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-


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

Father Knows Best - Season Six Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season Alice - The Complete Fifth Season Rhoda - Season Four Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four

06/13 - The Andy Griffith Show - Return to Mayberry
06/13 - That's My Mama - The Complete Series
06/20 - Workaholics - The Final (Seventh) Season
06/20 - Workaholics - The Complete Series
06/27 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Third Season
07/04 - Superstore - Season Two
07/18 - Father Knows Best - Season Six
07/25 - Diff'ernt Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season
07/25 - Girls - The Final (Sixth) Season (Blu-ray)
08/01 - Alice - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
08/01 - Crashing - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
08/15 - Rhoda - Season Four
08/22 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four
08/29 - Will & Grace - Season One (Universal)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Wednesday, August 16

Marlon - "Pilot" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Exes Marlon (Marlon Wayans) and Ashley (Essence Atkins) try a friendly divorce for their children's sake, but things get tricky when Ashley decides to date again. Marlon struggles to keep a sponsor for his online channel, The Marlon Way.

Marlon - "Cleaning Out the Closet" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Ashley (Essence Atkins) is shocked to learn that Marlon (Marlon Wayans) has a storage unit crammed full of things from when they were married and challenges him to have a yard sale to part with it all.

Swedish Dicks - (Pop, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Ingmar's daughter, Sarah, helps the guys get a case at an advertising agency to find out who is stealing secret data; the undercover job takes a turn when Ingmar and Axel's client makes a fatal decision; Sun works on the firm's marketing strategy.

Swedish Dicks - (Pop, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Haunted by the ghost of his former stunt buddy, an unstable Ingmar makes an embarrassing mistake; Axel takes it upon himself to infiltrate a cult.

Younger - "The Gelato and the Pube" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Liza receives a great opportunity at work, but there’s a catch. Josh meets someone new. Maggie ruffles some feathers.

Odd Mom Out - "Dadderall" (Bravo, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Faced with an impossible work deadline on the night of his Dad's Committee Night Out, Andy takes stimulants; Jill and Vanessa learn the cruel definition of Med Spa as they visit their college friend, Ollie, at his new venture.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 14)

Wednesday, August 16

  • Zach Galifianakis (Baskets) - Watch Zach on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Lake Bell (Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later/How to Make It in America/Childrens Hospital) - Lake appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Marc Maron (GLOW/Maron) - Marc is a guest on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/The Office) - Ellie visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Andrew Dice Clay (Dice/Hitz/Bless This House) - Andrew stops by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He will also be on the AOL Build Show at 1pm.
  • Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show) - Carl is a guest on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • James Van Der Beek (What Would Diplo Do?/Friends with Better Lives/Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) - James appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) - Eric chats with the ladies of The View on a repeat on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Kristin Chenoweth (Kristin) - Kristin performs Smile off her new album, The Art of Elegance, and faces her fear of crawfish on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Tasha Smith (Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse/The Tom Show/Boston Common) - Tasha will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET. She will also be on PIX11 Morning News on WPIX in New York at 8:45am.
  • Ben Falcone (Joey/A to Z) - Ben talks about his new book, Being a Dad Is Weird, on a repeat of ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Brandy (Moesha/The Game/Thea) - Brandy talks about Chicago on Broadway on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Peter Serafinowicz, Griffin Newman and Brendan Hines (The Tick) - Peter, Griffin and Brendan talk about Amazon's The Tick on the AOL Build Show at 3pm.