deal with the new boss lady Dafny; cannot learn how to swim; marries off his sister Rhonda; and imagines his family in the 1970s, in the Good-ish Times. Charlie leaves for another job and comes back, when his new firm merges with the old one. Zoey takes self-defence (karate) lessons from Pops; takes offence at her dad for not making her the face of his new campaign; goes on a college tour with her folks and visits Brown University; crowdfunds new things for herself; and gets a car. Pops gets an angioplasty; and takes over Christmas and turns it into one-present-each type of holiday. Rainbow gets a little jealous of GeeGee, Dre’s closest female friend; learns the difference between psychology and psychiatry; does not want to take Dre’s last name; prepares the school auction; investigates the case of the broken glass; and gets pregnant. Ruby almost ruins the family photo; gets a lover named Davis; gets sick and contaminates everybody else. The twins explore the Home Alone anti-burglary techniques; get baptized in the pool by Ruby; switch gender-specific activities; break apart and get back together. Diane sings; makes a documentary about Jack and sports; runs for class president and looses. Andre and Rainbow learn to say ‘yes’ more often; deal with money troubles; and try to decide who should be their children’s legal guardian in case anything happens to them. The family attends different churches; attends a neighbour’s pool party; opens a dialog about police brutality and idealism; and watches the Lion King – again. The children have a rivalry with their cousins; learn the pleasure of insider trading; and get a nanny named Vivian.

For the most part the season is almost as good as the first one. A lot of major issues are touched upon, including police violence in relation to race, money, guns, and gay marriages, not to mention many exclusively black schticks, such as the barber thing. Relations within the family develop in orderly manner, same as the relationships between (and within) the factions. Episodes became less motley and more one-two subjects-based.

The execution is on the level with season one, there’s very little change in how things are done on the show.  At the same time, due to several setbacks I consider this season to be less interesting that the show was before – it should be noted, at that, that although the quality did get a little lower, it still remains way above average. In particular, I didn’t like the finale, with the ’70s sitcom parody, – it just seemed a bit laborious to me.

All in all, though, the show is a great entertainment, and I have high hopes for its future seasons.

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Black-ish (s.01, 2014-15)

Black-ish is a family sitcom about Andre Johnson, his wife Rainbow, and their four children – Andre Jr., Zoey, and twins Diane and Jack. Andre is working in advertising, and has been recently promoted to SVP of a major company; Rainbow is an accomplished medical doctor; their successful careers is what brought them to the higher stratum of the middle class, and made them black-ish instead of simply black. They all live as one happy family with Andre’s father, whom everybody calls Pops, and occasionally visited by Andre’s mother Ruby, and Bow’s parents Alicia and Paul. In the office Andre becomes sort of close with a new co-worker Charlie Telphy. Over the course of the 1st season Andre gets promoted to SVP of the urban division; talks to the children about sex; ruins Harriet Tubman experience; brings the family to the Beef Plantation, the taste of his childhood; learns to keep his wife and his mother separate but equal; competes to be Santa; strains his ankle; turns 40; comes clean about vasectomy; tries to get back to his roots (hunnit); comes up with 10,000 commandments; and talks to his sister Rhonda about her homosexuality. Andre Jr. joins the field hockey team; gets a bro-mitzvah; plays both Romeo and Juliet; gets bullied by Cody and figures out how to withstand it; films reality-tv show about his mother and her friends (‘old people eating cheese’); looks for loopholes in the rules; and almost joins the young republicans club because of a girl. Rainbow promotes her profession for a career day and to Diane; uncovers Ruby’s secret about Christmas dinner; gets disappointed when her husband fails to show caveman qualities; reads ‘Hoodfellas’; competes with Ruby about what to give Dre for a birthday present; gets late; and parties with her college friends. Jack plays hide-and-seek but no one’s amused; watches The Shining; and arranges a living costume together with Zoey. Diane learns to be nice; doesn’t want night-light to go; arranges a living costume together with Junior; fights for her nickname of Gurkel; and composes family tree together with Jack from Pops’s story about 1923. Zoey starts vlog ‘Makeup by Zo-Zo’; gets her brother a date with Kyra, a super chick; gets her first boyfriend – a french guy named Andre, and then second – black guy named Derrick; learns that she was born before her parents actually got married; falls for a boy named Daylen; and starts wearing glasses. The family dresses up as Jackson Five on Halloween and re-establishes the pranking tradition; perform the elves song on Christmas; go the black ski weekend on Martin Luther King jr. day; and goes through the vows renewal ceremony / new wedding.

The genre of a family sitcom (and it seems to have had developed into its own genre) is not new, and yet people still find ways to come up with fresh and funny stuff. Black-ish is one of the most recent example of this phenomenon – it is now in its 4th season; and while I don’t know yet about the later ones, the 1st is pretty amazing. It is funny, ingenious, full of vitality and joy.

The secret is simple, of course, – it’s all about the characters. In this case we have 6 primary ones, plus a several more recurring, and each of them is a bright and unforgettable personality, even those presented as dull. The stories, which is an equally important component of any comedy show, derive from the characters, and are conditioned first and foremost by their originality and internal consistency. The Johnson family is a bunch of rather crazy people, each crazy in his or her own way, with different brands of functional insanity blending together into a wild and cheerful cocktail. It is incredibly uplifting and funny.

Through the various stories the view of the modern state of race relations is presented, with somewhat reduced level of realism (for this is comedy, after all), as it is perceived by three different generations of black people in the US. Even though the subject matter is far from the reality of my everyday life, it is still interesting to follow, because, lack of racial diversity notwithstanding, I can still relate to most of the stuff Johnsons and their companions are going through – people around the globe are not that different all in all.

The general climate of the show is light, joyful, merry. The humor is of very high quality. So far there hasn’t been anything fake or forced, or even unnecessarily half-way, which is kind of refreshing. The execution is quite flawless. The acting is totally amazing – all the primary parts are played at 100% and more; the cast selection is absolutely perfect (especially the twins); and multiple secondary roles and guest stars are just as awesome as the show in principle.

It’s a great comedy, and I highly recommend it.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.06, 2014-15)

