Sunday, December 08, 2013

Ava and C.I. take on The Water Cooler Set

Jim: No, I wasn't happy when Ava and C.I. decided to cover TV at The Common Ills on Wednesday.  But a show was being attacked, Kirstie, and attacked for something other than what was on the screen.  And the show was debuting Wednesday night.  And Ava and C.I. have friends with the TV series and with TV Land.  So I understood but knew we'd be reposting it here.

The nonsense women endure (Ava and C.I.)

Every week means scripts, screeners, requests from friends, difficult phone calls ("We should review Agents of Shield?  Why?  So we're your excuse when ABC cancels it?") and so much more.  That's because, since 2005, we've covered TV for The Third Estate Sunday Review.

But what every week also means is sexism, sexism, sexism, sexism . . .

It never ends.

And we're not talking about on the screen.

To be sure, there's sexism on the screen.

As we noted -- and only we noted because it takes feminists to tell the truths -- NBC decided to do away with women this fall.  Not one show they added had a female star.  And not one show they brought back did either.  (Parks and Recreation is back to the awfulness of season one where Amy's character is a joke and a minor joke while other characters -- male characters -- are handed the show.)

Some people ask: How do you do that?

How do you bring on a whole crop of new shows and not one revolves around a woman?

Is this 2013 or 1963?

We don't ask that question -- not seriously.  We're well aware of how the networks feel about women and we've documented that repeatedly.

No, the question we get worked up about these days is not "How do you do that?"

Our question is: How do you get away with doing that?

To be clear, NBC's ratings remain a nightmare and suits will probably lose jobs due to that.  Sad reality, they need to lose jobs.

But they're not the only ones.

There is The Water Cooler Set.

This is a bunch of b.s. 'critics' who don't champion the best of TV, they just rush after trend worthy.

They're the useless chasing the useless.

And you can't count on them to call out sexism when they're so very busy spreading it themselves.

Why did NBC get away with one show starring a man after another this fall?

Because no one but us called it out.

It's not that The Water Cooler doesn't care, it's that The Water Cooler Set is part of an ongoing war on women.  Tom Shayles of the Washington Post, for example, has led the war against women  for decades.


Tonight on TV Land, the new sitcom Kirstie debuts (10 pm EST, 9 pm Central).

It stars Kirstie Alley.  If that's confusing to you, maybe you missed the title (Kirstie) or maybe you're a sexist thug in The Water Cooler Set?

We were asked to review the series by a friend with the show and we watched the first two episodes (and read the first three scripts).

We said we'd take a pass right now and take a look at around episode five or six.

Our friend understood what we were saying (to a degree, there was anger over another comment -- we'll get to it).

And that was going to be that for a few weeks.

But then we heard about a string of attack reviews from two people with the show.  We asked for a list and saw the usual suspects -- pigs of The Water Cooler Set -- plus The AV Club.

The AV Club is not Television Without Pity.  The latter is a real site with a real love for TV and a real desire for honest critiques.  The AV Club is nothing but a bunch of men and male-wanna-bes playing with their penises (real and phantom).

And the prick exhibiting the sexism most recently is Erik Adams who trashes Kirstie.

There are reasons people might honestly not like the sitcom, there are honest criticisms of the show.

Erik Adams offers none.

He just trashes the show because it's not a male dominated comedy.  That's it's real crime to him and that's made clear by the nonsense he offers.

For example, he builds his entire review around the title of the show.  He opens with it, he can't stop babbling about it and, after his repeated harping, you're left with the fact that this is a very shallow man and also a deeply stupid one.

Among the reasons he hates the show -- or its title -- is because "no onscreen character -- not even the one played by Alley -- is named Kirstie."

If you're ignorant and a sexist pig that is a reason.

If you have even half a brain though, you're well aware this happens all the time and that, for example, Newhart was a long running sitcom starring Bob Newhart as the character Dick Loudon.

Kirstie Alley is a name.  She's a popular actress.

She's starring in the show and it's named after her.

This isn't a major issue unless you're one of those people who need a sitcom built around all men or all men except for the one token woman ('modern' sexists include two token women -- one who is one of the guys and one who is a bitch that everyone hates).

