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 (April/May/June)

Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season Father Knows Best - Season Five The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Second Season ALF - The Complete DVD Collection The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Series

04/04 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season
04/11 - Father Knows Best - Season Five
04/11 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Third Season
04/11 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
04/11 - Veep - The Complete Fifth Season
05/02 - Red, White and Blue Collar Sitcoms - Make TV Great Again
05/09 - ALF - The Complete DVD Collection
05/09 - Divorce - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
05/09 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Second Season
05/16 - The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Series
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
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Wednesday, July 26

The Goldbergs - "Jedi Master Adam Skywalker" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
As the school year comes to a close, Barry and Erica wonder what they’ll be voted for in the yearbook and pressure Adam – who’s on staff – to see the rough layout before it goes to print. But when they accidentally delete it, mass panic ensues and messes up Adam’s relationship with Jackie. Meanwhile, Murray is annoyed when Marvin comes to visit for money, but Beverly convinces him to help Marvin out with a plan, because he’s family.

Speechless - "T-H-- THE C-L-- CLUB" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
JJ gets into an argument with Kenneth over their time together while Dylan decides she must “parent-trap” them both so they can get back together. Meanwhile, the family gets a chance to be members of a country club for a week. Ray sees it as a chance to live the high life while Maya jumps at the chance to spend mother-and-son time.

Modern Family - "Grab It" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Jay’s favorite place in the world, and only refuge, may be losing some of its charm when Phil considers becoming a member. At the Dunphy house, Claire mistakes her influence on Alex’s life choices, and Hayley cares too much about what Alex thinks about hers. Meanwhile, when Cam doesn’t give Mitchell the full story on what his play is really about, it really puts Mitchell in the spotlight.

American Housewife - "Other People's Marriages" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Katie encourages Viv (Leslie Bibb) to stand up to her boorish husband, Alan, but things backfire when Viv succeeds and decides to leave him – and move in with the Ottos.

Modern Family - "Snow Ball" (ABC, 10:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Manny and Luke put on the school’s lavish winter dance and end up over their heads due to a texting error, it is up to them to fix it before the end of the night. Meanwhile, Gloria, Claire, Mitchell and Cam all volunteer at the dance while Jay’s thinly veiled guise to get out of it by pretending to want to spend time with Phil backfires. During the dance, Claire and Gloria attempt to set up Marjorie (“Saturday Night Live”’s Vanessa Bayer), an overbearing mom, with the school’s principal. Finally, Mitchell is unnerved to be back in high school and is shocked to see a lot of himself in the school bully and feels he needs a little guidance.

The Goldbergs - "Crazy Calls" (ABC, 10:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After getting their first-ever answering machines, Murray and Pop-Pop wage a message war on one another. Fed up, Erica, Barry and Pops try to stop the fighting by offering a trip to a hockey game as an olive branch. Meanwhile, Adam finally finds a lunch-time home with some lovable geeks in the computer room, but Beverly worries about his social standing and intervenes.

The Carmichael Show - "Maxine's Sister" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
When Maxine (Amber Stevens West) brings her sister (guest star Aurora Perrineau) to meet the Carmichaels, Bobby (Lil Rel Howery) reveals that they've previously met under unexpected circumstances forcing an exploration on judgment, hypocrisy and what it means to be family.

The Carmichael Show - "The Blues" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Maxine (Amber Stevens West) finds Cynthia (Loretta Devine) in the kitchen crying, she uncovers an uncomfortable possibility that is hard for the whole family to face: Cynthia may be suffering from depression and in need of therapy.

Nightcap - "The Show Might Go On, Part 1" (Pop, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Jimmy's girlfriend, Christie Brinkley, urges him to quit the show; saving her voice for a speaking engagement, TV personality Bethenny Frankel makes Penny do her dirty work; actor David Hasselhoff tells embarrassing stories about his nephew, Marcus.

Younger - "The Gift of The Maggie" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Liza hunts for a new romance author, bringing her closer to Charles. Maggie slashes an art competitor.

Odd Mom Out - " M.F.A. in B.S." (Bravo, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Jill struggles to make the right impression at her art show; New York Times best-selling author Derek Blasberg pays a visit to Brooke and Devon at Von Weber headquarters, but things do not go as planned; Lex gets advice from a stranger.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of July 24)

Wednesday, July 26

  • Sutton Foster (Younger) - Watch Sutton on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show/My Boys/Welcome to New York) - Jim visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Laura Linney (The Big C) - Laura stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS. She also chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Sanaa Lathan (The Cleveland Show/LateLine) - Sanaa is a guest on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Reid Scott (Veep/My Boys) - Reid appears on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Steve Agee (The Sarah Silverman Program) - Steve is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Baron Vaughn (Grace and Frankie) - Baron appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Alice Wetterlund (People of Earth/Silicon Valley) - Alice is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Charlie Hunnam (Undeclared) - Charlie appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Kristen Schaal (The Last Man on Earth/Bob's Burgers) - Kristen is a guest on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley/The Goodwin Games/Carpoolers) - T.J. discusses his upcoming film The Emoji Movie on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Jade Pettyjohn (School of Rock) - Jade appears on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Nico Tortorella (Younger) - Nico is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Kelsey Grammer (Frasier/Cheers) - Kelsey talks about The Last Tycoon on the AOL Build Show at 10:30am.