Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Richard Dreyfuss is in a sitcom?

Did you know there is a sitcom starring Richard Dreyfuss? It’s on the air now. It’s been on the air for a couple of weeks. Yes, Richard Dreyfuss, the Oscar winner. The show is called YOUR FAMILY OR MINE and it’s on TBS. Other cast members include JoBeth Williams, Kat Foster, and Kyle Howard. Greg Malins, a terrific writer from FRIENDS and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER is behind it.

Is it a good show? I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. I didn’t even know about it until a friend mentioned it. Guess I’m not a big TBS viewer – I don’t feel the need to watch THE BIG BANG THEORY eight hours a day. But I’ve seen no ads, no billboards, no radio commercials, no nothing. How is anyone who doesn’t watch TBBT and Conan supposed to know?

In fairness, maybe there have been ads. They just didn’t register. But it points out a bigger problem. There is so much product out there on so many platforms that it’s hard to keep track. Even with an Oscar winner in the cast. Time was a TV producer would inquire about Richard Dreyfuss for a pilot and the agent would laugh. Now he’s in a sitcom that’s in the Witness Protection Program.

Recently, FX aired the JUSTIFIED finale. It was masterful. For all the hoopla surrounding MAD MEN I defy them to do a more emotionally satisfying finale than the one JUSTIFIED just did. MAD MEN will certain generate more media attention, but for sheer execution and elegance my money is on JUSTIFIED. Matt Weiner will get an Emmy nomination and Graham Yost and the other JUSTIFIED writers will be shut out.

Why? Because JUSTIFIED is a cult hit. MAD MEN is a critics’ darling. Credit where credit is due, MAD MEN cut through all the rabble and distinguished itself with superb quality and originality. But there are a lot of other deserving shows that don’t get the love, and one reason is that most people have never even heard of them. (like ORPHAN BLACK)

And it gets worse than that. Not only do I not know many current shows, in some cases I’ve never heard of the networks they’re on. There are sub-networks. Did you know there is an offshoot of BET? Or several variations of NICKELODEON? There is FXX, or is it FXXXX? And there are more Disney Channels than kids in North Dakota.

The show my daughter Annie and her partner Jon is on, INSTANT MOM starring Tia Mowry, is beginning its third full season. It’s currently on five networks including NICK @ NITE and TV LAND. And creatively it’s a damn good show. In its orbit it's a huge hit.  But there are still millions of viewers who are unfamiliar with it.

Broadcast networks are not immune to this. Who can tell me what network WEIRD LONERS was on? Or IN AN INSTANT?

The only saving grace, as I see it, is that there is this whole subculture of production going on. Thousands of talented people lending their craft and expertise to make shows that are as well-written or better written than shows you know. Same goes for directing, acting, set decoration, wardrobe, you name it. It’s unfortunate their efforts are not better appreciated, but at least they’re working. I just don’t want to be the poor guy who bumps into Richard Dreyfuss at a Starbucks and says, “So are you still acting?”

49 comments:

Gregg B said...

Richard Dreyfuss was asked in an interview, "What brings you back to television?" Dreyfuss: "Money"

Kid Ornery said...

Dreyfuss must be broke. He was signing autographs for $ at a horror convention in Dallas about a year ago.

Kid Ornery said...

Dreyfuss must be broke. He was signing autographs for $ at a horror convention in Dallas about a year ago.

Pete Grossman said...

Ken, you're not alone. I certainly would check out a TV show, especially a sitcom Richard Dreyfuss committed to. Your post is the first I'm hearing of it and I'm in the target demo.

And to think agents used to thumb their nostrils at voice over work for their celeb clients.

Thanks for getting the word out.

rockgolf said...

