Posted by vp19 on 2015.01.27 at 19:00
Current mood: excited
In yesterday’s entry, I lamented the lack of a time machine enabling me to meet Carole Lombard. Well, if time travel indeed were possible, one environment I’d like to see Carole cavort in would be a movie set, to see her at work (as in 1932’s “Sinners In The Sun,” above). Of course, back then about the only non-studio personnel allowed on the set were members of the press (usually Hollywood columnists for newspapers and fan magazines) and the occasional VIP. To some extent, that’s still true for moviemaking today.
But it isn’t for television — at least the part of the medium where episodes are shot before a live audience — and in entries in November and December, I recounted my experiences seeing two sitcom episodes filmed. And as fate would have it, both of the episodes I witnessed will air on successive days this week.
First up is “Hot In Cleveland” (TVLand, 10/9c), the charming old-school sitcom starring the legendary Betty White and fellow sitcom pros Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli and Wendie Malick. This is its sixth and final season, and the laughs continue in this episode, “About A Joy.” (Joy is the name of Leeves’ character.) In a world where multi-camera sitcoms not produced by Chuck Lorre are few and far between, “Hot In Cleveland” continues to deliver the goods. And as noted before (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/749967.html), there is a “One Day At A Time” reunion of sorts, as Mackenzie Phillips guests as Bertinelli’s high school rival.
“Hot In Cleveland” isn’t groundbreaking or controversial, just funny. So is the Chuck Lorre sitcom I saw that will air Thursday night (though it was filmed a month earlier than the “Hot” episode), but after last week’s episode, it certainly now is controversial…
Alvin Biletnikoff (Kevin Pollak), who with Bonnie Plunkett (Allison Janney) conceived Christy Plunkett (Anna Faris) before running out on them, returned to their lives midway through last year’s initial season. Bonnie initially wanted nothing to do with him, while Christy was eager to connect with a father whose existence she had never known. By last year’s season finale, Alvin and Bonnie had reconciled, much to Christy’s pleasure. Last week’s episode, “Three Smiles and an Unpainted Ceiling,” opened with Alvin landing an apartment in the complex Bonnie now manages, and the two celebrate by making love, despite a heart condition that had earlier hospitalized him. (The walkie-talkie he’s holding is a gift he gave his young grandson, who had wondered whether one could text on it and then calls grandpa at a, uh, rather inopportune time.)
Alvin then goes under the blanket to perform a maneuver…and doesn’t come out, dying in the heat of passion. Bonnie is devastated, as are Christy and the rest of the family. Bonnie, like Christy a recovering alcoholic, is so overcome with grief that she enters a bar and orders a drink, and only Christy’s threat to do likewise keep the mother and daughter from falling off the wagon. After Bonnie crashes the funeral and makes off with a souvenir, providing some needed laughs, the episode ends with she and Christy consoling each other.
The episode’s examination of death was in some ways reminiscent of the famous “Chuckles Bites the Dust” 1975 episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” to many the greatest sitcom episode ever made. To set things up for the episode airing Thursday, we in the studio audience were shown clips from what ran last week — and although no one from the series swore us to secrecy, I declined to give spoilers in my November entry on “Mom” (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/742075.html). But when the episode aired last Thursday, the you-know-what hit the fan in the blogosphere.
Many of the 160 commenters at http://tvline.com/2015/01/22/mom-season-2-alvin-dies/ said they would never watch the show again (some even wanted it to be a dream or have Alvin’s twin come on the scene!), to which one person replied, “You’re watching a show about recovering alcoholics, a teenager who gives up a baby, and a woman with cancer [Marjorie, portrayed by Mimi Kennedy]. Clearly you’re watching the wrong show if you’re looking for nothing but chuckles.” Indeed, dark comedy has been a trademark of “Mom” since its debut in the fall of 2013.
The decision to kill off the Alvin character surprised Faris and Janney, but they defended the move and praised Lorre and his writers for having the courage to go in that direction (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/mom-alvin-dies-allison-janney-765962). “It was devastating. And fulfilling is the wrong word, but I couldn’t believe that we are graced with that emotion,” Faris said. “That we have the support of the studio, the producers and the writers who will take us to these challenging places.”
Another site for “Mom” fans is the Community blog at Entertainment Weekly, as it runs a weekly discussion on each episode (http://community.ew.com/tag/mom/).
I initially tuned into “Mom” because I’ve been an avid Faris fan for several years; she’s one of the top comedic actresses around. But this series has so much else to offer, such as the always-terrific Janney, excellent writing and characters you care about. The outpouring of grief over Alvin’s death is both a tribute to Pollak’s acting and how vividly his character was portrayed.
So I urge you to tune in to CBS Thursday at 8:30/7:30c for “Kitty Litter and a Class A Felony” (all “Mom” eps are titled “xxxxxx and a(n) xxxxxx”). I’m not giving anything away, but it’s a lot lighter in tone than what aired last week; with a title like that, it has to be. (Incidentally, “Mom” will move to 9:30/8:30c Thursdays, beginning next month.) And for both “Mom” and “Hot In Cleveland,” this sitcom fan is eager to view the finished product.