In the 6th and final season of Hot in Cleveland Victoria gets a role alongside Brad Pitt, but has to kiss a tennis ball instead; then she gets offered an HBO series, almost blows, but eventually gets the part anyway, and even makes Zed, the show creator, to move it to Cleveland; promotes Paleo vodka; fights with her disco legacy that she shares with Ernie Hudson; starts dating a young editor; helps her father to get a job on her show; writes a children’s book with Melany; starts taking Adderall; poses before a drone; gets a bodyguard; lives through her show’s screen testing; gets a visit from her agent Barry; gets cut out of the show; enters a play at a local theater; has issue with her driver’s license photo; becomes an artistic director; gives her son a singing part in the play; finds out about her secret sister; decides to move back to LA and marry Johnny. Joy chooses Simon over the other two contenders just to find out that he’s already married; stars in a reality TV with Victoria but gets substituted with a different Joy; starts using dating app Cinder; decides to leave the detective firm, but then re-thinks the decision; turns into platinum blond and meets Owen’s girlfriend the albino; gets a visit from her sister, who was a nun; breaks a leg; falls in love with Bob and fights the Canadian Joy for him; gets Bob tested with Love Actually; sees Owen getting married; lives through the rehearsal dinner; decides to adopt a baby; together with Melany messes with security cameras; decides to get married in Paris; removes her 6th toe; gets married in Vegas and adopts the baby. Melany sleeps with Bob; almost has something with Franky; starts dating her neighbour Jack, an expat from New Zealand; wins the holiday lights contest; gets visited by her daughter who has doubts about studying at Harvard; looses her co-host; gets a task of diverting a journalist and ends up dating him; drugs her boyfriend with estrogen; dines with herself; has hard time because her show gets cancelled; and finds her love in the airplane. Elka enjoys her power; sleeps with the mayor; holds a Christmas party; coaches councilman for a day; hosts a party for the english Cleveland officials; plays scrabble; inadvertently kills the mayor; becomes the mayor; looses a bet to the mayor of Cincinnati; gets grilled; poses nude; meets the Pope; and marries Bob’s father. The girls go to a chemistry restaurant; get DNA tested; have fun with Bob’s voodoo doll; and buy a restaurant together.

The season started in the same way the previous one ended – with lots of great stories and funny jokes. However, that only lasted until Christmas or so. Then it gradually became more and more dull, sentimental and far-fetched. Most of the plot solution of the second half of the season are, to put it mildly, questionable. Victoria getting cut out of the show; the restaurant (which, by the way, resembles the episode of Frasier that wasn’t very good as well); Melany loosing her job; Joy’s mother falling for Bob; Joy and Elka’s lesbian ancestry, etc. – all these story turns are pretty wild, which badly hurts the consistency of the story; at the same time, they are not funny enough to justify it.

Although the execution is superb, as always, poor decision on the writing side of the table make this season, perhaps, the worst of them all. Of course, it’s only in comparison with the other ones, especially the 5th, which, by far, was the best. Plus, the season started off really good, and only devolved into something incomprehensible much later. There was a semi-traditional behind-the-scenes episode, but it more like a historic review of the show in general, and was more sentimental than funny or uplifting.

It is really sad that the show’s finale turned out so rushed and awkward. All in all it’s a great comedy, with lots of truly bright pages, which is why I still would recommend it to anyone wishing to lift his or her spirits. Just don’t get your hopes up about these closing episodes of the series.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.05, 2014)

In the 5th season of Hot in Cleveland Victoria gets tested on polygraph after her new husband’s escape; she communicates with Emmett via footwear notes; survives Emmett’s fake death, and plans his funeral; doesn’t leave to live in wilderness with him; brings everybody to the premiere of her movie but ends up delivering her daughter’s baby in the car; pursues nomination for the Academy Award; tries to date an average guy; makes up with an old friend; tries to run for city council against a black disabled sports hero; gets nominated and finds out that she has to wear Lady Pants to the Oscar ceremony; selects a next film to star in and meets his director, JJ; receives her non-gay son Tony; dates JJ; meets JJ’s children; wins Oscar; and goes on a date with male model. Melany turns out to be not pregnant, but with a brain tumor; she shops for the best doctor; spoons the wrong way; accidentally invites her dentist to the premiere; finds out that radiation therapy got rid of her tumor, but still tries to get some perks out of having had it; goes to work as a bartender and ends up having her own radio show; runs a radio marathon; gets pursued by Joy’s new boss, Mitch; goes on a date with cannibal billionaire; receives a high-school friend; works as a honey trap for Joy and proves to be terrible at it; briefly gets back with the pompous english professor; has to co-host with Frankie; gets visited by her mother; and goes out with a rocket scientist, who brings his sex surrogate. Elka boasts about sleeping with Sinatra; takes a younger lover named Luke; dates Roy again before dumping him for good; learns that Macrib is back; catfishes Victoria about a guy from Wyoming; overtakes Victoria’s run for the city council; is revealed to have staged a play about the girls; debates with her competitor and wins through doing shots; graduates college; wins the election; meets her first love; and sees Max again. Joy introduces Simon to his son and his grandson (who got surprisingly grown up); looses Simon to a better cause and Sudan; goes to a nude beach; goes undercover with Bob as her lover and ends up liking him for real, which ends with Bob selling the agency and moving to Canada; meets her new boss, Mitch, and immediately falls for him; makes Mitch fall in love with her; goes to the couple’s therapy; graduates college; competes with Melany for the right to go to the ceremony with Victoria; gets torn between Mitch and Simon when the latter suddenly comes back; gets triple proposed. The girls get robbed by the same guy; get a dog and call him George Clooney; take a trip to New York; learn about the dark past of their house; and enter Elka’s house for the first time.

This is, perhaps, the brightest season so far. Martin et al. ceded ground a little bit in the previous one by staying too attached to previously discovered successful forms and ideas (such as the behind the scenes episode) – but now they re-invented the show preserving, however, its core components intact, and also remaining just as funny and ingenious as before. This season is packed with events, big and small; every major character has a consistent story line that evolves logically and adds a lot to the common broth of the show; finally, the humor is very good at worst, and usually quite brilliant. The brightest episode of the season is the animated one (#18) – it is absolutely ming-boggling, and I would highly recommend watching it even if you don’t care about the show in general.

The execution is just as wonderful as before. All the girls are totally amazing – such a powerful ability to laugh at themselves is a rare thing; I absolutely adore this about them (as well as, you know, lots of other stuff).

One of the most important things – the series is stunningly uplifting. This comedy might be one of the best ways to quickly improve your mood that I know of – surely, it would only work short-term, but that’s the case even with all of the great ones.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.04, 2012-13)

In the 4th  season of Hot in Cleveland Joy raises her grandson Wilbur with a little help from her friends; goes back to college and ends up majoring in criminology; falls for a firefighter who turns out to be a brony; quarrels with her mother because of the baptism; becomes an extra of Victoria’s set; makes a 18 years old doctor fall in love with her; comes to intern for a private detective; briefly reunites with Sean the brony; tries to land a pediatrician of Hindu descent; meets a hot shrink; and meets the father of her child for the 1st time in 30 years. Victoria stars in the Woody Allen’s movie opposite Emmett Lawson; gains weight by eating magic diet candy; gets visited by another daughter named Oscar, a journalist; starts dating Emmet; comes back to her hometown to visit mother and sister; gets proposed to; plans a prison wedding; endorses a new japanese product – the electrocuting belt; gets a bachelorette party in the hospital instead of Vegas; thinks about her former marriages and meets Julien, the best of the ex-husbands; ruins her hair; and gets married. Melany finds a new job and falls in love with one of her bosses, Alec, who returns her feelings; wears a gargoyle costume; fakeporns her boyfriend; invites the mailman in; thinks about having another baby; doesn’t sleep with Danny Doyle, the fixer; tries to date her gynecologist; looses Harry a might-have-been fiance; fights with Joy over a coma guy; and finds out she’s pregnant. Elka engages in some shady business together with Mimi Sue; restores the image of Jesus; smuggles pills from Canada; gets an A for the “Manhands” movie; auditions for Importance of Being Earnest; and reunites with her bowling team (from the Mary Tyler Moore show). The girls visit a local spa retreat (yogi Ananda); meet Sally from Cincinnati; and celebrate yet another mutual birthday, this time with web hands. Traditional behind the scenes episode is called Look Who’s Hot Now and features Shirley Jones as a guest.

