Thursday, January 02, 2014

Remembering James Avery of Fresh Prince; Episodic Review: Community - "Repilot" & "Introduction to Teaching" Airing Tonight on NBC

James Avery

Yesterday we first mentioned to you on Twitter of the passing of sitcom star James Avery and now today we will pay tribute to him. James Avery, who laid down the law at home and on the job as the Honorable Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, has died. His publicist, Cynthia Snyder confirmed that Avery died Tuesday (Dec. 31, 2013) in Glendale, CA, following complications from open heart surgery. Alfonso Ribeiro confirmed the passing on Twitter as well. Avery, who stood more than 6 feet tall, played the family patriarch and a wealthy attorney and judge on the popular TV comedy that launched the acting career of Will Smith as Banks' trouble-making nephew. The sitcom, which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996, was set in the Banks' mansion, where Smith's character was sent from Philadelphia when things got tough in his own neighborhood. Fans came to know the imposing Banks as "Uncle Phil." There was a brief reunion in late 2011 where the cast reunited at a charity luncheon (see Will Smith's photo).

Avery liked to say that the way to be an actor was to act, and he had a busy and diverse career before, during and after Fresh Prince. His TV credits included MANY TV guest stints on Grey's Anatomy, Harry's Law, Sherri, Eli Stone, The Closer, All of Us, That's So Raven, Girlfriends, My Wife & Kids, NYPD Blue, Charmed, That '70s Show, All About the Andersons, Soul Food, Crossing Jordan, Reba, The Division, Judging Amy, Dharma & Greg, The Jamie Foxx, Two Guys and a Girl, CSI, Sparks, In the House, Roc, LA Law, Amen, A Different World, The Hogan Family, 227, Webster, The Jeffersons, Hill Street Blues and Dallas, and among his many films were Fletch, Nightflyers and 8 Million Ways to Die. His voice alone brought him many jobs, notably as Shredder in the animated '80s and '90s TV series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

According to Snyder, he will be seen in the film Wish I Was Here, directed by Zach Braff and scheduled to premiere later this month at the Sundance festival. He was recently seen on two TV movies that aired on Lifetime: Hunt for the Labyrinth Killer and Call Me Crazy: A Five Film. Avery grew up in Atlantic City, N.J., and served in the Navy in Vietnam in the late 1960s. After returning to the states, he settled in California and studied drama and literature at the University of California at San Diego. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and stepson Kevin Waters. As of now, no on-air tributes or marathons of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air are scheduled, but if and when they are, we will be the first to let you know, so stay with us. Mr. Avery was only 68 (or 65 according to some sources).




On the next...Community (NBC, Thur 8:00pm):
By: Vincent

NBC's ensemble comedy lead by Joel McHales returns tonight for its season premiere and airs Thursdays at 8:00pm and we have just watched the two episodes that air tonight (Jan. 2). In the first episode airing tonight, "Repilot," Jeff (Joel McHale) returns to Greendale to help his former law partner gather evidence for a lawsuit, thinking Jeff is planning to help save the school, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) calls the study group back together. In the second episode airing tonight (8:30pm), "Introduction to Teaching," Professor Hickey (guest Jonathan Banks) helps Jeff (Joel McHale) settle into his new job at Greendale, while Abed (Danny Pudi) convinces the study group to take a class focused on Nicolas Cage.

I'm not sure I've ever been as relieved at a television show as I was when I watched the first two episodes of Community's fifth season. After a turmulous string of events that included the firing of series creator Dan Harmon and the departure of cast member Chevy Chase, the show returned last season a far weaker show than it had been in the past. Other than a select few episodes, the fourth season felt like the show desperately trying to recapture the magic it had under Harmon's run and falling flat on its face. In a surprising turn of events, Harmon was re-hired as showrunner for the shows' 5th season, perhaps because of rallying cries from both the fans and the cast members. But was it too late? Had the damage already been done? If the first two episodes of the season are any indication, then the answer is a confident "no". Community's fifth season feels refreshingly like the show of the old, delivering the big laughs and cutting depth that made us fall in love with it in the first place.



