Can Fridays be saved? (Part 2)


In the previous blog, I grumbled about the state of Friday TV. Fortunately, there are also temporary solutions on cable.

Earlier, the Independent Film Channel gave eight Fridays to a fairly funny series from The Kids in the Hall. Now comes a new and better show from David Cross; "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret" debuts at 10 p.m. Friday (Oct. 1); here's a story I sent to papers:

 

By MIKE HUGHES

In TV fiction, David Cross is forever
immersed in chaos and despair.

In real life, things have been quite
splendid lately. That includes two simultaneous situation comedies, a
gorgeous girlfriend (Amber Tamblyn) and kind words from his
colleagues.

“Everything that comes out of his
mouth is hysterical,” said Jim Vallely, a “Running Wilde”
co-creator.

Cross has a small role in that one, as
Keri Russell's berserk boyfriend, but gets laughs. “What he does is
so above and beyond what was asked of him, in the crazy, most
ridiculous way,” Russell said.

Meanwhile, the Independent Film Channel
is launching a show Cross created, produced and stars in – “The
Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.” His British co-star,
Sharon Horgan, says it deserves to be its own genre: “It's not like
a British comedy or an American comedy.”

Those two styles used to be vastly
different. The British mastered dryness and the comedy of silliness.
“I grew up deeply influenced by Monty Python,” said Cross, 46.
“Huge influence – if you've seen 'Mr. Show,' you can see it
there.”

As a “Ben Stiller Show” writer, he
met another Python buff, Bob Odenkirk. Their “Mr. Show” reached
HBO in 1995, ran four seasons and drew two Emmy nominations for its
writing.

Elsewhere, there was a flip-flop –
young Englishmen preferring American situation comedies. “I'm part
of that British generation (that was) influenced a lot by American
comedy,” said Blake Harrison, who's in his mid-20s and a “Todd
Margaret” co-star. He cites “Friends,” “Frasier” and
“Family Guy.”

That fondness helps explain how “Todd
Margaret” got started. Cross said he was doing stand-up comedy in
London, when two producers suggested a show filmed there, about a
transplanted American.

The advantages were huge, Cross said.
That included few restrictions (“they just sort of trust”) … an
“insane amount of talent” in the acting pool … and the
advantages of doing only six episodes per season. The U.S. has
assembly-line comedy, Cross said, with 12-14 people in the writers'
room; this series has Cross and Shaun Pye, an Englishman.

Their story has a boss (Will Arnett)
mistakenly put Todd (Cross) in charge of the London office. First,
Todd must break up with someone whom only he thinks is his
girlfriend. Appropriately, she's played by Tamblyn, 27. “It's just
a great way to work with my girlfiend and get (her) a free ticket to
London.”

People were informed of their
relationship in the about-the-author note of his book, which
concludes: “He is currently (bleep)ing Amber Tamblyn.”

Yes, Cross said, he did get her
approval for that line. (“I wouldn't drop something like that on
her.”) And yes, the few autobiographic sections in this humor book
are true. That includes passages citing:

– “An unstable childhood in which
my family moved at least once a year, if not more,” centering on
the Atlanta suburb of Roswell.

– Spending a summer, at 15, with “my
fantastically lazy and supremely irresponsible piece of useless
(bleep) of a dad,” in an Arizona apartment. Cross ate only candy,
hocked everything he had, helped his dad skip out on rent, then
returned to his mom “with literally one nickel left.”

It was a painful start for a life that
would later become quite splendid.

David Cross, everywhere

– “Running Wilde,” 9:30 p.m.
Tuesdays, Fox.

– “The Increasingly Poor Decisions
of Todd Margaret,” 10 p.m. for six Fridays on IFC, starting Oct. 1

– “I Drink For a Reason” (2009),
Grand Central Publishing, $23.99

– On video: In particular, catch
“Arrested Development” (he plays Tobias) and “Mr. Show”

 

Can Fridays be saved? (Part I)


The new TV season began with odd optimism: After giving up on Saturdays (with no new scripted shows) the networks had decided to rescue Fridays.