Consistency is everything, and Hot in Cleveland is nothing if not consistently uplifting. It’s always funny, although the share of ridiculous can vary from 0 to approximately 15%, which is within the bounds of norm, i.e. not enough to irritate. Storylines are developed in a logical fashion, both the old and the new ones. Of the latter I would like to specifically place emphasis on the Joy is a private detective line, for it is rather original and offers a lot of opportunities for quality humor. Victoria’s newest marriage deal is also quite engaging.

Besides humor the show contains a proper share of drama, which outlines the overall cheerful disposition.

As before, the composite episode (#19 in this case) is one of the season’s best. The execution is on the level of the previous season, i.e. rather superb.

All in all, in terms of quality nothing has changed much, while the story keeps on evolving. And this is really great.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.03, 2011-12)

In the 3rd season of Hot in Cleveland Elka chooses her ‘deceased’ husband among all the boyfriends; starts going out with Roy the waiter; goes sky-diving; tries to win over Roy’s mother; turns out to be medical miracle; turns 90; doesn’t like Facebook’s new design; co-writes a radio play; goes out with Santa; models track suits; and reunites with her twin sister. Victoria comes out as gay and blows a chance to be a co-host on a talk-show; dates a hand-model; dates a janitor; donates blood and goes to heaven; looses her part in her own movie to Lucci; starts dating Drago, but then goes back to Johnny;  puts on a fat suite; freaks about a tail; designs some shoes; helps Artie Firestone reinvent himself; buys out a worthless storage unit to compensate for commercial-caused damage; discovers a letter from Lincoln; and revives her soap opera. Melany connects with her sister Caroline; dates a state senator; together with Victoria breaks up he son’s engagement to V.’s daughter; gets a tapeworm; kisses the wrong David Gates; dates Joy’s ex-fiance Kyle; dates a fake sex-addict; goes out with a high-pitched guy; can’t get rid of a beauty mark; and finds an amazing hair-stylist. Joy tries to steal a dress from a dead woman; dates an ageless black guy; helps save an endangered species of rhinos; tries to quit bad habits; dates a blind guy; sleeps with fake Rick Spriengfield; goes out with a priest; helps a dying guy with his bucket list; gets proposed to; communicates with a tracker via radio; and wears a water bra. The girls go on a lesbian cruise; make-over their neighbours; recount to Elka how they met; track down their lost loves on Valentine’s day; get bitten by a venomous spider; try to join the local country club; froze their faces and help Courtney; and have a huge fight. Episode 21 continues tradition established in season 2 by showing some backstage footage and bloopers.

This season seems to be the very prime of the show. Admittedly, some stories in the beginning still emit a vibe of contrivedeness – but much less so than before, and it gradually goes away so that the 2nd half of the season is almost completely devoid of it. At the same time the quality of stories and of the humor grows constantly. The show quickly becomes a wonderful comedy, some reasons for which are explained in the ‘Some Like It Hot’ episode (#21) – the one with the bloopers and behind-the-scenes stuff (by the way, whoever came up with the idea to make such episode is a genius).

Most episodes are pretty good, there are a lot of great among them, and some are quite brilliant. Besides the aforementioned 21st, it’s definitely the one where “The Edge of Tomorrow” gets revived; the one with the spider; both episodes with Artie Firestone; the one with frozen faces; perhaps, the one with the bucket list as well.

There is an astonishing number of amazing guest stars on the show this season – more than before, and the quality of their work is amazing. The main cast continues to be extremely loveable and funny (my personal favourites are Jane Leeves and Valerie Bertinelli.)

The technical execution of the show is exactly as it should be – professional and ingenious. All in all, this is the best season of the show so far. Very funny and fun, and uplifting.

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.09, 2017-18)

The 9th season of Will & Grace is the first from the planned reincarnation triple. In contrast with the original run, the show has been updated to resemble the present times, and also became much more political. In the course of the season: Will falls for a republican power-gay; tries to date a much younger guy; makes senior partner in his firm; comes to work with Grace; hooks up with a bread maker; has a little thing with Larry; attends Vince’s wedding; deeplikes his ex Michael; and inadvertently brings Grace’s father with them. Grace blows a chance to decorate the Oval office; gets a biopsy of her bigger boob; has words with Leo the ex-husband; lads a big client; hooks up with a bread maker; bombs at QVC together with Will; nails three generations of one family; attends a baby shower; fights for the MAGA cake; drags Will to visit her family; and summons Will’s mother. Jack tries to keep up with the modern gays; teaches acting to kids; meets his grandson and saves him from the fixing camp; ‘wins’ $2000 in a lottery; catches an ear-worm and gives it to Karen, too; becomes a Lyft driver; starts a serious relationship for the first time – with Drew the cop; gets dumped; goes to Ibiza and comes back with a boyfriend. Karen meets Beverly Lesli again; suffers a terrible blow when Rosario first has a heart attack and then dies in the hospital; runs into Val; watches the Staff Show; hooks up with Malcolm and is forced into a difficult choice. All four of them celebrate Christmas by going on a historical society tour (the Irish Tale).

Only a half of all the jokes were funny. Some of them seemed really contrived. The stories all in all were mostly just okay. The level of sentimentality in them is higher than comfortable, but, to be fair, does not bring into melodrama domain. The political component is fine by me (although it is rarely truly amusing), but already in a couple of years it would be completely unreadable, so this probably cannot be deemed a strong feature of the show as well. The way the writers made play of the Rosario absence was not particularly great – merely okay.

On the bright side, all the primary characters look really great, and it was really nice to see them doing good.

Generally speaking, the reanimated show far is mediocre rather than anything else. The narrative lacks strength, and the humor is often slapstick and unnecessarily loud. It was fun, I guess, but I wasn’t delighted.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.02, 2011)

In the 2nd season of Hot in Cleveland Elka goes into trial on account of possession of stolen goods; she breaks up with Max, but later messes with Max’s new fiance and gets back together with him; later still they break up again because of Florida; crushes Kimmel show; gets a rescue dog; declared guilty and starts waiting for the sentencing; tries to run and hides amidst the amishes; goes to a date with a rich guy, but then blows him off; reconnects with an old friend; goes to Paris; gets engaged to Fred; and gets pardoned due to political reasons. Victoria gets her assets frozen because her accountant turns out to be a thief; she starts looking for money, and tries several things, including hooking up with a sugar-daddy; she fights Melany Griffith; almost kills Susan Lucci; tries to make a sex tape; joins the local news team; falls for a farmer named Dave; meets a convict; dates one of the Siamese twins; gets visited by her daughter Emmy; gets pranked by a co-worker; gets engaged to Johnny the rock star; and tries out new japanese product for advertising. Joy faces deportation and goes through several sham marriages (with their neighbour Rick, with another guy, with a bum) to avoid it, although none of them work; she realizes that she wants a baby, and so she visits a sperm bank, which leads her to a sexual relationship with Rick; steals files of another patient of her shrink; meets her firstborn Allan; has a date with the guy who does impressions; dates Victoria’s co-worker to break his heart; plans Elka’s wedding; and gets a green card due to political reasons. Melany falls in love with Pete, and comes to meet his family, but then it turns out that Hank is Pete’s older brother, and so everything falls apart; she sells her LA house; goes to a date with a guy who looks like Jesus; starts writing a column based on her book; dates a foot-fetish guy; and does research into no-strings-attached sex for women. The girls try out magic spanks one after another; take a trip to LA, each for her own reason; start and end a music band; try to find GBFFs, but to no avail; meet a priest who is a singer, and go though wedding madness completely drugged. Episode 19 (Too Hot for TV) consists of behind-the-stage interviews and bloopers.