Sadly, I do know "IN AN INSTANT" is on ABC. My family made the unfortunate mistake of catching the first 5 minutes of an episode about some guy being buried alive in a corn silo. It included "dramatic reenactments" as well as interviews with those involved including the guy who was buried alive! So way to keep up the suspense.
Typical of far too many real-life drama TV shows, they had maybe an interesting 15-minute story.
They took two hours to tell it.
Two hours. It had a longer running time than Citizen Kane.
And my family wonders why I don't watch TV with them anymore.

Hamid said...

Oliver Stone said working with Richard Dreyfuss on W was the worst experience of his life with an actor. He said he had to read him the riot act for not knowing his lines. Dreyfuss later went round telling everyone Stone had behaved like a fascist, so Stone hit back with his side.

I obviously don't know the truth of the situation. But I've had the impression for a long time that Dreyfuss is a bit of a grumpy dude. Great actor, no question, but needs to lighten up a bit. I loved him in What About Bob? Coincidentally, he's now suing Disney for his share of profits from it.

Curt Alliaume said...

I was flipping channels when I came upon Your Family or Mine last night. Saw Ed Begley Jr., heard him speaking a line ending with the 12-letter word George Carlin said you can't say on television (bleeped, of course), and started flipping again.

BobinVT said...

I was watching a documentary a few weeks ago. It was about the Civil War as I recall. There were the usual academics commenting, with their qualifications tagged at the bottom of the screen. You know, John Jones, professor of history, Duke University. All of a sudden, Richard Dreyfuss appears on the screen commenting about something or other. The tag below said, Richard Drefuss, actor, historian. Huh?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I think I saw all of Richard Dreyfuss movies. He's one of my fav actor.

And today I got just 9 scripts to read at work. Another hard day. But I like it, it's good mind exercise, writing those synopsis first and the coverage. It's hard work.

Remember,
Keep re-writing
and stay cool and be cool and write cool scripts

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

I don't have much to say about Richard Dreyfuss, but I'd be remiss if I ignored that mention of Greg Malins (also known for Will and Grace).

To me, the very worst seasons of Friends happened to be under his tenure as showrunner (5, 6 and 7). He also wrote what I consider to be one of the show's worst episodes (The One with the Holiday Armadillo).

I'll give him credit where it's due though. He also co-wrote one of the most hilarious sequences in the show, namely Chandler's insane street rampage so he could say 'hey' to Paget Brewster, back in the fourth season.

Pat Quinn said...

Further to your observation that Justified is a cult hit and Mad Men is a critic's darling, I have a hard time finding people who care about Mad Men.

That there are more television shows than one person can watch must be good for the industry.

I have an app on my phone that works as a remote for my cable box. The app shows what shows are playing. I hit on the Seinfeld pic and my tv turns to Seinfeld. I don't know what channel I am watching.

As I mentioned I watch Mad Men. I am quite a fan. I think the show is on A&E... I don't even know. I just flip around on Sunday night till I find Mad Men, or use my app.

I think that time-shifting is a new era that still is in it's infancy. The years are coming when a cable channel isn't something you switch to and watch linearly, it's something that lists what shows they offer...and you watch them as you want to...with forced commercials. Just when we thought commercials were something you fast forwarded through, Hulu et.al give you entertainment in a platform that forces you to sit through the commercials.

I like Dreyfuss and would search for a tv show that included him. Never got a whiff of it until your column.

Daniel said...

I've tried, repeatedly, to watch Your Family or Mine--solely because of Richard Dreyfuss. I've never made it through a full episode. There's been a trend in sitcoms to base the shows around people so unpleasant that you'd never want to meet them in real life. The characters on this show are so unpleasant that they may finally kill the trend--if anyone ever watches it.

CamrioKid said...

I hope everyone is watching BLACK-ish*. It's very well-written and acted. It offers well-defined characters in believable situations that often make me laugh out loud.

Stoney said...

I remember seeing a few episodes of R.D.'s first try at series TV; "The Education Of Max Bickford". He played a college prof and it was pretty good. It had a short run on CBS in 2001 and 2002.

