Friday, February 21, 2014

NBC Midseason Pilot Review: Growing Up Fisher - Premieres Sunday After the Olympics; Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of February 24, 2014)

Growing Up Fisher

Growing Up Fisher - Tuesdays at 9:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Special Premiere Sunday, February 23, 2014 following the Olympics at 10:30PM ET/PT


by Todd

It's not every family that's brought closer together by divorce, but then again, the Fishers are anything but typical. Take Mel Fisher (J.K. Simmons, The Closer, Law & Order), for example. He's chopping down trees, showing his daughter how to drive, and playing football with his son … except that Mel's blind. Then there's Joyce (Jenna Elfman, Dharma & Greg, 1600 Penn), who is your typical teenager — really into fashion, busy with school — but the problem is she's Mom. That makes it difficult for her actual teenage daughter, Katie (Ava Deluca-Verley, Southland), whose advice (and clothes) Joyce is always seeking. At the center of all this is Henry (Eli Baker), the Fisher's 11-year-old son. Having always been his dad's eyes and wingman, Henry is less than thrilled when his job is outsourced to Mel's new guide dog, Elvis. While he is at first reluctant to accept the changes that Elvis brings, adult Henry realizes upon reflection (voiceover by Jason Bateman, Arrested Development, Identity Thief) that his parent's split finally allows the Fishers to become one happy (divorced) family.

Cast Details:
J.K. Simmons as Mel Fisher
Jenna Elfman as Joyce Fisher
Eli Baker as Henry Fisher
Ava Deluca-Verley as Katie Fisher
Lance Lim as Runyen
Jason Bateman as Narrator
Peyton as Elvis

J.K. Simmons (Mel Fisher) had a recurring role as Dr. Emil Skoda in NBC's Law & Order.. He also played neo-Nazi Vern Schillinger in HBO's acclaimed prison drama Oz. He played LAPD Assistant Chief Will Pope in TNT's hit series The Closer. In 2013, he starred in ABC's Family Tools. He has a recurring role as P.J. Jordan in Men at Work on TBS. His other sitcom guest appearances include Arrested Development, Raising Hope and Parks and Recreation.

Jenna Elfman (Joyce Fisher) is best known for her role as Dharma in the hit series Dharma and Greg, which garnered her a Golden Globe Award, three Emmy Award nominations and two TV Guide Awards. In 2012-13, she starred in NBC's 1600 Penn. She starred in Accidentally on Purpose and Courting Alex on CBS. Her sitcom guest appearances include The Mindy Project, Two and a Half Men, My Name Is Earl, The Single Guy and Almost Perfect.

Eli Baker (Henry Fisher) appeared in the short film Tiny Actions. He began his professional career in musical theater.

Ava Deluca-Verley (Katie Fisher) recently appeared in Oscar-winning screenwriters Jim Rash and Nat Faxon's directorial debut, The Way Way Back, starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell. She also guest starred on TNT's Southland and played a supporting role in the Australian feature film Blinder.

Lance Lim (Runyen) prior credits include a co-starring role on the Disney XD pilot Kirby Buckets in 2012 and a substantial supporting role in the 2013 feature film Innocent Blood.

Jason Bateman (Narrator) is best known for his irreverent portrayal of Michael Bluth in the Mitch Hurwitz-created Emmy Award-winning comedy series Arrested Development.". For his performance, Bateman won a Golden Globe Award in 2005 as best actor in a comedy series and earned Emmy Award and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations as both a leading actor and as part of the cast ensemble the same year. His sitcom roles include Valerie/Valerie's Family/The Hogan Family, Silver Spoons and It's Your Move.

Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" (airs Sunday, February 23 at 10:30PM ET/PT)

It's not every family that's brought closer together by divorce, but the Fisher family is anything but typical. 11-year-old Henry (Eli Baker) met the most amazing person he'll ever meet in his life when he was four-and-a-half minutes old, his dad, Mel Fisher (J.K. Simmons). Mel's an incredible father and successful lawyer...who happens to be blind. Ever since he can remember, Henry has always been his dad's eyes and wingman, so when his parents decide to separate, he's less than thrilled that his job has been outsourced to Mel's new guide dog, Elvis. Meanwhile, his mother, Joyce (Jenna Elfman), begins a quest to find herself, essentially becoming a teenager in her forties. This is an unfortunate turn for the family's actual teenage daughter, Katie (Ave Deluca-Verley), who finds herself reluctantly taking on the maternal role in the family. Lance Lim also stars as Henry's best friend, Runyen. Voiceover by Jason Bateman.
Guest stars: Harold Perrineau, Matthew Glave, Bill Fagerbakke, Isabela Moner, Carla Jimenez and Sam Pancake
Directed by David Schwimmer
Written by DJ Nash

Analysis:

Growing Up Fisher is single-camera comedy inspired by the the life of DJ Nash (Up All Night, Bent), who grew up with a blind father. Jason Bateman, Jim Garavente and Tucker Cawley also serve as executive producers. The series is a production of Universal Television and Aggregate Films. In addition to producing the series, Jason Bateman provides the narration as an adult Henry.

In the Pilot episode, we meet Mel and his 11-year-old son, Henry. Henry guides him to cut down a tree to clear room for a pool. The adult Henry provides the backstory of how Mel became blind at age twelve. Mel helps Katie with her driving lesson. Joyce asks Henry if she should get a water bra and later smokes an e-cigaratte. Mel tells Katie that he went to law school blind before he shows her how to parallel park. Henry's best friend, Runyen, has an exchange with Mel in the kitchen. Some flashback scenes are shown of Mel trying to hide his blindness. Henry later arrives home to see a guide dog named Elvis. Henry learns that his parents are divorcing and Mel is moving out. Mel attempts to check into a hotel. After Henry is kicked out of the hotel, Joyce vacuums him after he arrives home in a cab. When Henry and Runyen are on a field trip, Henry spots a potential apartment for his father. Henry receives a tour of the apartment by Fred. Mel receives a call from the principal while taking a deposition. Mel and Henry talk to the principal, Mr. Sloan. Later, Joyce tries on new pants at the mall. Mel calls Henry to tell him that Elvis got out. The family goes out to search for him. After Elvis is discovered back the apartment, Joyce learns that Mel planned the whole thing to show Henry that he was needed. Mel gives Henry a key to the apartment. Henry meets Jenny in the hallway.

The Pilot episode is directed by Friends star David Schwimmer. There are quite a few scenes and locations used. It provides the necessary introduction to the characters and backstory. The funniest moments are when Mel tries cutting down a tree and the driving scenes. The montage of flashbacks of Mel trying to hide his blindness are also a highlight. The episode closes with some heartwarming scenes of the family coming together.

The device of using a narrator isn't really unique in sitcoms these days, but I thought Jason Bateman did a good job. They didn't really overuse it. It was also nice to see Lost's Harold Perrineau as a guest star, but this was likely a one-episode deal for him. Another familiar face is Coach's Bill Fagerbakke as Mel's brother. His role looks to be recurring in multiple episodes.

They have put together a solid cast. I have always been a fan of J.K. Simmons from his extensive film and television roles. You may not know his name, but he seems to be in everything. He's just an underrated character actor. He really hasn't been given much opportunity to do comedy on television, so it's welcome to see him in another role. Jenna Elfman was a late addition to the cast when Parker Posey dropped out after the pilot was picked up. She has played similar clueless characters in the past, so she should be fine once the character is more fully developed. Eli Baker is the standout among the child actors. The father and son scenes are funny and heartwarming. Ave Deluca-Verley (Katie) does a good job with the strained relationship with her mother. Henry's best friend, Runyen (Lance Lim), also provides some comic relief in a few scenes. The dog, Elvis, is also a scene stealer.