In terms of quality the 2nd season is almost the same as the 1st one, meaning the general level remains more or less even with an occasional blaze and just as occasional contrivance. There are two continuous storylines here – the one with Elka’s trial, and the one with Joy’s green card; both are developed in a rather logical and interesting fashion, both cause some pretty great episodes. The rest of the season, though, is dedicated mostly to the attempts at relationships, which starts to feel a bit superficial.

Like I said, most of the stories are average, some are great (the one with Lucci, the one with the wedding, several others), and some seem contrived – to be fair, not too much. So far the show is more fun than tedious, even though the notes of the latter are, in fact, present. The humor all in all is pretty good, although some of the jokes are no longer readable.

The season is fun in a sense that it brough a number of truly interesting actors into play: Wayne Knight was as good as always, John Mahoney was nice to see; there were also Jimmy Kimmel, Melany Griffith, and, apparently, Peri Gilpin (at least, according to wiki, because I surely missed her somehow).

Generally speaking, it’s all quite good, but I’m hoping it would become better. There is definitely some space for development.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.01, 2010)

Hot in Cleveland is a sitcom comedy about three girlfriends out of Los Angeles who settle in Cleveland, Ohio. Victoria, star of the daytime TV, Joy, celebrity hair removal specialist of british descent, and recently divorced Melany were flying to Paris, when their plane was emergency landed in Cleveland, so that they had to spend a day there. Appalled at first, they soon got inspired with the charm of the province, where they were not just mediocre versions of the beauty standard, but true queens of hotness. Melany decided to rent a house, and the other two followed her lead. The three of them settled together with a housekeeper, an almost 80 years old woman named Elka. The first season follows their adventures in the environment that was entirely new for the three newcomers, and has drastically changed for the 4th member of the group. Mostly it’s depiction of their attempts at arranging their personal lives. Elka gets engaged to an elderly guy named Max, and has him competing with a rival. Joy tries to date a guy who turns out to be not her son, and then another, a possible murderer. Melany goes through several guys, almost has a thing with a singer Holly Nash, almost reunites with her ex, and then starts dating a cop name Pete. Victoria shoots a commercial for Japan, directs a local school’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and acts in it, and later lays claim to the daytime Emmy award. When Elka in order to pump her chances starts a rumor about her having a disfiguring disease, she goes along with it trying to fake the symptoms. Over the course of the season all the characters improve their relationships with other members of their respective families. In the finale Elka is discovered to be in possession of a great variety of stolen jewelry.

As it often happens, the show starts off on the average level of everything, and then gets better with time. The premise feels somewhat artificial at first, but after several episodes pass, and the new environment more or less settles, the awkwardness goes away, the acting becomes bolder, and the writing – more ingenious. The two main components of the cocktail of this series is the contrast between the California glare, bright but superficial, and Ohio provinciality, solid but dull; and the chemistry within the nonuniform group of the 4 ladies. All in all it works pretty well – surprisingly well.

Of course, power cast has something to do with it. All the 4 primary characters are pretty well-known, and, more importantly, do a beautiful job. They are further reinforced with a range of great secondary characters and guest stars, such as Wayne Knight and Susan Lucci.

But the main thing is still the writing. The stories, although revolved mostly around romance and relationships, the least original thing in the world, have certain freshness to them that derives mostly from the aforementioned 2 components. The humor is pretty nice – not great, but it can definitely get there, and already in this season there were a few truly amazing ideas, such as the theme of the finale, or the smart bleeping in the airport.

All in all, at this point the show seems to have a lot of potential. It’s fresh and vivid, and funny enough.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.09, 1996-97)

In the 9th season of Roseanne that became the final one of the original run the story mostly revolves around Roseanne winning the state lottery and dealing with positive and negative effects of the sudden wealth. The season starts, in correspondence with the previous season’s finale, with familial discord. Immediately after that conflict gets resolved the family becomes rich. Dan decides to take better care of his mother and takes off with her to California to consult with the best doctors they have. During his absence Roseanne goes to Golden Chamber spa with Jackie, attends a charity ball in New York, visits some vineyard, travels to Washington, DC, and rescues a train full of hostages on her way, and holds Thanksgiving party. Jackie gets courted by a Moldavian prince, who even takes her to dinner to Manhattan. Beverly comes out of the closet. Leon and his partner decide to adopt a baby. After Dan gets back things suddenly take a different turn. Jackie’s prince marries someone else never to explain himself. DJ’s voice starts to change. Dan makes a very bad decision that nearly ruins the family. In the result of the latter Roseanne falls into deep depression and barely makes it out. She gets invited to the Landford country club, the nucleus of local elite, and meets son of Wellman, the owner of the factory she used to work on. Together they come up with a deal about the factory that should serve the benefit of its workers. DJ meets a girl named Heather, and asks Mark for advice about girls. Roseanne gives Dan the 2nd chance, and the family reconciles. Darlene gets rushed to the hospital and gives birth prematurely, so that the baby barely survives. Beverly finds a girlfriend named Joyce. Jackie gets to wrestle with a professional. Then network and cable compete to make Roseanne’s story. Dan’s mother comes to visit and tries to kill him. Becky gets pregnant. Season’s finale puts all of the above in a very different perspective.

As far as I understand, the 9th season is a sort of bonus one – they were planning to finish after 8th; and so essentially it’s about all the members of crew and cast having fun. Hence a number of implausible episodes, such as the one with hostages on a train (Segal, by the way, made an appearance there). Some of them were good, others – quite shaky, but the overall impression is positive. Later on a drama was attached, which was in part to conceal absence of John Goodman. It not only worked perfectly (one of the best solutions of this issue I’ve seen so far), but elevated the show on a whole new dramatic level. Darlene’s pregnancy development reinforced it even further – even though it was clear from the beginning that the baby cannot die, the intrigue did add tension to the narrative, along with some suspense.

The thing with the lottery winning gave some dubious episodes, but also some pretty great ones – for example, Roseanne meeting Edgar Wellman and the thing with the factory is among them.

