Wednesday, December 04, 2013

TV Land Pilot Review: Kirstie - Premieres Tonight; NBC Orders Second Season of The Blacklist

Kirstie

Kirstie - Wednesdays at 10:00PM ET/PT on TV Land
Premieres Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 10:00PM ET/PT


by Skees

Kirstie Alley has had her fair share of sitcom roles over the years, which of course, makes her a natural for her latest role as star of her own TV Land sitcom, Kirstie. The latest entry to TV Land's slate of original sitcoms follows Maddie Banks (Alley) as she is going through her everyday life as an award-winning stage actress, living life with her personal assistant Thelma (Rhea Pearlman) and limo driver Frank (Michael Richards)... that is, until an unexpected guest shows up outside of the stage one night, her biological 26-year-old son Arlo, who was given up for adoption after birth. Now, he's back in her life, and she is discovering what it is like to be a mother for the first time in her life.


Cast Details:
Kirstie Alley as Madison "Maddie" Banks
Rhea Perlman as Thelma Katz
Michael Richards as Frank Baxter
Eric Petersen as Arlo Barth

Kirstie Alley (Maddie Banks) got her start in television on game shows, not as a "celebrity" contestant, but just as an ordinary woman, appearing in game shows such as Password and Match Game, but it wasn't long before she moved into actual celebrity status with films such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Summer School, and Look Who's Talking. In 1987, she landed the role of Rebecca Howe on Cheers, for which she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in 1991. She later appeared in the NBC series Veronica's Closet and Showtime series Fat Actress.

Rhea Pearlman (Thelma Katz) began her acting career in the 1970s, and first came known to TV viewers in 1979 with her guest appearances on Taxi, playing Zena Sherman. She became much better known in 1982 playing Carla Tortelli on Cheers, for which she won numerous awards. In 1996, she had her own short-lived sitcom, Pearl. She also appeared in several films in the 1990s, including Carpool and Matilda.

Michael Richards (Frank Baxter) is a self-described retired standup comedian who is best known for his role as Cosmo Kramer on the sitcom Seinfeld. He first came to fame for TV audiences in the ABC late-night comedy series Fridays, and guest-starred in several series throughout the 1980s including Night Court, St. Elsewhere, Cheers, Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, and others. Following Seinfeld, he had a short-lived series, The Michael Richards Show, but has mostly been away from TV roles until now.

Eric Petersen (Arlo Barth) is a relative newcomer to acting, having made his first TV appearance as Santa Claus in As the World Turns. He has also had guest appearances on Law and Order, GCB, and Modern Family.


Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" – airs Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 10PM ET/PT
 
Maddie Banks has the perfect life as a wealthy stage actress without a care in the world, until she steps outside the theater one night and is approached by a stranger. Except that stranger isn't as strange as she may think. In fact, he is her biological son Arlo, whom she gave up for adoption after birth. As it turns out, Arlo's adoptive parents recently died and he wants somebody to turn to, so he turns to his biological mom for the first time in his life.

Unfortunately, this isn't exactly convenient for Maddie. To begin with, he is 26 and she chooses to be in her 30s (not that she really is, of course). While she is a very classy woman (in some respects), he works at a doughnut shop in New Jersey. In the pilot, we go through some of the trials and tribulations of newly reunited mother and son figuring out how to (or even if they want to) reconnect.

"Arlo Moves In" – airs Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 10:30PM ET/PT 

In the second episode of the series, Maddie ultimately opens the door to her new son, and in fact has him move in with her. Everything appears to be going just fine, until she finds a voice-recorded birthday card given to him by his adoptive mother... and accidentally destroys her voice on it. Desperate to do anything to make everything better, she recruits her acting understudy (guest star Kristin Chenoweth) to help her fix the problem, but even with one problem fixed, it seems that the door just keeps opening up to more problems in the mother-son dynamic.

"Arlo's Birthday" – airs Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 at 10PM ET/PT

Maddie is invited to Arlo's birthday party at a bar, and when he gets on stage to do a little karaoke, her motherly instincts tell her that she has a star on her hands. And with her connections, she is more than happy to match her son up with a record producer. But does he really have what it takes to be a star?

"Little Bummer Boy" – airs Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 at 10PM ET/PT

In this special Christmas episode of the series, Arlo decides to give Maddie a special gift for Christmas: a visit from her mother (guest star Cloris Leachman). It is too bad, however, that Maddie and her mother don't get along at all. Matters are made even worse by the fact that Arlo and grandmother hit it off rather well. How will anybody manage to have a merry Christmas after the dust settles in this mess?

Analysis:

I was rather pleased with the first few episodes of this series, particularly the first two episodes. One thing that I find interesting about TV Land sitcoms is that they tend to have ideas that could have been tried and true hits in the '80s and '90s, and make them work in the modern era. Too many of the sitcoms of today are too formulaic, and about somebody being in or wanting to be in some sort of romantic relationship. Granted, this is sort of a relationship as well, but it is about a mother bonding with her adult son for the first time in both of their lives. It is a premise that really hasn't been beat to death in sitcoms (or even at all, as far as I can remember).