James Van Hise said...

Hollywood isn't just unkind to aging actresses, but sometimes to aging actors as well. Richard Dreyfuss went from an A list actor starring in major films (as recently as the 1990s) to getting relegated to smaller and smaller films and finally to supporting roles (such as in the unfortunate Poseidon Adventure remake). In What About Bob?, Dreyfuss admitted that not all of the anger his character displayed was acting because Bill Murray liked to ad lib and go off script. Murray also did this in the first Charlie's Angels movie to the extent that one of the actresses refused to work with him (and watching that film now one can't help but notice that he has almost no scenes with the actresses but has his own separate subplot where he keeps checking in by phone). Murray did not reprise his role in the second Charlie's Angels film. He may have finally gotten over that because he's done some very good films in recent years and hasn't had his career collapse like Richard Dreyfuss has, even though they're about the same age.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

@Stoney: Well remembered. It was a very good and overlooked show, and it was also the one of the few times we got to see Katee Sackhoff, pre-Battlestar Galactica.

Dave Creek said...

If a CBS show doesn't get a promo on TBBT or Letterman, I don't know about it, because those are the only CBS shows I watch.

I've been lamenting the lack of SyFy shows that take place in space, and I just happened to come across an article that mentioned they have three or four such shows on the way. Currently I watch no SyFy content, so they have to reach me by way of something other than on-air promos.

This must drive network promotional people crazy.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

" Guess I’m not a big TBS viewer – I don’t feel the need to watch THE BIG BANG THEORY eight hours a day."

I'd tell you I love you, Ken, but I ain't that kind of guy! I mean, seriously, THE BIG BANG THEORY is already on, what, three different networks? Yet, TBS hypes the hell out of TBBT all the time! Not as much as they used to, thank goodness, but for a while there, you couldn't watch any show on TBS without every single commercial break tossing in, "Dude! TBS plays THE BIG BANG THEORY! Can you name any other channel that airs THE BIG BANG THEORY as much as we do?!" Uh, yeah, we can! But I mean, it got so freakin' annoying how TBS acted like they were the only one who airs TBBT and were constantly hyping like they were. It doesn't help that I also happen to hate TBBT, so that made their hyperactive advertising all the worse. And what was the deal with ads (commercials, print ads, billboards, etc.) always plaster Penny front and center with the nerds in the background as if the show was about a hot blonde who had socially awkward outcasts obsessive fawn over her all the time? Pardon my shamelessness, but can you imagine what it'd be like if M*A*S*H pulled similar false advertising stunts?

As for Richard Dreyfuss doing TV, Gregg B. pretty much hit the nail on the head, and I believe I asked Ken about his thoughts on this before and he shared those thoughts in a post recently, I'd have to look through the archive to find it again. But look at al the movie stars doing TV now or have done TV recently: Maria Bello, Tea Leoni, James Caan, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Billy Crystal . . . at to think, there was once a time where movie stars were considered "too big," "too important," and "too expensive," to even consider lowering themselves to television - one of the reasons none of the cast of the movie version of MASH (save for Gary Burghoff) were approached about doing the series.

Igor said...

Dear fellow readers of Ken Levine's Blog -

Obviously Ken is a bit lazy, and a not-so-caring dad. As we've all seen, he regularly posts tired-ass links here to his own books, such as "The Me Generation... By Me", and yet he can't be troubled to post an actual link to the TV show his brilliant daughter-writer works on. Instead, it's just plain text, "Instant Mom". Such a shlub he is.

And so, here is a link to "Instant Mom" - http://www.nickmom.com/tv/instant-mom/
where you can read about the show and watch clips and even some full episodes.

David Schwartz said...