Sarah Chalke played Becky ones again instead of Lecy Goranson: on the one hand, it’s a pity, but on the others – she did quite fine, especially considering that neither Becky, nor Darlene, nor David, nor Mark, nor DJ, were present in the story very often. Nancy played a larger part than in couple of previous seasons, which was cool. Leon also increased his presence significantly.

The finale is made as if it was conceived long ago, but it probably wasn’t. Still, this doesn’t undermine the piercing and aching sincerity of its message.

All in all, notwithstanding some questionable decision through-out the season, the closing for the show proved to be pretty good. Now I’m really looking forward to see how Roseanne would wriggle her way out of certain story solutions in the come-back season that is about to be shown. This was an exceptionally significant show, even though it’s not as esteemed now as Friends, for example. In any case, it definitely deserves to be remembered.

Names and figures

The Millers (s.01, 2013-14)

The Millers is a family sitcom about – take a wild guess – the family of Millers. Nathan Miller is a recently divorced 43 years old newscaster for the local TV channel; his sister Debbie owns a all-green-organic restaurant with her husband Adam (they also have soon-to-be-teenage daughter Mikayla. Debbie’s business is struggling, which is why Nathan constantly helps her out financially. Nathan maintains friendship with his cameraman Ray. The established balance of relationships changes drastically when their parents Carol and Tom move to live with them because their own house got flooded and requires time to be repaired. As soon as the parents learn about Nathan’s divorce, Tom walks out on Carol, looking to find happiness in life. The parents also get divorced eventually, but remain closely related because they both live at their children’s, and actively participate in each other’s lives.

Greg Garcia’s take on the family comedy seems to have all that is needed – compelling, life-like situations, distinct characters, great cast – and yet it’s a failure. I think, there are three reason to that, the combination of which led to cancellation of the show in the middle of its 2nd season (and the fact that episodes from that 2nd season are basically impossible to get).

First is the character of Carol played by Margo Martindale. While the execution of the personality is rather great, the character itself is far from amiable and therefore unpleasant to follow. It’s over-domineering, smothering mother who prevents her children from evolving into full-fledged, independent persons.

The second reason is the humor, which is mediocre at best. Absolute majority of the jokes, situations, gags, etc. are simply not funny.

Finally, the third reason is that the situations presented in the show often cross the plausibility border and become more anecdotic than realistic, and, correspondingly, are perceived as bullshit, even if on the unconscious level. I think, this may be an overcompensation for middling humor, – sadly, it only made things worse.

The result is all the more lamentable because of truly abundant cast – Arnett, Martindale, Mays, Bridges and many others are all truly good actors, and still their collective effort proved to be insufficient to make this show work. Lulu Wilson as Mikayla was pretty good; there were also appearances by Roseanne Barr (who got so slim I recognized her only by her voice), June Squibb and Jeffrey Tambor, – but none of that managed to save the day. And all because of poor writing.

All in all, the show is not worth the time. It simply isn’t good.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.08, 1995-96)

In the 8th season of Roseanne the family brings into the world another baby and names him in the honor of Jerry Garcia. Becky and Darling both work at the diner. Dan and Rosie crash a bar mitzvah. The show travels to the 1950s. Family takes a trip to the Disney World and travels first class on the way there. Also, Dan grows a beard (although, not for long); spends some time with DJ; briefly reunites with the band of his youth; puts new linoleum in the kitchen; faces a hard life decision; quits government job; has a heart attack; and talks to god. Becky fights with Darlene; gets a lot of visitors to the trailer; and decides to go to college. DJ takes a photo class; plays a part in the thanksgiving play; makes a business on mice for laboratories; and inherits from a relative more than Roseanne does. Roseanne breaks into a competing restaurant; gives birth on Halloween; takes a trip to a mall with Jackie and experiences a case of road rage on the way back; records a video time capsule for the newborn; plans Leon’s wedding; and gets interviews by Wake-up Chicago TV program, which leads to a long-time gig. Mark cooks for the family; and almost wins at scrabble. Jackie divorces Fred; becomes a bit too competitive when working in the supermarket with Roseanne; gets a computer and immediately becomes addicted; goes ballroom dancing and almost hijacks her mother’s crush. David plans to move out; and gets a job at the amusement park (Edelweiss Gardens). Darlene turns down a high-paying job, which causes a real crisis in the family; gets pregnant and proposes to David; and gets married. After Dan’s heart attack, he cheats on the prescribed diet, which leads to a huge, really serious fight with Roseanne.

The season is pretty great. The quality is more or less consistent through-out the whole thing. Lecy Goranson comes back as the primary Becky, but gets substituted by Sarah Chalke on several occasions (Chalke also pays the family a visit on Halloween as a friendly neighbour). The writers take a notable stand on the human rights issue – in particular, the parody on the 50s sitcoms is especially curious (but there is no Darlene, and it could have been funnier). The gay wedding is quite interesting, as well as the trip to Disney World – this last thing was due to the fact that Disney company bought out the parent TV channel and compelled all the projects to promote Disney; all things considered, the writers of Roseanne weaseled their way out of the situation rather craftily.

The development with Roseanne’s TV gig is pretty great; same goes to the Darlene’s wedding and subsequent Dan’s health issues – that story branch evolves in a logical and consistent fashion, and is rather powerful at that. DJ’s part in the story finally seems adequate to his age. The quality of humor is pretty high – there are ups and downs, of course, but there were no real lapses, and, on the other hand, – quite a few truly great moments.

All in all, the season is give or take on the level of the 7th, which is not bad at all, especially after the disastrous 6th. If the original run would manage to preserve this standard of quality, it would be really great.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.07, 1994-95)

In the 7th season of Roseanne Darlene, while being away in college, breaks up with David and starts dating a guy named Jimmy, which doesn’t last. Eventually there appears a possibility of them reconciling. Becky and Mark live in Roseanne’s house for a while, until they find their own trailer and move out. Jackie and Fred experience troubles with their marriage; Jackie briefly goes out with a guy named Pete – just as a friend, but that turns out enough to drive the couple into marriage counseling, which ultimately doesn’t help. After breaking up with Darlene, David tries to date other girls, and has some sort of fascination with Becky, but that doesn’t lead anywhere. Roseanne gets pregnant and goes through a number of emotional upheavals related to pregnancy. DJ takes part in the upbringing of his cousin, Jackie’s child, and by the end of the season gets his first girlfriend Lisa. Apart from that Dan shaves his armpits; Mark gets sick; David rats Darlene out; has a sex dream about Roseanne; graduates high-school and decides not to go to Europe; Darlene admits taking drugs; moves in with Jimmy; fights with Becky because of David; and gets dumped; Becky doesn’t get enough acting in bed; DJ has a problem with David; cheats Darlene out of her allowance; gets fired from the diner, goes to work for Dan, but soon returns back; beats David; participates in a play; has an erection problem; eats cardboard; goes to Chicago; and resurrects a bee; Roseanne becomes a victim of a Halloween prank; hires Stacey to be a bus-person; and pretends to be sick; Beverly gets busted for DUI and becomes sober; babysits for Jackie; and gives her couch to Roseanne. The season touches upon such issues as racism, abortions, gay people, naturism, and Nielsen ratings. Additionally, a few things deserve a separate mention: the flashback episode, and particularly the TV mothers scene; John Goodman’s audition tape; and the parody on Gilligan’s Island (and reverse).

