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

Tuesday, January 18

Abbott Elementary - "New Tech" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
When a new computer program is introduced at Abbott, Janine is excited to finally help Barbara out with something. However, Barbara is reluctant to accept change and finds herself in a tricky situation when she decides to lie about her students’ results rather than admit defeat. Elsewhere, Melissa surprises Jacob when she offers up a friend to assist with his lesson on unions, but she ends up teaching Jacob an important lesson herself.

black-ish - "Bow-Mo" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Dre calls into a radio show and gets humiliated in front of Diane and tries to redeem himself. Meanwhile, Bow tries to bond with a group of young female doctors and learns a hard truth.

American Auto - "Millbank, Iowa" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
The group travels to Iowa for the opening of a new factory.

Grand Crew - "Wine & Hip Hop" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Sherm tags along as Nicky sells a house to a famous rapper; Noah and his date get into a fender bender; Anthony deals with dating while vegan.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - "Payneful Suffering" (BET, 8:00PM ET/PT)
As the family prepares for Janine's return, everyone and everything goes awry.

Tyler Perry's Assisted Living - "Forgive and Forget" (BET, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Reginald seeks forgiveness from his estranged son.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of January 17)

Tuesday, January 18

  • Rob Lowe (The Grinder/Parks and Recreation) - Catch Rob on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Francia Raisa (How I Met Your Father/growni-ish) - Francia is a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Ricky Gervais (After Life/The Office) - Ricky appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC. He also talks about After Life on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Hilary Duff (How I Met Your Father/Younger/Lizzie McGuire) - Hilary will be on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. She also talks about How I Met Your Father on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Adam DeVine (Workaholics/Modern Family) - Adam is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Valerie Bertinelli (Hot in Cleveland/CafĂ© Americain/Sydney/One Day at a Time) - Valerie talks about her new book Enough Already on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour and on The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Ana Gasteyer (American Auto/People of Earth/Suburgatory) - Ana appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Steve Harvey (The Steve Harvey Show) - Steve is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kym Whitley (Young & Hungry/Animal Practice/Sparks) and Finesse Mitchell (Outmatched/A.N.T. Farm) - Kym and Finesse guest host The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Alyssa Milano (Who's the Boss?/Romantically Challenged) - Alyssa talks about Netflix's Brazen on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Rose McIver (Ghosts/Woke) - Rose is a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jason Biggs (Outmatched/Mad Love/Drexell's Class) - Jason and his wife Jenny Mollen are guests on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg (Two and a Half Men/Jenny) - Jenny chats about The Masked Singer on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Tony Shalhoub (We Are Men/Stark Raving Mad/Wings) - Tony talks about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.


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

Maude - The Complete Series (2021 Release) Mom - The Eighth and Final Season Punky Brewster (1984-88) - The Complete Series (2021 Release) I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

10/19 - Maude - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
11/02 - The Honeymooners Specials - A Christmas Carol
11/02 - Mom - The Eighth and Final Season
11/02 - Punky Brewster - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
11/02 - Sex and the City - The Complete Collection (Blu-ray)
11/09 - Saved by the Bell (2020) - Season One
11/09 - Younger - The Complete Series
11/16 - Kevin Can F*** Himself - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
11/23 - Dead Pixels - Seasons One and Two
11/30 - I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Mill Creek) (2021 Release) (Blu-ray)
12/07 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
12/07 - Rick & Morty - Season 5 (Blu-ray) (Blu-ray Limited Edition Steelbook)
12/14 - The Abbott and Costello Show - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
12/14 - Letterkenny - Season 9
01/04 - Work in Progress - Season 2
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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