Thursday, September 03, 2020

TV: Who gets represented?

 Will Sasso stars in the sitcom UNITED WE FALL so we weren't at all surprised when ABC friends started talking about how bad the reviews were.  The Water Cooler Set hated the show.


Will is a frequently funny guy in film and TV roles.  He was a major reason MAD TV lasted as long as it did (in fact, we wish it was still around).  He's never had a problem being funny.  His problem is being believable when doing anything else.

If this had been a work sitcom, we still would have raised an eyebrow over Will being the male star of the show but a family sitcom?  In the past, Will was visible but not much more.  Meaning?  He didn't connect with his co-stars.  He shined, he grabbed the spotlight, but everyone on stage with him tended to come off as an extra, a background player.

Eight episodes of UNITED WE FALL were filmed and aired.  And that should be the end of the series, right?


We spent the weekend watching all eight episodes.  UNITED WE FALL is better than over two-thirds of ABC's primetime schedule from last fall.  

Will is much, much better than we expected.  For example, he and co-star Christina Vidal have real chemistry.  You don't need a backstory of how they ended up together because their characters, Bill and Jo, belong together.  As a viewer, you relate to them and you root for them.  

As a Water Cooler Set member?

Of course not.  They don't like anything that's popular or geared for the mainstream.

They attack the series with all the built up rage they've been carrying around since 1982 when Ricardo Montalban showed up in a Farrah Fawcett wig to reprise his role of Khan in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN.

And Ricardo's an interesting reference point. Ricardo became a star in Mexico before traveling to the US and working for MGM where he made numerous films including three with Esther Williams (FIESTA, ON AN ISLAND WITH YOU and NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER), LATIN LOVERS with Lana Turner and two films directed by William Wellman (BATTLEGROUND and ACROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI).  He starred for two years on Broadway with Lena Horne in the musical JAMAICA.   Later films include THE SINGING NUN, MADAM X (again with Lana Turner), SAYONARA (with Marlon Brando), SWEET CHARITY (with Shirley MacLaine), THE DESERTER (with John Huston), ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, THE TRAIN ROBBERS (with Ann-Margaret), 

 He did numerous television programs -- including THE LORETTA YOUNG SHOW, HERE'S LUCY, GUNSMOKE, WONDER WOMAN, COLUMBO, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, THE DEFENDERS, THE DORIS DAY SHOW, I SPY, THE DINAH SHORE CHEVY SHOW, THE WILD WILD WEST, THE MAN FROM UNCLE, DR. KILDARE, IT TAKES A THIEF, MURDER SHE WROTE, BEN CASEY and, of course, FANTASY ISLAND.  His other TV work included STAR TREK (1967's "Space Seed" episode) where he first played Khan. It also included the mini-series HOW THE WEST WAS WON for which Ricardo won an Emmy -- one of the few Latinos to win an Emmy.

Another who has?  Rita Moreno.

Rita Moreno is someone we've long applauded -- excepting only that hideous NETFLIX LAUGH-IN 'special' which was garbage and an embarrassment.  She is also a true EGOT.  An "EGOT" -- for anyone who doesn't know -- is someone who has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.  It's a small and select group.

Barbra Streisand has long promoted herself as someone in that group.  Hmm.  She's not a true EGOT because that Tony isn't for a performance.  It was a one-time award that they gave to her in 1970 after she'd moved on to film, "Star of the Year" -- or, as it was really known, "Come Back To Broadway, Barbra Joan, Barbra Joan."  She never did.  She didn't win a Tony in a competitive race (she was nominated twice -- for I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE and FUNNY GIRL -- and lost both times).  So she's not a true EGOT.

Rita won in competitive races.  There are no 'honorary' or one-time awards.

Rita's a one-of-a-kind superstar.  And she was in the news recently with Michael Schneider (VARIETY) reporting:

The new “One Day at a Time” has been virtually ignored by Emmy voters, save an annual nomination in the multi-camera picture editing for a comedy series category (where the competition is limited anyway, since there aren’t many multi-cam shows out there). The Television Academy Honors at least smartly recognized the show in 2018 with its “television with a conscience” award. Critics have bestowed much love on the series, and fan support kept the show alive when Netflix canceled it, spurring a move to Pop TV.

“One Day at a Time” boasts a predominantly Latinx cast, and sadly such shows still aren’t getting their due at the Emmys. In a year where African American performers and shows with Black leads saw a boost in representation at the Emmy nominations, there wasn’t room for similar strides among Latinx, Asian American and other groups. Such an omission is a bit mystifying, particularly as the Imagen Awards — which also just announced their nominations — demonstrated there’s no shortage of Latinx contenders.

In comedy, this year that included “One Day at a Time,” “Vida,” “Gentefied” and “Little America,” and stars such as Justina Machado (“One Day”), Mishel Prada (“Vida”) and, yes, Moreno. According to Imagen, this year’s awards submissions increased by 55% from 2019.

Before anyone e-mails, we quoted Schneider; ourselves, we don't use the term "Latinx."  It seems imposed, not arising from a community. 

But Rita's not nominated and Justina's not nominated and Mishel's not nominated . . . 

Where's The Water Cooler Set?

Oh, that's right, ripping apart UNITED WE FALL.

Latina Jo is married to Anglo-White Bill.  Guillermo Diaz plays Jo's brother Chuy, Natalie Ceballos plays Chuy's wife Brie, Juan Alfonso plays Jo's brother Javier, J.R. Villarreal plays Jo's brother Felix, Greg Romero Wilson plays Jo's brother Benicio -- Those are just some of the adult cast members.  Victor Gonzalez directed one episode as did Gloria Caleron Kellett.  Gloria also receives a writing credit on one episode.  Others receiving writing credits?  Stephanie Escajeda who is also the basis for the character Jo is a producer with her husband Julius Sharpe (the basis for Bill).  

There's not another Latino show on network television.  This fall, CBS will fill out their sparse fall schedule by airing past seasons of the rebooted ONE DAY AT A TIME. At least 60 million Latinos in the US, at least 18% of the population.  Where's the representation?

Do you know how few Latinos have won primetime acting Emmys?  There's Rita and Ricardo, America Ferrera, Jharrel Jerome, Albert Paulsen, Edward James Almos, Jimmy Smits, Alexis Bledel and John Leguizamo.


Nine have won for performing on a prime time show -- series, movie, special, mini-series, etc.

Albert Paulsen won his supporting Emmy in 1964 and he was the first Latino to win.  56 years later, only eight more Latinos have won Emmys.  And don't think it's because Jimmy Smits swept the awards each year on NYPD BLUE. Despite being nominated four times for best lead actor in a drama for NYPD BLUE, Jimmy never won once.  His sole Emmy comes from the supporting category and is for LA LAW.  In fact, only one performer listed has won more than one Emmy -- Rita Moreno won for THE ROCKFORD FILES and she won for THE MUPPET SHOW.  She has two Emmys.

The lack of Latinos with Emmys is a serious topic -- and one that should be explored before Steven Spielberg's WEST SIDE STORY comes out and we all start talking about the lack of Latinos in that feature film (note, if you declare,  "I present as black and I do have African-American lineage, but I’m also part-Italian," then you sure as f**k shouldn't be playing one of the few famous Latina roles in film and on Broadway -- Anita in the 2020 film WEST SIDE STORY).

UNITED WE FALL is a funny sitcom.  Watching Bill and Jo scramble to get some me-time in on a Sunday is funny.  Watching them question the way they raise their children, or how they handle 'teens' (Jo's niece Marta and Bill's mother Sandy) is hilarious.  The show has one-liners, physical comedy, insight, you name it.

And, again, there's real onscreen chemistry between Will and Christina -- the bulk of sitcoms can never make that claim.

The Water Cooler Set gets a little nervous if the skin color goes beyond peach.  They also struggle to handle any sitcom that's not a mockumentary (MODERN FAMILY, PARKS AND RECREATION, THE OFFICE, etc).  They certainly can't handle a sitcom that's actually funny -- as they've demonstrated over and over -- praising one pathetic and dead-on-arrival 'sitcom' after another (MY NAME IS EARLE, GALAVANT, THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW, WORST WEEK, SAMANTHA WHO?, BETTER OFF TED . . .).  

Unlike their picks -- predominately White cast and single-camera shows -- UNITED WE FALL is actually funny.   The show and -- the audience -- deserve more than eight episodes.


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