Conclusion:

Growing Up Fisher is a likable family comedy. If you have watched the promos during the Olympics, you have seen most of the highlights and funniest moments. Other than the physical comedy by Mel and the scenes of him trying to hide his blindness, there aren't many other laughs. J.K. Simmons is very talented, but he needs more for his character to do here. Jenna Elfman's character is too predictable. The out-of-touch mom trying to act like her daughter has been done too often in the past. With more unique and interesting storylines, I think the show would have more appeal.

NBC is premiering the series commercial free after the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony on Sunday, so it should received some nice sampling. It will moving to its regular day and time of Tuesdays at 9:30pm. The show is being paired with About a Boy, which is airing following The Voice. It will be interesting to see how much of The Voice's large audience they can retain. Although I like J.K. Simmons and Jenna Elfman, I just don't see any long-term potential for this series. It should work fine for a limited run series of nine episodes, but it's highly unlikely to be the breakout hit they have been searching for in recent years.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3/5
Funniness: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 10:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • NBC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Growing Up Fisher Photo Gallery

    Preview:






  • It's Friday, so it is time for "Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows" for the coming week. This is where we list what sitcom stars are appearing on talk shows for the coming week, the stars are both current and past sitcom stars, so this is for all sitcom fans of all eras!
    For the week of Feb. 24-28, 2014, we have many current sitcom stars and past sitcom stars on TV talk shows! All times listed are Eastern. So get your DVRs (or whatever you use) ready! Ready? Here is all what you need to know for the coming week!