Thankfully, the dark haze of the 6th season dispersed quickly enough – the 7th season is much better in everything. The storylines are more internally consistent and develop in a more logical fashion. The drama is appropriately intense where necessary, but never too much or out-of-place. The humor all in all is quite good, and some episodes are truly brilliant.

Roseanne was absent for several episodes in the second half of the season because she was actually pregnant and couldn’t attend – this was addressed in a smart and funny way, and some nearly genius things were done to cover up her absence. The bit with all the TV mothers is absolutely remarkable. The episode with the Gilligan’s Island, even though I never watched the show and probably never would, is just as marvellous, and same goes for the continuation, when the actors from that show took places of Roseanne’s cast. There were some smart and relevant references to the OJ trial, the Friends, and Michael Jackson. Sharon Stone, Ellen DeGeneres and Danny Masterson honored the show with their brief appearances.

It’s just like there was no setback at all. In the 7th season the show is perhaps even more powerful and viable than any of the first 5 seasons. I find this ability to move on and build up even more outstanding than the return of the quality. Extremely interesting, and highly recommended.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.06, 1993-94)

In the 6th season of Roseanne Darlene goes to another city to study in college, where she rents an apartment; over the course of the season she repeatedly visits her parents’ house; goes through a conflicting stage in her relationship with David; and doesn’t want to have kids. Roseanne contemplates the idea of having another child, but then changes her mind; smokes pot with Dan and Jackie; throws baby shower for Jackie; lands money to Mark for him to continue education; learns about networking; brings David home; goes to the gay bar and gets hit on; and gets a stove for free. Dan works as a foreman in the city service with a number of men under him, including Fred; likes Nancy; breaks his nose; has a talk with DJ about masturbation; goes to lunch with Phillis; has a reunion party; doesn’t want to hire Mark; throws David out of the house; admits his mother to a mental hospital; and learns the truth about the past of his family. Jackie goes on a date with Fred; has a house-warming party; gets pregnant; learns how to lie better; avoids Fred as best as she could; gets sued for custody of the child; finally gets together with Fred; finds out about her real name; gives birth to a boy; overcomes Fred’s concerns about her past; almost gets proposed to; gets married. Beverly gets pushed by her daughters to the status of silent partner, and later sells her share to Leon; and gets hurt while having sex. DJ flanks school and even gets closer to Darlene on that ground; steals car; starts helping in the restaurant; attends ballet; blackmails Darlene out of her savings; has a sex talk with Darlene; and starts going to church. David gets caught hiding pot in the house; goes as if to Michigan to live with his mother, but really to live with Darlene; slaves to Roseanne after coming back; comes live with Jackie; returns back; and turns out to be sexist. Becky returns reincarnated (in the body of Sarah Chalke) and moves back in her parents’ house, together with Mark; and starts working as a waitress in a night club. Mark loses his job; manages to get hired by Dan; gets expelled from college; fights with the family and moves out; and moves back in. Leon buys out Beverly; later he starts working to undermine Roseanne and maybe even push her out.

A series of poorly thought-through, chaotic story solutions made Roseanne into a complete mess. There are still some instances of quality humor through-out the season, but the logic of development, the characters’ motivation, the condition of drama – these very important aspects leave much to be desired.

Nancy is pushed to the sidelines and also made to look rather superficial and plain stupid at times. Mark, who previously produces an impression of a person who may not be book-smart, but is good with his hands and overall quite decent, is not a downright stupid looser. Jackie in her relationship with Fred (early stages) acted so utterly unreasonable, it was painful to watch. The same thing with Dan on 2 different occasions – in the matter with his father, and in the matter with David. It was astonishingly bad writing for it brought the show closer to melodrama. David is made into a total whimp, which he wasn’t before. New version of Becky is not nearly as good as the old one (even with ironic attitude to the fact of the change).

To the habitual kind of comedy there added another one – parody: on several occasions different shows (mostly soaps) were slightly mocked, and I can’t say that it was bad or good, but the mere fact that the writers resorted to the lower styles confirms for me that there was a crisis in the story department.

Some minor characters, such as Crystal, Anne-Marie, and some others, disappear from the story for no particular reason. Admittedly, Crystal appeared in a couple of scenes, but that was kinda sad.

Like I said, there’s still quite a lot of great stuff – the chemistry between the characters was pretty much preserved; some of the episodes were particularly good (although, none of them was wonderful); the humor was mostly okay and sometimes rather great.

But the season still upset me more than amused. I find this tendency quite troubling.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.05, 1992-93)

In the 5th season of Roseanne the Connor family goes bankrupt with the motorcycle business, and, after getting a financial contribution from Roseanne’s mother Beverly, goes into the service sector by opening a loose meat sandwiches restaurant together with Nancy, Jackie and Beverly. Becky goes with Mark to Minnesota after he receives a good job offer there; they both appear only in a couple of episodes in the beginning, and an additional scene somewhere in the middle, and that’s it. Dan is forced to go back to the drywalling, which he hates; gets arrested for protecting Jackie; goes into existential crisis; takes a job in a clothing store; has to work on their anniversary; upgrades Roseanne’s wedding ring; almost gets a business of re-selling houses; and gets a government job. Nancy gets separated from Arnie; gets a liposuction; starts dating a woman; survives Arnie’s visit; falls for charming guy named Roger and wants to conceive a baby from him. Jackie goes to a singles dance; starts dating a younger guy named Fisher; later she moves in with him; and then heavily regrets it; and buys a house for herself. Darlene keeps working with David on a comic book; their relationships develops naturally, although she tries to avoid sex on the initial stages; she gets a sweet 16 party from the family; dyes her hair black; goes to a concert with Molly; becomes a vegetarian; applies for the writing school along with David; gets in (he doesn’t) and decides not to go; almost breaks up with David because Molly kissed him; goes to the prom; finally loses virginity; gets a job in a supermarket; and decides to leave anyway. DJ gets caught peeping after Molly; names the restaurant; tries playing hockey; tastes beer for the first time; gets punished by Darlene; brings obscene reading material to school; writes a play on Landford’s history; brings up the contract; makes a new friend called Jordan; meets new neighbour boy named George; touches a boob. Roseanne goes around asking for a loan; almost forgets the value of Halloween, but gets reminded by all the ghosts; feels old; goes to a self-defense class; almost becomes friends with Charlotte; makes up with her old-time friend Ronnie; experiences the loss of her father; makes boudoir photos of herself for Dan on account of their anniversary; looses a tooth; and lets Darlene go. Beverly gives her daughters $10,000 each; moves to Landford; and then to a retirement home; turns out to be an atheist; and gets a boyfriend. David gets frustrated from not having sex with Darlene; doesn’t move to Michigan with his mother and instead gets to live with the Connors; and doesn’t want to let Darlene go. New neighbours move in (Sy with daughters Molly and Charlotte); later the Connors go to a vacation in California with them. Arnie appears additionally as Jackie Thomas (title character of the show he had at the time). Leon shows up in a small role of a health inspector.