Justified's finale was incredible! When it comes to Boyd Crowder, bad guys don't get anymore menacing, or more charming -- at the same time. That's one hard combination to pull off and Walton Goggins did it incredibly well. One of the best shows I've ever seen. And it's also so utterly unique in its tone and content. I don't think I've ever seen such a diverse set of characters on a show. Mags Bennett, Loretta, Dewey Crowe, Limehouse, Ava Crowder... and that's just a small portion of the unique characters on that show. Nothing against Mad Men, which is also one of my absolute favorites, but Justified could have definitely used a little more attention.

Anonymous said...

THE AMERICANS is the best (one-hour) drama on TV.

Between that and the outgoing JUSTIFIED, FX sure knows how to create a compelling series.

Anonymous said...

I love "The Education of Max Bickford". Was really disappointed when it was cancelled. Very good, under appreciated show.

Every once in a while you see an actor at a young age that is special and its like a heavenly light is shining above their heads. That happened when I saw the movie "The Horse Whisperer" with Scarlett Johansson. It also happened the first time I saw Katie Sackhoff appeared on Max Bickford. The was just something special about her.

Pam, St. Louis

VP81955 said...

About 15 years from now, I think we'll perceive "The Big Bang Theory" the way we currently view "The Beverly Hillbillies" -- perplexed why it was so hugely popular. It may be acted quite well, but the characters are seemingly one-dimensional nerd stereotypes. I've never understood the overwhelming popularity of this series.

About the time "Mom" (a sitcom you really should watck, Dave Creek; its season finale airs tomorrow night) debuted in 2013, Anna Faris was interviewed and noted her previous closest brush to a starring TV vehicle -- a show where she would have played a lifeguard, sort of a sitcom version of "Baywatch." (Whether this was before or after "The House Bunny," the closest thing Faris has had to a breakout film, I have no idea.) While Anna certainly looks great in a swimsuit, I can't imagine that series would have gone anywhere -- but fortunately, Chuck Lorre sought her for "Mom," which not only has become a considerable hit but shows Faris possesses genuine depth as an actress and has far more than mere sex appeal.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Igor Oh, why don't you just get back in the Mess Tent and serve up more slop?

@VP81955 "It may be acted quite well, but the characters are seemingly one-dimensional nerd stereotypes." "Nerd Stereotypes"? I don't know what kind of nerds you've known, but being a former nerd myself (notice I said "former", since I don't wish to associate myself or be associated with "mainstream" nerdom), but when I was growing up, sex was one of the farthest things from nerds' minds, and the characters on this show are more or less depraved sex maniacs that just happen to exhibit neurotic tendancies. I've never seen so many nerds in bed with girls as much as I have with this show, but then again, that's Chuck Lorre for you, which brings us to another point:

"Chuck Lorre sought her for "Mom," which not only has become a considerable hit but shows Faris possesses genuine depth as an actress and has far more than mere sex appeal."

I'm pretty sure Lorre must have chosen her for sex appeal, because that seems to be all that his shows are about; I honestly wonder sometimes if he himself is a sex maniac who likes to enact his sexual fantasies through the characters on his shows. With TWO AND A HALF MEN, it's pretty much a given, but again, THE BIG BANG THEORY could actually be a good show if it really was about straight-up nerds instead of "sexy" nerds.

Oliver said...

It's not just you - TBS didn't promote it at all.

Kevin Reilly recently took over TBS/TNT and seems to be doing a clearing-out of the veteran shows he didn't order. I imagine this show was a victim of that policy.

MikeN said...

> as if the show was about a hot blonde who had socially awkward outcasts obsessive fawn over her all the time?

That's not what the show is about?

scott said...

As kids, my sister and I used to scan the TV Week (couldn't afford TV Guide) in September and decide on which new shows to watch. A new network season used to be a BIG deal. Not so anymore. Much like the days when car dealerships used to cover their showroom windows so you couldn't see the new models until a certain date, the excitement for a new television season or new show just isn't there anymore.

Barry Traylor said...

Big fan of Justified, but thought Mad Men was boring.

VP81955 said...