There are lots of interesting things to discuss with these two episodes, but what I found most compelling was the way Community managed to incorporate the feelings of change and uneasiness that viewers have felt with it over the past few years into the show itself. The show has always been aware of how its viewers perceive it, and it uses that awareness to its benefit. That's never been more apparent than in these early Season 5 episodes, which serve as a relaunch for both its viewers and its characters. Significant time has passed in the shows' universe since we last visited (seemingly over a year), and in that time, the study group has graduated and gone their separate ways. This allows the viewers' reunion with the characters to also serve as the characters' reunion with each other, and it allows both the viewers and characters to adjust to the idea of a "repilot" at the same time. This makes it much easier for us to approach some of the more significant dynamic changes that have occurred in the show this year, from the reasons that all of the characters have chosen to re-enroll at Greendale, to Jeff's new teaching position, to new character Professor Nichols (a kind of/sort of Pierce replacement played brilliantly by Jonathan Banks). This realized sense of relaunch, combined with the refreshed dynamics of the show, make the fifth season feel like almost an entirely new show at points. And yet, it still feels far more like Community than anything that aired last year. A-


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, October 16

The Conners - "Keep on Truckin'" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
A sudden turn of events forces the Conners to face the daily struggles of life in Lanford in a way they never have before.

The Kids Are Alright - "Pilot" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Lawrence, the prodigal eldest Cleary son, returns home from the seminary and breaks the news to his family that he’s dropping out for good, leaving Mike and Peggy upset and wondering why. Meanwhile, Timmy decides he wants to audition for a children’s theatre production but when Peggy finds out where it’s being held she forbids him from participating. Elsewhere, Eddie tries to keep his girlfriend a secret after Frank finds out and tries to blackmail him.

black-ish - "Gap Year" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
After dropping Junior off at college, Dre and Bow are beside themselves when they find him back at home announcing his decision to take a gap year. Meanwhile, Jack and Diane begin to question whether they should still be sharing a room.

Splitting Up Together - "Sign Language" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
The morning after Lena and Martin sleep together, Lena searches for signs that they are or aren’t meant to be a couple. Their relationship is put to the test after she organizes a romantic beach getaway and it becomes apparent what’s meant to be. Meanwhile, Arthur and Camille trail Lisa Apple, hoping to determine if she is pregnant with Martin’s baby. Elsewhere, Maya struggles to decide if she should tell her new boyfriend, Frank, about her pregnancy.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 15)

Tuesday, October 16

  • John Krasinski (The Office) - Catch John on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Kevin Hart (The Big House/Undeclared) - Kevin appears on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) - Eric is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Kathryn Hahn (I Love Dick/Happyish/Transparent/Free Agents) - Kathryn stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS. She will also be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) - Jameela appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly/Samantha Who?) - Melissa drops by Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah at 11pm. She also talks about Can You Ever Forgive Me? on the BUILD Series at 12pm.
  • Jane Curtin (3rd Rock from the Sun/Kate & Allie) - Jane visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Laurence Fishburne (black-ish) - Laurence chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Nathan Fillion (Two Guys and a Girl) - Nathan talks about The Rookie on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am and on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Katy Mixon (American Housewife/Mike & Molly) - Katy is a guest on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Sara Gilbert (The Conners/Roseanne/Bad Teacher/The Big Bang Theory and John Goodman (The Connners/Roseanne/The Trouble in Normal, Ohio) - Sara and John are guests on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • John Leguizamo (The Brothers Garcia) - John appears on ABC's GMA Day at 1pm.
  • Heather Dubrow (Stark Raving Mad) - Heather is a guest on People Now at 12pm.
  • Candace Cameron Bure (Fuller House/Full House) - Candace visits NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Fran Drescher (Happily Divorced/The Nanny/Living with Fran) - Fran talks about hosting Cancer Scchmancer's Master Class Health Summit on E!'s Daily Pop at 12pm.
  • Analeigh Tipton (Manhattan Love Story) - Analeigh talks about her movie Better Start Running on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (September/October)

The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Eleventh Season The Middle - The Complete Ninth Season Modern Family - The Complete Ninth Season Step by Step - The Complete Second Season Perfect Strangers - The Complete Fifth Season

09/04 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - The Complete Season 12
09/04 - Mom - The Complete Fifth Season
09/04 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Fifth Season
09/04 - Superstore - Season Three
09/04 - Young Sheldon - The Complete First Season
09/11 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Eleventh Season (Blu-ray)
09/11 - The Middle - The Complete Ninth Season
09/11 - Modern Family - The Complete Ninth Season
09/11 - People of Earth - The Complete Second Season
09/18 - Community - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
09/18 - Step by Step - The Complete Second Season
09/18 - You're the Worst - The Complete Fourth Season
09/25 - Blondie - The Complete 1957 Television Series
09/25 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Fifth Season
10/02 - The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season
10/02 - The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One / Volume Two
10/02 - Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection
10/16 - Police Squad! - TV and Movie Collection
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest