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

Thursday, December 13

The Big Bang Theory - "The Procreation Calculation" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
The Wolowitzes’ life gets complicated when Stuart starts bringing his new girlfriend home. Also, Penny and Leonard talk about starting a family while Koothrappali explores an arranged marriage. Keith Carradine returns as Penny’s father, Wyatt.

Young Sheldon - "Gluons, Guacamole, and the Color Purple" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Sheldon is no longer academically challenged at Medford High, he audits a college class taught by Dr. John Sturgis (Wallace Shawn).

Mom - "Foot Powder and Five Feet of Vodka" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Christy’s search for the perfect Secret Santa gift leads her to discover Adam has been hiding something from Bonnie. Also, Tammy looks for a job in order to avoid being sent back to prison.

Murphy Brown - "AWOL" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
A disillusioned Avery seeks career inspiration from his extended family at “Murphy in the Morning,” as the team tries to salvage a major story that hinges on a source in the Middle East who has gone silent. Series star Joe Regalbuto directed the episode.

Superstore - "Shadowing Glenn" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Glenn (Mark McKinney) drives Amy (America Ferrera) crazy with a new, over the top training system. Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom) and Mateo (Nico Santos) brainstorm a new business, while Dina (Lauren Ash) recruits Jonah (Ben Feldman) to help her when she starts second-guessing her own future.

I Feel Bad - "We're Not Fun Anymore" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Emet grows tired of her and David's life being overrun by kid-centric events, she contrives a weekend without the kids to rekindle the fun in their relationship - only to find out his idea of fun isn't the same as hers anymore. Chewey and Norman are stuck caring for Griff after he injures himself.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 10)

Thursday, December 13

  • Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) - Catch Miley on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Regina King (227) - Regina appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. She also talks about If Beale Street Could Talk on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am and on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Adam Pally (Making History/The Mindy Project/Happy Endings) - Adam stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He also talks about Champaign ILL on the BUILD Series at 1pm and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Ron Funches (Powerless/Undateable) - Ron visits Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Leah Remini (Kevin Can Wait/The Exes/Family Tools/The King of Queens/Fired Up) - Leah drops by Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Jodie Sweetin (Fuller House/Hollywood Darlings/Full House) - Jodie guest co-hosts The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT. She also talks about Hallmark Channel's Entertaining Christmas on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT and on KTLA in Los Angeles.
  • Sam Rockwell (F Is for Family) - Sam is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Busy Philipps (Vice Principals/Cougar Town) - Busy talks about E!'s Busy Tonight on Access Live (check your local listings) and on E!'s Daily Pop at 12pm.
  • Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years) and Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years/Sullivan & Son) - Danica and Dan talk about Hallmark Channel's Christmas at Grand Valley on Access Live, so check your local listings.
  • Karen Gillan (Selfie) - Karen talks about The Party's Just Beginning on ABC's GMA Day at 1pm.
  • Ashley Williams (The Jim Gaffigan Show/How I Met Your Mother/Good Morning, Miami) - Ashley talks about Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Northern Christmas Lights on People Now at 12pm.


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

The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection Alice - The Complete Eighth Season Step by Step - The Complete Third Season

10/02 - The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season
10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 6th Season
10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 7th Season
10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 8th Season
10/02 - Ghosted - The Complete First Season
10/02 - The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One / Volume Two
10/02 - Police Squad! - TV and Movie Collection
10/02 - Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection
10/16 - Community - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
10/23 - Alice - The Complete Eighth Season
10/24 - The Odd Couple (2015) - Season Two
10/24 - The Odd Couple (2015) - Season Three
10/31 - The Bad News Bears - The Complete Series - All 26 Episodes
11/01 - Episodes - Season 5
11/05 - Robin Williams - Comic Genius (includes Mork & Mindy)
11/06 - American Dad! - Volume 13
11/16 - Man with a Plan - Season One
11/20 - Step by Step - The Complete Third Season
11/27 - What I Like About You - The Complete Third Season
12/04 - Family Guy - Season Sixteen
12/04 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Sixth Season
12/18 - Our Cartoon President - Season One
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