ABC and NBC would each have one scripted hour on Fridays, CW would have two. Fox would have two strong action shows -- "Human Target" and "The Good Guys." CBS, which always has three, would insert some of its stronger hours, including the new "Blue Bloods."

That's nine hours of scripted, non-rerun shows. TV life seemed good -- even on Fridays. Now, still in the second hour, almost half of them have sputtered. CBS and "Blue Bloods" are thriving, but the others include:

-- NBC's "Outlaw," one of the worst new shows, had one big preview in advance of premiere week. The next week, it sank to No. 77 in th weekly Nielsen ratings.

-- ABC's "Body of Evidence," a fairly good Dana Delany show, is listed at 9 p.m.Fridays, but has never been given a start date. Now there are rumors it might be held for some other night.

-- Fox's plans imploded. "The Good Guys" opened last Friday, promptly sinking to 101st in the ratings. With one look at that -- and the awful ratings for the terrific "Lone Star" -- Fox panicked. It dumped "Lone Star," moved "Lie to Me" to Mondays and gave "Human Target" the spot (Wednesdays, beginning Nov. 17) intended for "Lie."  That leaves "Good Guys" dangling on Fridays, after reruns. This week's episode is kind of fun; few people will see it.

 

Oh great, bachelor Brad is back


From time to time, I proclaim that this is it: "The Bachelor" has finally screwed up so badly that people will never watch it again.

They still do, much to my astonishment. Now comes their biggest challenge: In January, Brad Womack will be the new bachelor.

Yes, that's the same guy who three years ago started with 25 gorgeous women, ended with two terrific ones ... and chose no one. The whole time had been a waste -- even more than all those times when guys politely waited a few weeks before dumping his choice.

Now he's back, with ABC insisting he's a changed man who will acually make a choice. Then again, ABC says he's a "sincere, sexy, self-made man." On the self-made part: His brother started some successful Dallas nightclubs, then got Womack to run one of them.

This time, "Bachelor" has screwed up so badly people will never watch it again. 

 

 

 

 

"SNL": Season opens with some laughs (really)


Being in the New York state government, Gov. David Paterson told viewers tonight, is like "Saturday Night Live": It's fun for 10 minutes and then you wish it would be over.

As it happens, he said it on a night when that statement wouldn't fit. "SNL" had been on for an hour before the kind of sketch (this one involiving tiny hats) that makes people wonder why they're watching TV on a Saturday night.

This season-opener started fairly well, then kept getting better. It even mocked the fact that its music guest (Katy Perry) had been deleted from "Sesame Street" for excess cleavage. Perry showed up with her breasts virtually bursting out of an Elmo shirt. In the sketch, Amy Poehler (tonight's terrific host) said, "This episode brought to you by the number "38" and the letters "DD."

There were more good moments, peaking when Paterson finally came on the air to criticize the childish "SNL" sketches that mock him. He was right, of course; those bits.

-- Had virtually nothing to mock Paterson about except his blindness.

-- Were among the many oft-lame bits that break up the crackling-good wit of "Weekend Update."

Tasteless, childish humor, I guess, is defensible; unfunny humor is not. "SNL" deserved the criticism it gave itself -- and should hope future episodes are as good as the one tonight.

 

 

A few words from the wise


OK, my blogs have been scarce lately. The start of the TV season has been packed.

They'll still be scarce for a while, but I'd like to pass on two important comments from shows this weekend:

1) From "Sharktopus," the movie that debuts at 9 p.m. Saturday on Syfy, some dialogue.

A Naval officer observes: "You've just unleashed a man-eating, eight-legged shark on the world." He seems upset about this, because the shark has been eating people and boats and such.

The reply: "A minor setback."

I hope I'm not revealing too much, but this setback soon becomes quite major.

2) And this observation from one of the contestants on "Amazing Race," at 9 p.m. Sunday on CBS: "This is the first time I've ever heard of Stonehenge, and then I find out it's a bunch of rocks."