The first two episodes were particularly great. They bring us the introduction between Maddie and Arlo, and show their first attempts to make that mother-son bond... and nothing goes quite as planned. There are many great comedy moments in these episodes, beginning the very second at which Arlo confronts Maddie, to Arlo becoming acquainted with Maddie's assistants, and of course, the doubt and skepticism that Frank seems to have about Arlo in "Arlo Moves In." The dynamics between Maddie and Arlo is a bit of an Odd Couple type of dynamic, but in a much different way.

"Arlo's Birthday" was probably the weakest of the four episodes, but it still had some great moments. In particular, it showed Maddie's first (good) efforts to be a good mother to Arlo, but the problem is that she was like most mothers, thinking that her son is better than he really is. The plot wore a bit thin, though.

It was particularly great seeing the appearance of Cloris Leachman in "Little Bummer Boy." As usual, she played her typical "bitter old woman" role (although she is much more senile in here than she is in Raising Hope), and I felt that her character added a lot to this particular episode. It seems to be up in the air as to whether or not she'll be back, but it would be nice to see her as a regular character on the show (she is currently appearing as a regular on Raising Hope, but the future of that series is constantly in question, particularly this season). She proves in the episode that she does want the best for the relationship between her daughter and grandson, showing a side of herself that isn't immediately obvious.

There are great moments in the series, including some moments that will truly make you laugh. One thing that I found a bit interesting in watching these is how the characters played by the actors on the series seem to carry over a lot of their old characters from their hit series with them. Sometimes this works, and other times it doesn't... but I really feel like this is one show where it really does work.


Conclusion:

It seems that TV Land has something good going for it, and I hope to see this one succeed. The great thing about these cable sitcoms is that they're almost always given a fair chance to succeed if things don't work out at first, but this series has an all-star cast (well, that is of big stars from past NBC hit series) and a premise that is legitimately fun to watch. I really hope to see this series go beyond the initial order of episodes, and I feel that given that it is airing on TV Land, it has a reasonable chance of doing just that. I would like to see more Cloris Leachman on here, and I somewhat feel like the cast should be expanded a bit, but I think that there are plenty of opportunities for this series to blossom throughout the season and into future seasons should it prove to be a hit with the fans.
 

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, December 4 at 10:00PM ET/PT on our message board.

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Preview:





The Blacklist

NBC has ordered a full 22-episode second season of freshman drama The Blacklist, broadcast television's No. 1 drama in the 18-49 demo fresh off of last night's substantial showing and timeslot win. The series is the fall season's breakout hit in both same day and record-setting live-plus-7 viewing. The Nov. 4 episode of The Blacklist delivered the largest total-viewer increase from live-plus same-day viewing to live-plus-7 in U.S. TV history, growing by 6.589 million (from 10.337 million to 16.926 million). The Blacklist now holds the top three increases from L+SD to L+7 among total viewers in U.S. TV history. The series stars Emmy Award winner James Spader as "Red" Reddington, a world-renown terrorist on the FBI's Most Wanted List who is helping the U.S. government catch international criminals, but for unknown reasons. The series also stars Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff, Harry Lennix, Ryan Eggold and Parminder Nagra. The Blacklist joins Fox's freshman series Sleepy Hollow in getting early second season orders.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Saturday, June 12

Henry Danger - "Captain Man Strikes Out" (Nickelodeon, 8:00PM ET/PT)
After Captain Man goes on strike because he declines to pay for artwork that he destroyed while on a mission, the vice mayor appoints a new hero, Monsieur Man, to defend Swellview.

Tyler Perry's Young Dylan - "Food for the Soul" (Nickelodeon, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Dylan gets ready to return to Chicago with his mother, but a change in plans has him questioning their relationship; the rest of the family is trying to help Dylan through this latest crisis.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of June 7)

Friday, June 11

  • Kathryn Hahn (Central Park/Happyish/Transparent/Free Agents) - Catch Kathryn on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Jean Smart (Hacks/Samantha Who?/Designing Women) - Jean appears on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Michelle Buteau (Bless the Harts/Enlisted) - Michelle chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) - Zooey talks about The Celebrity Dating Game on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show) - Wilmer appears on a repeat of The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Ellen Burstyn (The Ellen Burstyn Show) - Ellen will be on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am. She also talks about Queen Bees in the 10am hour.
  • Jasmine Cephas-Jones (Blindspotting) - Jasmine talks about Blindspotting on ABC's GMA 3: What You Need to Know at 1pm.
  • Rob Riggle (Rob Riggle's Ski Master Academy/Golan the Insatiable/Gary Unmarried) and David Koechner (Superior Donuts/F Is for Family/The Golbergs/Hank/The Office) - Rob and David talk about The Big Slick Benefit on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Jane Curtin (United We Fall/Crumbs/3rd Rock from the Sun/Kate & Allie) and Loretta Devine (Family Reunion/The Carmichael Show) - Jane and Loretta talk about Queen Bees on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (February-June)

Betty White's Pet Set - The Complete Series Happy Together - The Complete Series 'Til Death - The Complete Series Fuller House - The Complete Series Parks and Recreation - The Complete Series

02/02 - Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In - The Complete Series (2021 Retail Release)
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05/11 - Dead to Me - Season Two
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