Kirstie plays Maddie Banks, a star of Broadway who gave up a son for adoption twenty-six years ago. Rhea Perlman plays her assistant Thelma,  Michael Richards plays her chauffeur Frank and Eric Petersen plays her son Arlo.

Erik Adams offers this high pitched whine:

All this leaves Kirstie vulnerable to the biggest pitfalls of the name-recognition sitcom: Whatever Alley or co-stars Rhea Perlman or Michael Richards do here, it can’t possibly match up to what they’ve done on other, better shows. It’s especially pronounced for Alley, who’s still enamored of the go-for-broke, screwball sense of humor that once made viewers think “Shelley who?”, even if the series bearing her name isn’t quite up for it.

First off, actors act.

Fan boy Erik may be frozen in the past but, for example, Rhea is an actress and she'll continue to explore her craft as long as she wants.  She may or may not receive male pig approval for her later work but its her art that matters.

Second, can he just stop the sexism?

Kirstie's very talented.  She has much to point to on her resume.  She and John Travolta were magical in the Look Who's Talking series of films (John does a guest spot on the show, not tonight).  She's done compelling film work in many genres (including Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan and Shoot To Kill).  She's a comic delight in the underrated Sibling Rivalry.  She's also famous for her role as Rebecca in the long running sitcom Cheers.

We don't dispute Kirstie's talent.  We do wonder why Erik can only praise it by attacking Shelley Long?

Why bring up Shelley Long?

Why pit two women against each other like that?

Does Shelley have a sitcom coming on?


We wish she did.

But she doesn't.

Shelley Long is a wonderful actress who's had to take a lot of crap.

She's among a group of actors who left successful TV roles in the hopes of a film career.  All of her period were demonized.  But the men were allowed to slink back to TV after their failures while Shelley continued to be demonized.

Shelley remains an inventive and highly skilled actress as her rare appearances on ABC's Modern Family demonstrate.

There's no reason to trash her or pit her against Kirstie.

But after Shelley Long left, Kirstie replaced her!

No, she really didn't.

Kirstie didn't take over the role of Diane Chambers.

Saying Kirstie replaced Shelley would be as stupid as saying Woody Harrelson replaced Nicholas Colassanto.

Kirstie has many talents and skills to praise, there's no need to downgrade Shelley Long's considerable skills and talents in order to praise Kirstie.

But Adam's not trying to praise Kirstie, he's pitting two women against each other.

In his mind, that's the thing to do.  There's good Kate and bad Mimi.  And that's about as much complexity as Adam can handle.

He bitches and moans in the most ridiculous manner.  For example, he offers a negative assessment of Eric Petersen's contribution's as the son Arlo stating that the actor's "own sleepy-eyed, low-key vibe only contributes to the show's drowsiness."  Yet, the next paragraph includes:

Consequently, Kirstie too often makes itself about Maddie when it should be about Maddie and Arlo -- or just plain Arlo, seeing as he has a compelling enough fish-out-of-water story as the adopted Jersey kid thrust into the gaudy world of Maddie Banks.

 Wait.  Is Peterson's Arlo part of the "drowsiness" of the show or not?  If he is, how is he also "compelling"?

Silly us to think that a sexist rant would follow rules of logic or even common sense.

If we'd reviewed it as requested, we would have noted that Michael Richards (whom Adam praises) is awful in the first scene.

Not bad, he's awful.

He can't find a rhythm and he can't locate the character.

It is awful.

Half-way into the episode he finds the character.

Adam savages Rhea -- of course, Rhea's a woman.

At his most strident and ignorant, he types, "Playing Alley's manager, Thelma, Perlman says things like her acid-tongued Cheers waitress Carla would say, but she's not saying them in Carla's voice."

Why would she, you deeply stupid idiot?

Thelma is a completely different character than Carla.

And, no, she doesn't have dialogue like Carla would have.

They're from different worlds.

They're different characters.

It would be very easy for Rhea to fall back on Carla.

She's instead attempting to create a new character.

That Carla wasn't part of the Broadway scene is apparently news to Adam as is the nature of acting itself.

If we'd have written a review already of the show, we would have noted that it would take time to gell.

Most sitcoms do.