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I'm pretty sure Lorre must have chosen [Anna Faris] for sex appeal, because that seems to be all that his shows are about; I honestly wonder sometimes if he himself is a sex maniac who likes to enact his sexual fantasies through the characters on his shows.


Sexual fantasies with Melissa McCarthy ("Mike & Molly")? I'll leave my reply unsaid.

Actually, I'm guessing one reason Faris chose "Mom," aside from the challenging premise and working alongside Allison Janney, is that it might help parlay her back into big-screen success a la McCarthy (18 months ago, who'd have figured it would be Anna's husband, Chris Pratt, who would rocket to film stardom?). Alas for Faris, McCarthy has Paul Feig in her corner, and she does not. Moreover, the types of comic film roles Anna could excel in (pert blondes) are usually grabbed by Reese Witherspoon (e.g., the forthcoming "Hot Pursuit" with Sofia Vergara).

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

This is a GOOD problem to have- there is simply too much good TV. As others have posted LOVE The Americans (currently best show on TV IMHO), big Justified fan too- the show ended well. I still like Mad Men a lot but it's not quite what it was in its first 2 seasons.

Have you watched any of the Netflix stuff? Bloodline, Daredevil, House of Cards, Kimmy Schmitt, Marco Polo, etc? Have you watched The Wire yet Ken?!

And who cares if Richard Dreyfuss is a bit surly. I would just turn to him and say: "We're gonna need a bigger boat." ---LL

Randy 92109 said...

Ken: Tatiana Maslany of "ORPHAN BLACK" and Richard Dreyfuss made a movie, "CAS & DYLAN", together just before she started OB in 2013. It was a road comedy directed by Jason Priestly of all people. Overall a routine movie, but those two brought a spark to it.

Bob said...

He was a semi-regular on two 60s sitcoms - KAREN and HEY, LANDLORD.

Tammy said...

I looked up the show, and was surprised to see it's a remake of an Israeli sitcom. The original premise is very Israeli in nature, I can't imagine how it could be adapted to American culture. Guess I'll have to check it out to find out.

scottmc said...

Ken, watching the news from Baltimore and seeing that the Orioles played a game in an empty stadium I wondered how you would have approached the radio broadcast of the game were you still doing Orioles games.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Which is considered more of a comedown, a sitcom or a commercial? Matthew McConaghey was in a car ad before they finished engraving his Oscar, and I've also seen Kevin Spacey, Tommie Lee Jones, Jackie Chan, Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson. Commercials used to be something you did early in your career and were ambushed with years later on The Tonight Show. I assume the money is spectacular for established stars.

Mike Schryver said...

Ken, I was just about to ask you the same thing scottmc just did.

Blogger Templates said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Johnny Walker said...

This is actually another good reason why services like NETFLIX are poised to eventually dominate. Their recommendations algorithms should hopefully get better and better until the point where you should at least be aware of shows that will interest you (even if you don't ever get around to actually watching them).

In such a hugely fragmented and niche driven market, it's very needed, for both sides.

Terrence Moss said...

And this is EXACTLY why the networks need to allow more time for people to discover new shows.

Four episodes is no longer enough ("Manhattan Love Story"). One season may not even be enough ("Enlisted").

Hell, in the case of "The Middle", six seasons isn't enough.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Tammy: I bet it worked a lot better as an Israeli show (like HOMELAND, HOUSE OF CARDS...)

I looked into this show after reading Ken's posting yesterday. It really isn't good - but Dreyfus at least can content himself with the thought that he's only on every other episode.

The fact is that actors need to work - both because most of them need the money and because if you're not working you're not getting to do what you love. UK actors have always moved seamlessly among theater, radio, TV, and commercials (Maureen Lipman, who's starred in two West End shows in the last couple of years, was also one of the best-known (and I guess best-loved) commercial characters, a befuddled Jewish grandma trying to cope with her phone and a son who never called for BT), and *before* that she did acres of theater and farce, some film, and appeared on TV (in, for one thing, a filmed version of Alan Ayckbourn's ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR). Now that US TV is producing shows with shorter seasons, it wouldn't surprised me to see a lot more US actors doing the same.

