Sunday, August 23, 2009

TV: According to Ava and C.I.

We were once thrilled to learn of a cancellation. In 2007, ABC finally cancelled According to Jim; however, we turned our back on the corpse too quickly because a month later ABC reversed the decision and the Jason of TV shows came back to life. This time, the sitcom is supposed to be dead.

For real.

It's not coming back.

Just to be sure, we've refused to run past the corpse. We've seen the horror movies and know that's generally when the hand darts out and grabs you by the ankle.


In its eight years, the Jim Belushi program killed off audiences. This is a show whose highest rank, whose "hit" status rests on it being number 46 out of all TV shows broadcast in its fourth season. When ABC cancelled it the first time, it was the 121st most watched show on commercial, broadcast TV during prime time. Audiences 'thanked' ABC for the renewal by dropping it to 171 the following year. This year, it moved up to 149. What a proud moment for Jim Belushi and ABC.

How the hell did that hideous show stay on the air so long?

Season seven's finale found Satan showing up to claim one of Jim's newborn sons and we think a deal with the devil is the most plausible explanation for how the show remained on the air.

According to Jim was not a believable show. You never bought that Jim Belushi was playing a character, you never bought that Cheryl (Courtney Thorne-Smith) would fall in love with someone so repellent and repugnant, you never bought that a one-paycheck family could live in that house and afford to have five children. About the only thing you bought was Cheryl's increased weight loss every season. If you lived with Jim, we bet there wouldn't be much in the house for you to eat either.

Season seven was the last to feature Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Cheryl's sister Dana (she made one brief appearance in season eight) and, if someone thought what the show needed was less female characters, they thought wrong.

Kyle, the oldest son of Jim and Cheryl, had been speed-aged. He was born in season one but in season four his age was pushed up so that Jim Belushi could offer no shading to such unfunny episodes as "Dress to Kill Me," when Kyle wants to dress as Cinderella for Halloween. In season eight, daughter Grace is treated by Jim (her father) as if she's Dana (his nemesis) and we're all supposed to laugh. He's attacking her for this or that, shouting at her, ordering her around. It wasn't that funny even with the talents of Kimberly Williams-Paisley, but when he's doing it to his own daughter, to his own non-adult daughter, it's disgusting.

And "disgusting" really sums up what the show always was but season eight found a lower level and who would have thought that was possible?

Not only did the show become more disgusting, it became like the sitcom parodied in Annie Hall, where the producers can't keep their hands off the dials and keep adding canned laughter and fake applause.

Unlike According to Jim, we'll do set up.

A new character appeared. For five episodes, Jackie Debatin played Grace's piano teacher. Grace's piano teacher and Andy's girlfriend.

Now let's put you wise to Jackie Debatin. She's a very skilled actress and can do comedy or drama. Due to her looks, she's usually cast in 'hot' roles. For example, in 2001, on Friends, Monica thought she was hiring a stripper for Chandler but it ended up being a hooker. Debatin played the role. In 2005, Still Standing needed a 'hot woman' for an episode where Bill and Judy attempted to cheer up a depressed friend (Fitz) and that role went to Debatin. In 2006, when Charlie Harper, on Two And A Half Men, realizes too late that he loves Mia and arrives after she's gone, her roommate, who offers him wings and a lapdance during half-time, immediately makes him forget Mia. Debatin was also cast in that role. She's played a stripper on That 70s Show. We could go over more of her credits but we believe we established the fact that, when producers have gone looking for an actress to play a 'hot' role, they've repeatedly gone with Jackie Debatin.

Larry Joe Campbell is not hot. On the very first episode of the series, as Cheryl's brother Andy, Larry Joe Campbell was already seriously overweight. He is now grossly overweight. Only on a Jim Belushi program are the words "mismatch" never uttered.

Or maybe they were but got lost in the 'sweetening'? We were talking about adding laughter and applause. In season eight, they even added "ahs."

The worst example of this was "Kyle's Crush." On this episode, no one knows that Andy and Mandy are dating. While she's giving Grace a piano lesson, Kyle (with Jim's help) asks her out. The actual date (they watch a cartoon film on TV) almost makes the episode worth watching because the actress sketches out her underwritten lines with a great deal of awkwardness and pauses.

But failing to realize that they had the makings of comedy gold, the date is cut short so Kyle can run and get advice from Jim because the producers want to play with the dials and add applause and aaahhhs and laughs.

Kyle: I don't want to hurt her feelings.


Jim: Of course not.

Kyle: But I will if I have to.

Huge 'laughter' (unearned).

Jim: That's my boy.

"Audience" goes wild with applause.

And the audience goes crazy with aaaahhhs and applause at the end of the episode when Kyle declares, "There's only one girl for me . . . Mom."

You watch this garbage and your first thought is, "Cheap ass producers sure are happy to use Cheryl's character to advance the plot even if they don't want to pay Courtney Thorne-Smith to act in this episode." (No, Cheryl was never seen. Her son's first date. Taking place at her own home. And she's AWOL.) Your second thought is how hokey and cheesy and embarrassing this crappy show has been.

Family Guy's Stewie has pronounced According to Jim an "abomination." That may be letting it off easy.

If the finally and thankfully cancelled show holds any interest to future generations, it should be only for what appears to have been some of the worst plastic surgery ever. Or are none of us supposed to notice that Jim Belushi's eyes now resemble those of a Pyrenees dog? That his face looks as though the rubber bands holding it back are about to snap at any minute? According to Jim was supposed to be a sitcom about an average family. Belushi ensured that they couldn't even get that right.
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