Basic-cable channels have been good at some things (drama hours), faitar at others (original movies) and awful at situation comedies.
Mostly, basic-cable sitcoms have been lame and limp. Now comes the happy exception: "Sullivan & Son" is a fairly sharp bar-room comedy, spiced by an ethnc contrast. It has just started its second seaso; here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
In a moment of pure logic, Vince Vaughn
re-directed Steve Byrne's life.
Byrne – half-Irish and half-Korean –
had triumphed at comedy clubs, but rarely got acting roles. As he
recalls: “Vince said, 'You should write something yourself. Unless
they're making a Riverdance/tae kwon do movie, they won't have
anything for you.”
So Byrne co-created “Sullivan &
Son,” in which he plays a half-Korean lawyer, taking over his dad's
Irish pub. That sort of fits his real-life background.
His dad, a salesman, is a “very
easygoing, go-with-the-flow” Irishman, Byrne said. His mom is not.
“My mother is a stereotypical Asian … a 'Tiger mom.'”
So in the show, he cast Dan Lauria as a
genial Irish dad and Jodi Long as an intense Korean mom. Yes, these
are stereotypes, Byrne and Long grant; they also sometimes fit real
“Immigrants want their children to do
better than they did,” said Long, 59, whose roots are Japanese,
Chinese and Scottish. “That's why they put so much emphasis on
Even her mother – a vaudeville
singer-dancer, married to another vaudevillian – tried to push
schooling. “She wanted me to be an English teacher. And English was
my worst subject.”
Byrne's mom also insisted on a good
education. He graduated from Kent State (Ohio) University, then
became a comedian – albeit a diligent one who once did all 12
Manhattan comedy clubs in one night.
Long applied that same sort of
diligence. She graduated from State University of New York –
Purchase, then found a busy acting career … long before shows like
“Sullivan” created specific Asian roles.
Byrne took “Sullivan” to networks,
with Vaughn accompanying him as producer. “It definitely helps to
have an A-list movie star with you,” he said.
They decided to set the show in a bar,
in the “Cheers” tradition. “I absolutely love the community
aspect (of bars),” Byrne said. “That's the meeting place.”
This one mixes younger people –
played by Byrne's stand-up comedy colleagues – and older ones,
including Brian Doyle-Murray, Christine Ebersole, Lauria and Long.
For Long, this is part of a comedy
trend.“I'm really a classically trained actress – Chekhov and
everything” she said. But the comedy passion was there, “ever
since the first time I got a laugh.:
She figures she had three great comedy
teachers – Kevin Kline and Bill Cosby (whom she worked with) and
Lucille Ball, whom she watched via reruns. “I would hurry to get my
homework done, so I could watch every night at 7.
Long's serious roles have continued. In
recent years, she's played a judge on five different TV shows.
Still, she's also had regular roles in
situation comedies – “Cafe Americain,” “All-American Girl,”
“Miss Match” and now “Sullivan and Son,” playing an odd
branch on Steve Byrne's family tree.
– “Sullivan & Sons”
– 10 p.m. Thursdays, TBS, repeating
– Also repeats at 11 p.m. Saturdays
and 9 a.m. Sundays (9:30 a.m. June 30).
– Second season began June 16