Thursday, January 02, 2014
Remembering James Avery of Fresh Prince; Episodic Review: Community - "Repilot" & "Introduction to Teaching" Airing Tonight on NBC
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):
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-
New on DVD/Blu-ray (January/February)
01/03 - Girls - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
01/10 - Broad City - Season 3
01/17 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized)
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume One
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two
01/24 - Hooperman - Season One / Review
01/24 - Hooperman - Season Two / Review
01/31 - Ballers - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
02/07 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - Sabrina Down Under
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 1 - School's Cool - Boy Crazy
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 2 - About a Family - Hangin' Out
02/07 - 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek)
02/07 - Vice Principals - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
02/14 - Beavis and Butt-Head - The Complete Collection
02/14 - Grace and Frankie - Season Two
02/28 - Fuller House - The Complete First Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest
Sitcoms Airing Tonight
Tuesday, February 21
The Middle - "Dental Hijinks" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
After Frankie tries to get a stubborn Mike to go see Dr. Goodwin to take care of his toothache, Mike convinces the good doctor to leave his tooth alone and tell Frankie that everything was ok. But the two find themselves fabricating a story that’s so ludicrous that they fear Frankie will figure out the truth. Meanwhile, since they are nearing the end of their senior year at college, Axl, Hutch and Kenny decide it’s time to sell the fabled Winnebago; Sue tries her best to let college golf cart driver Tyler know that she likes him; and Brick attempts to write a historic Scottish rap musical – a la “Hamilton” – focusing on the life of Sergeant Charles Stuart MacKenzie.
American Housewife - "The Man Date" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Greg is delighted to finally have made a friend in Westport, fellow history buff Stan (guest star Timothy Omundson), but Katie isn’t as happy, especially since Stan is married to her nemesis, Chloe Brown Mueller (Jessica St. Clair).
Fresh Off the Boat - "The Gloves Are Off" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Jessica accidentally befriends Marvin’s ex-wife, Sarah (Heather Locklear), and tries to help her and Honey settle their longstanding rift. Meanwhile, Louis and the boys are on a mission to determine Grandma’s true age in hopes of surprising her with a new, free motorized wheelchair.
The Real O'Neals - "The Real Confirmation" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Shannon asks VP Murray to be her godfather leading up to her confirmation, Eileen fears her own relationship with him might be moving too fast. Shannon’s big day also has a surprising effect on Kenny’s relationship when Brett says, “I love you,” sending Kenny into a tailspin. Meanwhile, the return of a hot former babysitter puts Pat and Jimmy at odds when she constantly makes passes at Pat.
New Girl - "Rumsprings" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
When Jess gets nervous about starting her new position as principal, Nick and Schmidt decide to take her on a relaxing day trip to Solvang, which quickly goes “sideways.” Meanwhile, with Cece’s help, Winston tries to finalize his divorce from Rhonda, but finds that he and Aly are caught in a series of never-ending pranks.
The Mick - "The Baggage" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Mickey’s unwanted suitors team up to thwart her new romance. Meanwhile, Sabrina and Alba teach Ben a lesson in responsibility.
The Detour - "The City" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Robin isn't thrilled about Nate's new job in New York City, but the family heads out from Syracuse anyway.
Teachers - "Brokebitch Mountain" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Ms. Feldman can’t make ends meet on her salary and takes a second job. Ms. Watson notices a romantic spark between two of her second grade students. The Teachers take advantage of Principal Pearson.
Tuesday, February 21
- Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies) - Catch Tom on a repeat of the 2011 Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars special at 11:35pm on ABC.
- Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth/The Cleveland Show) - Will visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
- Yvette Nicole Brown (The Odd Couple/Community) - Yvette appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
- Allison Williams (Girls) - Allison talks about Girls and Get Out on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour. She will also be on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings. Finally, she will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
- Mae Whitman (Arrested Development) - Mae visits LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings. She also talks about Rock Dog on the AOL Build Show at 12pm.
- Zach Braff (Scrubs) - Zach guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
- NeNe Leakes (The New Normal) - NeNe guest co-hosts The Real, so check your local listings.
- Jason Jones (The Detour) - Jason talks about The Detour on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on the AOL Build Show at 3pm.
- Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs/Rules of Engagement/Reno 911!) - Wendi is a guest on the AOL Build Show at 1pm. She will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
- Malin Akerman (Trophy Wife/Sin City Saints) - Malin chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
- Judd Hirsch (Superior Donuts/Dear John/Taxi) and Jermaine Fowler (Superior Donuts) - Judd and Jermaine are guests on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
- Kym Whitley (Young & Hungry/Animal Practice/Sparks) - Kym and Kim Gravel help a woman snoop through two bachelors' homes in order to choose which she should date on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
- Ashley Gerasimovich (The Detour) - Ashley is a guest on Cheddar at 12:15pm. Ashley and Liam Carroll will be on Facebook Live on the TBS Facebook account at approx. 4:00pm. Ashley, Liam, Jason Jones and Natalie Zea will be on Facebook live at approx. 8:00PM EST on the official The Detour Facebook page.