Notwithstanding rather drastic changes in the plot (the shift into the restaurant business happened in a matter of several episodes), the development of the story is gradual and consistent. Perhaps, the only thing I didn’t like was the almost complete absence of Becky. Everything else seems to be in order. Apart from the new business model, the most interesting things in this season were the Darlene’s evolution, growing embeddedness of David, who basically became part of the family (also the way it came to happen is pretty great), and the writers resorting to really serious themes, such as domestic abuse, which doesn’t seem to hinder with the comical part of the narrative. DJ is still a baby – his share in the story does grow, but not as fast as I hoped; by the way, in this season he’s approximately the same age Darlene was in season 1, and yet he is not as active in the story.

The writing is really good; there were some brilliant episodes, namely the Halloween one (although these are traditionally great), those about crime and punishment; those related to the neighbour girls, as well as others. The subject of a restaurant appeared in the show for a reason: Roseanne and her then husband Tom Arnold had the same kind of restaurant; it was closed down after their divorce, so I wonder would that be reflected in the story as well? I guess, I will see soon enough.

Notable are the guest appearances by Joan Collins and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The acting all in all is just as great.

Generally speaking, this is a pretty sound, strong season with a lot of truly great humor and significant admixture of serious drama, which emphasizes the brightness of the funny stuff.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.04, 1991-92)

In the 4th season of Roseanne Dan with his wife undertake the new business in the form of a bike shop, where they repair and sell motorcycles. The business is slow – they barely make the end meet, and they also slave themselves to death. Roseanne works in the restaurant at the same time as she’s helping Dan. Becky and Mark are in a serious relationship; Becky goes on a pill; Mark helps Dan in the shop as he is a good mechanic. Crystal raises her new baby, with pretty much no help from her new husband, and later in the season she gets pregnant again and then gives birth to a baby girl, which makes her life this much harder. Darlene gets all dark and moody, she gets enthusiastic about book and literature, and eventually starts to write herself. At some point she meets David (initially Kevin), who is Mark’s brother; they become friends and then start dating; they also start drawing a graphic novel together. Apart from this: Becky gets to be in charge of the family more and more often; wants to get some vehicle and eventually gets her mom’s old car; works as a cashier in the supermarket; breaks it off with Mark; briefly goes out with Dean (in memoriam) but thinks about getting back with Mark. Jackie becomes a fragrance girl; has a one-night stand with Arnie; goes to the truckers school; becomes a trucker and starts working as one; wears the same costume as Crystal on Halloween; calls Booker when she’s depressed; meet her father’s lover together with Roseanne; visit with her sister their childhood house which is about to be demolished; she goes to therapy and brings Roseanne in. DJ brings home a dog; builds a sundial; loses a friend when their neighbours go back to Chicago; gets a video game for birthday; and wins a spelling bee. Darlene quits basketball team; becomes friends with Karen, the bookstore owner; gets beat up on account of her big mouth; comes to Dan with her personal problem; and together with her sister really upsets Roseanne on Mother’s day. Roseanne buys an umbrella stand off the robbers; makes fun of Wayne Newton in Vegas; allows Becky to invite Mark for Thanksgiving; resumes smoking and then quits again; goes through her parent’s  divorce; becomes a Santa Clause with Jackie as Mrs. Clause; gets addicted to bingo; quarrels with Crystal; throws her back off; gets a breast reduction; tries to hook Jackie up with their accountant Art; gets thrown out of the fake family for the commercial; gets tested on polygraph; tries to get a manager job, but the restaurant gets closed down. Leon allows his boyfriend to meet his mother; breaks up with him; gets promoted and tries to find the girls new jobs, but fails. Arnie gets married to a girl named Nancy; and later gets abducted by aliens. Dan helps his bowling team to be not the worst; gets a snowmobile job; gets a tatoo; and helps drunk Mark.

The show becomes more and more consistent with each season. There were no hanging storylines this time – everything that was outlined at the end of season 3 received a proper development in this season. The evolution of the family story seems to be rather logical and coherent: the overall storyline is interesting enough, and the writers are sticking with it, which is great; lines of the separate members progress in a way that corresponds their character traits and nicely intertwine with all the other significant story streams.

The quality of execution is more or less the same, except that the acting is maturing little by little, and the drama grows deeper. The humor remains rather high quality. George Clooney makes an appearance (as far as I know, his finale one on the show); Johnny Galecki, Sandra Bernhard, and Dan Butler (from Frasier) appear in the series for the first time.

All in all, the show is just as great an entertainment as it ever was; it’s extremely laudable and promotes some positive things, such as tolerance and sense of responsibility, at that the position of the writers produces an impression of sincere and consistent. So far I haven’t detected a single reason not to watch Roseanne.

Names and figures

The George Carlin Show (s.02, 1994-95)

In the 2nd season of The George Carlin’s Show George McGrady gets an ice-fishing hut; gets found by an adult son; hijacks a package from Chong; deceits a blind passenger; fancies waitress Sidney; is forced to make a life and death decision; gets in the middle between Harry and his wife; cleans his apartment and gets everybody sick; gets both of his ex-wives back into his life; buys a magazine for a kid; gets evicted; smiles; meets an old friend who is a priest; get a truth drug tested on him; and finds out truth about his dad. Sidney and Beck start dating early in the season and go through some ups and downs. George’s girlfriend appears out of the blue in episode 12, and that’s it.

Overall quality of the show remained on more or less the same level. However, unlike with season 1, some of the stuff here is actually funny. Admittedly, only a handful of scenes are worth any attention at all, and even all of them combined do not make watching this show a deserving undertaking, but still it counts for something.

The show in general is a sad example of an unwanted and therefore unsuccessful project; even though some of its components were good enough, others weren’t, and the resulting combination is below average. George Carlin is definitely much more interesting in his stand-ups.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.03, 1990-91)

In the 3rd season of Roseanne Becky takes a driving lesson, goes on a date with guy named Robert, starts dating a bad boy named Mark and keeps dating him against the will of her parents, ‘shows’ the finger, consistently acts out, briefly moves in with Jackie, ‘steals’ Darlene’s crush, wants a car, has a falling out with dad, gets a new haircut (without explanations), and almost sells one of her old school papers to Darlene. Roseanne does not get pregnant, talks to her daughters about sex, gets a new job in a mall restaurant, dresses up as a man on Halloween, throws Dan a surprise birthday party, gets jealous, participates in a career day, gets a new manager named Leon at work, almost goes to Vegas, becomes Crystal’s lamaz backup, gets evaluated at her job, and enjoys Mothers day. Dan lends some money to a friend, temporarily takes over at home, throws yet another poker party, worries about PMS, flanks Wednesday, fails to teach his daughters a lesson, freaks out about his father getting re-married, teaches DJ how to fight, gets a flu, gets upset about his bike, has a near-death experience, plays guitar on a barbecue, almost starts a new business with Ziggy. Darlene makes out for the first time (with Brian), loves her great-grandmother, lies to cover for her sister, understands her mother better, dresses up for Valentine’s day, gets two boys fighting over her, and almost goes to a spring dance with Barry. DJ has a box full of heads, mirrors his sister, gets bullied and then finds a brilliant way out, and gets a new friend Jerry. Jackie breaks up with Gary and quits the force, starts doing community theater, accidentally gets to play the primary part in Cyrano de Bergerac, and wants to become a massage therapist. Crystal discloses that she’s been seen Dan’s father, and that they are getting married. The family gets a microwave and a new bed, gets visited by Roseanne’s grandmother, meets the new neighbours, and puts everything’s at stake.

They also get a VCR for the 3rd time, if I’m not mistaken – almost as if they just forget about it every time. There are some worse downsides in this season, though, specifically – the decision not to pursue the ‘writing’ storyline and renunciation of the ‘beauty salon’ environment – both these things, which were pretty great findings of the 2nd season, are dismissed completely, as if they never even existed. Also, there are no episodes in this season that could compare to the brilliant ‘bathroom dream’ episode of the previous one.

However, there is plenty of funny episodes here as well, the best of them is probably the one about PMS surprise party. The new Roseanne’s job has given the show some interesting moments, too, and is likely to give even more. DJ gets increasingly more involved in the narrative, and not just as object at that, but as an equal-impact participant. Well, maybe not that equal yet, but it’s getting there. And, of course, the finale, which ended in a cliffhanger is rather promising, and I hope the writers won’t just sweep it under the carpet.

All in all the season is a little less fun that before, but is really entertaining and funny nonetheless.

Names and figures

The George Carlin Show (s.01, 1994)

The George Carlin Show is a sitcom about a New York cab driver George McGrady. The story takes off when he gets a dog, which he takes instead of large win, and meets a woman, who would later become his girlfriend. The 1st season revolves around his everyday activities: he mostly spends his time either driving a taxi, or sitting in the bar with his friends, including Harry the bookmaker, Jack the bartender, Sidney the waitress, Beck the plastic surgeon, and Frank the drinker.

When taking a look at the first sentence of the depiction above, one might ask a question: why is the series called after Carlin, if the hero’s last name is McGrady? The answer is simple, although it lies outside of the framework of the show: there was no idea behind it other than ‘hey, here’s a great comedian, let’s make a show with him!’ And maybe this is exactly the reason why it sucks so hard.

Even though Carlin is undoubtedly a good stend-upper, and there are some quality elements in the show (Alex Rocco’s acting is probably the most interesting of them), the overall result leaves much to be desired, to put it mildly. For starters, the humor is mediocre. Carlin’s rants may be good for a small scene, but in a narrative they just produce an impression of poorly placed. None of the characters, except maybe for Harry, is colorful enough to make a difference, and all together they just interfuse into a grey-ish common place. The stories are uninteresting, some of them are plain stupid.

The show all in all seems like a complete failure: there’s nothing original, or curious, and very little funny – at least not enough to make it worthwhile.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.02, 1989-90)

In Roseanne‘s 2nd season Roseanne bounces from one lousy job to another (telemarketing, a temp secretary with an architect, fast-food joint, bar) until she lands in a beauty salon, where she finds a decent bunch of people, which compensates somewhat for the degrading character of the job; takes a bath; throws a Thanksgiving party; goes to see her parents with Dan; tends to her father when he gets to the hospital; goes on a diet and starts exercising; gets hit by a car and then compensated for it; falls out with her sister and then falls back in; goes to IRS; has a birthday; and decides to go back to writing, a former passion of hers. Jackie applies to the police training and becomes a police woman; gets drunk in front of Becky; stays in charge while R. is out; starts dating a guy named Gary and almost marries him. Dan quarrels with R. on account of rising tension; holds a poker night with his friends; almost fixes a carburetor; has his friend Ziggy over; repairs his bike; does his taxes; tries to amend his relationship with Becky; and organizes a home office for his wife. Becky breaks the wind in public; starts dating Jimmy, but later falls out with him; passes on the hair routine; acts out; and gets drunk for the first time. Darlene advances in sports; writes a poem; and falls for a boy named Martin.

So the show gradually gets more established in regards to its format and primary tendencies – there is less of the silliness characteristic for the 1st season, the drama is deeper, while the comedy is just as light and warm. Overall quality has improved, if only a little bit. But there are some truly brilliant episodes, in particular the one about the bath and the trial (it’s the highlight of the season), but also the one about the thanksgiving, and the one about the Halloween. A number of episodes with the beauty salon also deserve a special mention as they introduce an interesting and consistent storyline with its own set of amusing characters and long-playing jokes. The characters are contemplated on a deeper level, which adds complexity to almost all of them. (DJ is still too young to impart a self-sustained driving force to the narrative)

The quality of execution remained pretty much on the same level. The humor is often very good, sometimes – excellent. Which says something, considering how much has changed in the society since then. All in all, Roseanne seems like a really great show, and is definitely worth watching further.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.01, 1988-89)

Roseanne is a sitcom classic. It’s about a working-class family, where the mother, i.e. Roseanne herself, works full-time on a plastics factory, while her husband Dan seeks part-time jobs as a contractor. They have 3 children – Becky, Darlene and boy named DJ (aka David Jacob, although full name is never used). Other notable characters on the show include Roseanne’s sister Jackie, who also works on the factory and visits the family house more often than Dan would like, and Chrystal, one of the Roseanne’s co-workers, as well as several others. Season 1 also features George Clooney as Booker, factory supervisor who briefly dates Jackie. This season’s stories include the one about the music contest (lost), the one about a guy buried in the bridge; the one where Darlene gets her 1st period; the one where Becky barters her first real boyfriend Chip for ‘bad boy’ (unsuccessfully); the one where Darlene has appendicitis; the one with tornado; the one about the death of a salesman; the one with Dan’s father visiting, as well as another – with Roseanne’s parents; and in the finale the workers of the factory call in quits.

I was rather sceptical about this show: it’s pretty mellow in the beginning, while I prefer edgy; it’s about family values, which I find trivial; Roseanne is a smart-mouth type, and I was too appalled by 2 Broke Girls, which I watched recently, and was suspicious on account of that; finally, it’s a typical example of the genre, and do not care for ‘typical’ very much. But pretty soon it turned out that mellow actually feels fine, when it’s well-written and sincerely played; that family values are not pushed as much as they are assumed, and there’s nothing wrong with that; that Roseanne is a wonderful character, much more complex and interesting than anything Whitney Cummings could’ve come up with; and though the show is quite typical, there’s nothing bad about it either, as long as the people involved are doing a good job, which in this case they do.

Admittedly, the actors enjoy themselves a bit too much while acting, especially in the first episodes, but even that is tolerable. And the events concerning the children, and the adults, and the relationships in the family, are genuine and therefore pleasant to watch. If nothing else, this show is worth watching for the sweet and kind family atmosphere that it creates, especially for those of us who never knew anything even remotely similar. Plus, it’s pretty curious to watch John Goodman in this part, not to mention Clooney, who is so young and so sweet, it’s just insane.

All in all, it was a warm and amiable experience, and I would surely like to get more of it.

Names and figures

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