    Monday, February 24, 2014

    • Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory/8 Simple Rules) - Watch Kaley on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) - Zooey appears on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) - Amy is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • David Walton (About a Boy/Bent/Perfect Couples) - David stops by Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Beth Behrs and Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls) - Beth and Kat will be on CBS This Morning between 7-9am. Beth will also be on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your local listings.
    • Tim Allen (Last Man Standing/Home Improvement) - Tim visits The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Minnie Driver (About a Boy/Will & Grace) - Minnie talks about About a Boy on NBC's Today between 7-9am and in the 10am hour.
    • Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory/Blossom) - Mayim talks about her new book, Mayim's Vegan Table, on NBC's Today between 7-9am.
    • Anna Faris (Mom) - Anna appears on The Queen Latifah Show, so check your local listings.
    • Tim Conway (McHale's Navy/Rango) - Tim is a guest on The Queen Latifah Show, so check your local listings.
    • The Cast of Workaholics) - Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine and Anders Holm are guests on Larry King Now at 2/5pm PT/ET on Ora.tv and Hulu.
    • Ted Lange (The Love Boat) - Ted will be on The Couch on WLNY 10/55 in New York between 7-9am.
    • Jenna Elfman (Growing Up Fisher/1600 Penn/Dharma & Greg) - Jenna is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
    Tuesday, February 25, 2014
    • Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls) - Catch Kat on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Joel McHale (Community) - Joel stops by Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men/That '70s Show) - Ashton visits The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory/8 Simple Rules) - Kaley chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. She will also be on CBS This Morning between 7-9am.
    • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) - Jim will be on NBC's Today between 7-9am.
    • Minnie Driver (About a boy/Will & Grace) - Minnie is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • T.J. Miller (The Goodwin Games/Carpoolers) - T.J. drops by The Pete Holmes Show at midnight on TBS.
    • Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory/Blossom) - Mayim talks about her new book, Mayim's Vegan Table, on The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
    • Donald Faison (The Exes/Scrubs) - Donald joins Daphne Oz and Carla Hall in the kitchen to help make grilled shrimp with pineapple on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
    • Jenna Elfman (Growing Up Fisher/1600 Penn/Dharma & Greg) - Jenna talks about Growing Up Fisher on NBC's Today between 7-9am and in the 10am hour.
    • Michael Urie (Partners) - Michael appears on The Better Show, so check your local listings.
    • Betty White (Hot in Cleveland/The Golden Girls/The Mary Tyler Moore Show) - Betty is a guest on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
    • Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) - Jane chats on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
    Wednesday, February 26, 2014
    • Ellen DeGeneres (Ellen) - Watch Ellen on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Kelly Ripa (Hope & Faith) - Kelly appears on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • Whitney Cummings (Whitney) - Whitney is part of the guest panel on Chelsea Lately on E! at 11pm.
    • Sarah Michelle Gellar (The Crazy Ones) - Sarah visits Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Nick Kroll (The League/Caveman) - Nick stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Allison Williams (Girls) - Allison is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Blake Lee, Andrew Santino, Vanessa Lengies - The stars of Mixology are guests on The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. Blake and Vanessa will also be on ABC's Good Morning America between 7-9am. Mixology premieres on ABC on February 26 at 9:30pm ET/PT.
    • Angelique Cabral (Enlisted) - Angelique will be on Pop Sugar on TV Guide Network at 6pm and on the next day on their website at noon.
    • Benjamin Stockham (About a Boy/1600 Penn/Sons of Tucson) - Benjamin appears on The Better Show, so check your local listings.
    Thursday, February 27, 2014
    • Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) - Catch Simon on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Michael Strahan (Brothers) - Michael drops by Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Lena Dunham (Girls) - Lena is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • Paul Scheer (The League) - Paul appears on The Pete Holmes Show at midnight on TBS.
    • Peter Krause (Sports Night/Cybill) - Peter visits The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls) - Kat stops by LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
    • Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory/Blossom) - Mayim chats about her new book, Mayim's Vegan Table, on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
    • Whoopi Goldberg (Whoopi/Bagdad Cafe) - Whoopi appears on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show, so check your local listings.
    • Tim Conway (McHale's Navy/Rango) - Tim is a guest on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show, so check your local listings.
    • Jason Hervey (The Wonder Years) - Jason visits The Better Show, so check your local listings.
    Friday, February 28, 2014
    • Sarah Chalke (How to Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)/Scrubs/Roseanne) - Watch Sarah on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Billy Connolly (Head of the Class/Billy) - Billy chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
    • Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly) - Billy is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Rob Reiner (all in the Family) - Rob appears on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show, so check your local listings.
    • Ellen DeGeneres (Ellen) - Robin Roberts interviews Ellen live from Hollywood on ABC's Good Morning America between 7-9am.
    • Annie Potts (Designing Women) - Annie will be on New York Live on WNBC at 12:30pm ET.
    Leave us comments on our message board or Tweet/Facebook us to let us know what you think of this Friday feature! We do listen!


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (October/November)

    Dr. Ken - Season One Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season The Lucy Show - The Complete Series The Mindy Project - Season Four

    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

    Friday, December 9

    Last Man Standing - "Help Wanted" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Since losing her teaching job, Vanessa has been spending her time hovering over the family, and it’s driving everyone nuts. Over at Kristin and Ryan’s house, Ryan and Kyle are wrapped-up in a zombie face-off to determine who knows the most about zombies and how to survive an apocalypse. Unable to land a new gig, Vanessa becomes discouraged, but Mike does everything he can to get her back doing what she loves.

    Dr. Ken - "Ken's Apology" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    When Ken wants to apologize to a patient for missing an important medical detail, Pat advises against it, and the situation gets out of hand. Meanwhile, D.K. shakes things up at Dave’s parent/teacher conference.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 5)

    Friday, December 9

    • Olivia Munn (Perfect Couples) - Watch Olivia on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. She will also be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Tom Papa (Come to Papa) - Tom is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Kevin Nealon (Man with a Plan/Weeds/Hiller and Diller/Champs) - Kevin appears on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
    • Bella Thorne (Shake It Up) - Bella is a guest on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Sarah Michelle Gellar (The Crazy Ones) - Sarah whips up a delicious treat on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
    • Richard Kind (Spin City/Mad About You) - Richard is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
    • Jennifer Aniston (Friends) - Jennifer appears on Chelsea on Netflix.