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Primetime Show Reviews

"Whoopi" and "Happy Family" Review by Suzanne 9/9/03

I really only have one requirement for a sitcom (and I think this is universal): it has to be funny.  I watched the two new sitcoms tonight on NBC.  "Whoopi" was funny.  "Happy Family" was not.

Okay, you want to know more, I suppose...just being funny is good, but we all have our own ideas about what "funny" is, otherwise these un-funny shows wouldn't make it to the air and the shows I like would never get canceled!

"Whoopi" stars, of course, comedian/actress Whoopi Goldberg.  She plays Mavis, who had one hit song in the 80's but now she runs a hotel in Manhattan.  Other characters include her out-of-work brother, Courtney, who is a lawyer; her Persian handyman Nassim; and Courtney's white girlfriend Rita.  They are the usual sitcom "types" and the fact that Mavis is an ex-One Hit Wonder is the usual TV silliness.  But what works are the jokes, and the relationships between the characters.

Whoopi is basically playing a sassy black woman with an attitude (the character she plays most times we see her).  She's very good at it, and the writers give her good material to work with.  Courtney is supposed to be one of these black guys that is so educated that he acts more black than white (we see these types on TV all of the time; personally I haven't met many black men who actually are like this).  Rita is a funny idea.  She is white, but she dresses, talks, and acts like a black woman.  She does it well.  This is also another TV conceit that probably doesn't really exist, but it's okay because she's so funny.  If they over-use her, she might get irritating, but that wasn't the case in the first episode.  Nassim is from Iran and gets upset whenever anyone calls him Arab.  A lot of his conversation is littered with jokes about being from Iran.  That could get kind of annoying so I hope they tone that down.  But he has great chemistry with Whoopi and they are very funny together.

What I really like about Mavis and Nassim is that neither is your typical Hollywood ideal of beauty.   They are both chubby.  Most of us are chubby so it is a good idea to have that type of person, finally, in a TV show, and not just as the token fat girl like the ones on "Boston Public" or "The Practice".  I guess it takes a big name like Whoopi to get that type of thing done.

In the pilot, Nassim tries to be a concierge but fails miserably.  Mavis gets sweet-talked into buying a big expensive TV and uses Nassim to try to get her money back (that part was a little weak and edited poorly).  Her brother can't get a law job so Mavis tells him to stay with her and open a law practice in her hotel, even though he and his girlfriend get on her nerves.  Sounds like a  good start to me!

Happy Family cast picture from http://www.ew.com/ew/allabout/0,9930,13396_11_0_,00.htmlAs for "Happy Family"...I could only watch the first 15 minutes.  It was just not funny at all.  It stars two of my favorite actors, John Larroquette and Christine Baranski, but they are given nothing to work with.  They play middle-aged parents whose children are all grown.  The children all have assorted problems that drive the parents crazy.  It seemed more pathetic than interesting.  I just didn't laugh at all (whereas "Whoopi" had me in tears).  I hope that Larroquette and Baranski find shows that are more worth of their talents, after this one gets canceled.

 

 


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