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

Sunday, August 19

The Simpsons - "Left Behind" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Homer gets Flanders a job at the plant; Homer regrets it when Flanders starts to insist on carpools and demands more from Homer's work performance; Marge feels that her marriage has lost its spark.

The Simpsons - "Throw Grampa from the Dane" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
The Simpsons go to Denmark so Grampa can benefit from the country's free health care.

Bob's Burgers - "Go Tina on the Mountain" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
The Belcher kids go to Outdoor Education only to have it rain; Tina meets a hermit living in the woods; Bob and Linda experience what it's like to be empty nesters.

Family Guy - "The Woof on Wall Street" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Brian convinces Stewie to teach him how to invest in the stock market; Peter, Quagmire, Cleveland and Joe look after the Drunken Clam while Jerome is away.

Bob's Burgers - "Are You There Bob? It's Me, Birthday" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After forgetting Bob's birthday, Linda and the kids attempt to plan a last-minute surprise party; Linda asks Hugo if Bob can go with him while he's doing restaurant health inspections.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 13)

Friday, August 17

  • Paul Rudd (Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later/Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp/Wild Oats) - Watch Paul on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Ken Jeong (Dr. Ken/Community) - Ken appears on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He also talks about Crazy Rich Asians on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Debra Messing (Will & Grace) - Debra is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) - Nick appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Ed Helms (The Office) - Ed chats with the ladies of The View on a repeat on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Craig T. Nelson (Coach) - Craig is a guest on a repeat of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Molly Shannon (Divorce/Kath & Kim/Cracking Up) - Molly appears on a repeat of The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie) - Peter chats about the film Breaking & Exiting on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Portia de Rossi (Arrested Development) - Portia is a guest on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Lori Loughlin (Fuller House/Hudson Street/Full House) - Lori appears on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Yara Shahidi (grown-ish/black-ish) and Trevor Jackson (grown-ish) - Yara and Trevor are guests on a repeat of The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Melissa Peterman (Baby Daddy/Reba) - Melissa guest co-hosts Access Live, so check your local listings.
  • Rob Riggle (Rob Riggle's Ski Master Academy/Golan the Insatiable/Gary Unmarried) - Rob talks about Rob Riggle’s Ski Master Academy on Chatter on PeopleTV at 8pm.
  • Christina Milian (Grandfathered) - Christina dances on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Debby Ryan (Insatiable/Jessie/The Suite Life on Deck) - Debby talks about Insatiable's on Access Live, so check your local listings.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (June/July/August)

Alice - The Complete Seventh Season Green Acres - The Final (Sixth) Season The Last Man on Earth - The Complete Fourth Season The Good Place - The Complete Second Season Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Five

06/05 - Living Single - The Complete Fifth Season
06/05 - New Girl - The Complete Sixth Season
06/05 - South Park - The Complete Twenty-First Season (Blu-ray)
06/12 - Fresh Off the Boat - The Complete Fourth Season
06/12 - Life in Pieces - The Complete Third Season
06/12 - The Office - The Complete Series
06/12 - Speechless - The Complete First Season
06/12 - Speechless - The Complete Second Season
06/12 - Step by Step - The Complete First Season
06/12 - Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season One (Blu-ray)
06/19 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Fourth Season
06/26 - Last Man Standing - The Complete Fifth Season
06/26 - Last Man Standing - The Complete Sixth Season
06/26 - The Mick - The Complete First Season
06/26 - The Mick - The Complete Second Season
07/03 - New Girl - The Final (Seventh) Season
07/10 - Alice - The Complete Seventh Season (WBShop.com)
07/10 - The Bill Engvall Show - The Complete First Season (WBShop.com)
07/10 - Green Acres - The Final (Sixth) Season
07/10 - The Last Man on Earth - The Complete Fourth Season
07/17 - Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life - The Complete Series
07/17 - The Good Place - The Complete Second Season
07/17 - Son of Zorn - The Complete Series
08/07 - Happy Endings - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Five
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest