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 (October/November)
10/04 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Christmas Special (Colorized)
10/04 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #1 (Colorized)
10/11 - Dr. Ken - Season One
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Series
10/11 - Nurse Jackie - Seasons One and Two
10/11 - Weeds - Seasons One and Two
11/01 - Schitt's Creek - Seasons One and Two
11/08 - Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season
11/08 - Your Family or Mine - Season One
11/15 - Community - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Lucy Show - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Mindy Project - Season Four
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest
Sitcoms Airing Tonight
Sunday, December 4
The Simpsons - "The Last Traction Hero" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
A workplace accident leaves Homer in a cast, and in a position to sue Mr. Burns. This leaves Marge unfulfilled, so she turns to an unexpected source for romance. Meanwhile, Lisa is made “Bus Monitor” and tries to keep the peace.
Son of Zorn - "Return of the Drinking Buddy" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Zorn’s old friend Headbutt Man (guest voice Rob Riggle) is coming to town. Unfortunately for Zorn, Headbutt Man is now sober. Meanwhile, Alan is invited to a party where his crush, Nancy (guest star Emily Wong), will be. Unfortunately, he has to take Headbutt man’s daughter with him.
Family Guy - "Carter and Tricia" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Carter buys the Pawtucket Patriot brewery and decides to cut some corners to save a few bucks. Peter overhears the plan and runs and tells investigative journalist Tricia Takanawa about Carter’s plan to use toxic chemicals in the beer cans. Meanwhile, Brian’s drivers’ license has expired and he enlists Stewie as an instructor.
The Last Man on Earth - "Whitney Houston, We Have a Problem" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After finding a mysterious note left by Melissa that says “Goodbye,” the gang sets off to go look for her. Meanwhile, Gail gets stuck on a solo adventure of her own.
K.C. Undercover - "Holly Holly Not So Jolly" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Christmas time arrives and K.C. tells everyone she has to go pick up a last-minute gift, but instead goes to The Organization's therapist, Dr. Levinstein.
Mech X-4 - "Let's Survive in the Woods!" (Disney Channel, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Principal Grey sets a trap for Ryan, Harris and Spyder while they're on a camping trip, which leaves MECH-X4 and Mark in danger.
Best Friends Whenever - "The Christmas Curse" (Disney Channel, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Shelby and Cyd encourage a homesick Daisy to incorporate a festive 16th-century tradition into their annual Christmas party.
Monday, December 5
- Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Watch Will on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
- Steve Harvey (The Steve Harvey Show) - Steve visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. He will also be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am. He chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
- Jason Bateman (Arrested Development/The Hogan Family/It's Your Move) - Jason visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He will also be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am and on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
- Gael García Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle) - Gael is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
- Steve Agee (The Sarah Silverman Program) - Steve appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
- The Cast of Fuller House - The cast of Fuller House are guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
- Patricia Heaton (The Middle/Back to You/Everybody Loves Raymond) - Patricia stops by Harry, so check your local listings.
- Miss Piggy (The Muppets) - Miss Piggy and Harry perform Deck the Halls on Harry, so check your local listings.
- Meredith Hagner (Search Party/Men at Work) - Meredith is a guest on Harry, so check your local listings.
- Lauren Graham (The Odd Couple/Conrad Bloom/Townies) - Lauren appears on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
- T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley/The Goodwin Games/Carpoolers) - T.J. talks about Office Christmas Party on the AOL Build Show at 3pm. He will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET. He can also be heard on The Morning Mash Up on SiriusXM at 9:50am.
- Bradley Whitford (Happyish/Trophy Wife) - Bradley is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
- Josh McDermitt (Retired at 35) - Josh can be heard on The Morning Mash Up on SiriusXM at 10:45am.
- Erinn Hayes (Kevin Can Wait/Guys with Kids/Worst Week) - Erinn talks about Kevin Can Wait on the AOL Build Show at 4pm.