Two of the finest sitcoms are The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Will & Grace.  They're funny shows.  Hilarious.  But look at the first episode from each.  Ted Baxter?  What is he doing?  Ted Knight's all over the place in the first episode. In fact, only Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman (who plays Kirstie's mother on Kirstie) and Ed Asner were sure footed in the first episode.  Will & Grace?  Megan Mullally had no idea which house Karen lived in or how she spoke.  Within five episodes, Megan had fleshed out Karen Walker and made her one of TV's most memorable characters.

One of those awful elderly people shows -- where the world is evil but Jethro or some other idiot fop will save them?  The characters are pretty much the same from their very first scene.  Although calling what pops up on NCIS "characters" is probably being far too generous.

A sitcom -- regardless of who the star is -- is an ensemble and it will take time for things to gell.

Kirstie has many strong elements and we're hopeful that it will gell.  It's already funny.  It's funny in the first episode.  But it's going to need a few more episodes if it's going to find its feet.

It may not find its feet.

We got into a huge fight with one friend with the show when we were asked what our biggest critique was?

Oliver Hudson.

Yes, he's the only real reason to watch the current season of Nashville.

But our point was why wasn't he in this show?

Why wasn't he cast in the Michael Richards' role or as the son?

Kirstie, regardless of where her weight is, remains an attractive woman.

Why is the show so opposed to attractive men?

After Cheers, Kirstie starred in the sitcom Veronica's Closet.  It ran three seasons.  It would have had a longer span if it hadn't embraced ugly.  Ron Silver was butt ugly and scared viewers off when he was added in season two. By the time the producers faced that fact, the show was exiled to the Siberia of NBC Monday nights.

The show needs some man pretty.  And considering how butt ugly destroyed Kirstie's previous show, we did strongly suggest, they find some man pretty and do so quickly.

Oliver Hudson could offer that and so much more.

And Oliver is a great example of where Kirstie could go.

Rules of Engagement was a very bad and iffy show when it popped up.  Only Megyn Price seemed to have a firm grip on her character.  But as the show continued, Oliver's Adam and Bianca Kajlich's Jen became stronger characters and lifted so many scenese -- so many diner scenes, so many scenes.  Oliver Hudson's Adam is probably the great male sitcom character of the '00s.  You won't hear that from The Water Cooler Set which only lusts after trends and which hates sitcoms anyway.

But Oliver created a breakout character, a male character that TV had not seen before.  He first got a hold of that character when Adam had a playground confrontation with a school bully (a kid).  In that early season one episode, he clicked as the character and everything that followed was about sharpening and building that character.  The chemistry with Kajlich helped as did her skills, the rolled eyes, the side looks, they all allowed Hudson to play shades of embarrassment and discomfort.

Tonight on TV Land, you can see Kirstie and you'll probably laugh because there are so many funny scenes and so much that is right with the show.  Hopefully, it'll improve -- and have the time to improve -- but it's not an embarrassment.  It's not unfunny.  It doesn't make you feel sorry for Kirstie Alley.

In other words, it's not The Michael J. Fox Show .

Fox's show has increasingly become the worst sitcom in production.  It doesn't help that it's NBC's lowest rated sitcom, it doesn't help that Fox has no character to play (see our review) and that the series has no point of view and no real connection from one episode to the next.

But in the end what makes it the worst sitcom is the fact that it again shows how desperate NBC is to ignore women.

Lisa Kudrow, Megan Mullally, Kirstie Alley, Lisa Bonet, go down the list.  In the past, plenty of women made NBC worth watching.  Yet none of them have NBC building sitcoms around them.

Who in the world thought American wanted to watch Michael J. Fox?

Not only has fame passed him by, not only are his comedic chops today, at best, 'different' than when he was famous but the notion that America -- highly squeamish on death and illness -- would tune into a sitcom about a man with Parkinson's disease played by a man with Parkinson's disease?

But despite all of that and so much more, NBC was willing to develop a show around Fox -- whose only TV hit was when he played a teenager in the 80s -- but not willing to do so for any former NBC sitcom stars who are female.

Fox gets a show.  Paul Reiser gets a show.  Michael Richards, Matt LeBlanc and so many other men NBC was willing to take a chance on due to previously being on a popular NBC sitcom.  But they don't do that with the actresses do they?

In the ratings, NBC keeps failing over and over.

Must See TV wasn't built on sexism and maybe some day -- maybe even some day soon -- NBC will grasp that?

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