Joseph, VP81955: ISTM that the basis for MOM is both Lorre's own experiences as an alcoholic and with others who have the same issues (both Brett Butler in GRACE UNDER FIRE and Charlie Sheen, for example) and his interest (as evidenced in, for example, GRACE UNDER FIRE, which also had a single mom in the lead) in the struggle for survival. Sure, there are a lot of sex (and other bodily function) jokes in his work, but all his shows are about something real - even TWO AND A HALF MEN, in its first couple of seasons, was very sharp about loneliness; it actually mined something that was done years ago on a UK show called EVER DECREASING CIRCLES - the thing of the guy who never gets an easy break versus the guy to whom everything seems to flow efortlessly.

wg

Kosmo13 said...

A few years ago, there was a thread on an Internet film-nerd message board about Richard Dreyfuss behaving in a hostile and unstable manner toward fans at an autograph show.

This behavior was attributed then to his suffering from bi-polar personality disorder and some problem with his medication.

If that is the case, then I'm hoping he has since found a treatment that helps him. Perhaps his career slump and difficult behavior can be attributed to his disorder and that, as he gets it under control, he can re-build his reputation and again become the in-demand movie star he used to be.

Anonymous said...

Justified, The Americans, and Orphan Black have been sublime over the past year. They just don't get the deserved attention when Emmy nods are handed out. Smaller shows available through streaming like Happy Valley (not so happy, like The Wire in the UK) and Halt and Catch Fire are also worth watching

Tammy said...

Wendy: Well, sitcoms are hard to adapt, humor is often so local. Dramas are easier - I actually thought the American version of Homeland was much better than the original, but maybe it's an unfair comparison, they're totally different shows (the Israeli version was more of a drama - dare I say melodrama - than a thriller). House of Cards is originally British, I think.

Matt Tauber said...

I never heard of the new Dreyfuss show, and I like to think I'm 'dialed in' to that kind of thing. Maybe he should have done a talk show appearance to promote it. As for new channels, yesterday I saw a print ad for a new show on the Smithsonian Channel. The what?!?

Mike McCann said...

I realize it was a lot easier to promote a new series in old 12 channel (or maybe 40 channels -- a/k/a cable in the 1990s) days, The network or producer gets the buzz started in TV GUIDE's "Teletype" column: We heard Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss will soon be back on TV in a prime time sitcom." Then, once its debut is set, they land him an interview with TV GUIDE... and if they're really lucky, lock in a cover story. To have Dreyfuss' face on the end of every supermarket checkout line in the US and Canada was the single most effective publicity tool imaginable. Now? Too many channels, too many websites, magazines (it's sad to see what's left of TV GUIDE) don't matter. The old publicity machine is broken. And you stumble into Dreyfuss' promising series by accident.

Some things did work better decades ago.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Tammy: yes, HOUSE OF CARDS was originally British, and there's a phrase from it that still figures hugely in British politics, said ironically and referentially: "You may think that, but I couldn't possibly comment."

wg

Albert Giesbrecht said...

In Canada we don't get TBS, we get the "local" channel Peachtree TV (WTBS WPCH)

kelly childress said...

Thanks to you I found Fresh Off the Boat, the only funny new show on the air. And now I've looked up YOUR FAMILY OR MINE.
It's one of those shows where I like the actors involved but don't like the characters. It also feels "forced". I hate that in comedies. That was never felt in Cheers or Frasier, where the actors had to deliver the punch line in such a noticeable way. Is this the director's fault? Are they being told to act like this?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ken, i gave this show a chance and now is a DVR season pass. i like the forced feel to the show - this show is about time spent with your in-laws- and that is rarely comfortable.