Thursday, September 21, 2006


After checking out the season premiere of 'Prison Break', I decided my time would be better served by just reading the recaps and reviews from sites like TVSquad, TVgasm, and "What's Alan Watching?". The plot was too unbelievable and with plot holes so big you could stage the escape for an entire prison.

Besides, it would only be a matter of weeks before I'd be abandoning it anyway because I preferred 'How I Met Your Mother'. Who better to spend that second half hour - wooden, dour Michael Schofield, or everybody's pal Barney Stinson?

This leaves that first half hour to be filled in my taping schedule while I'm snoozing away before my overnight job. And based on the series debut, I don't think 'The Class' will prove to be just a time-waster.

I often wonder if maybe I'm just too easy to please; I'm not critical enough; my standards are too low. Because I had been reading nothing but bad reviews for the pilot episode. (Although several of those reviews also offered the caveat that a viewer should stick around for the next two episodes because they were much, much better.)

And I trust in the work of James Burrows enough to think that something in that script caught his eye as probably the greatest TV director ever to make him want to attach himself to the project. (Although he's only human and he has had misfires in the past.)

So I watched my tape of that first show and I enjoyed it. I'm not saying it's great; it'll probably never "change the world" as 'Friends' did in some respects, but I found most of the characters to be personable and varied.

(Except of course in skin tone - hello! A cast that large and you couldn't fit in one actor of color? Doesn't Philadelphia have any blacks, Asians, somebody from the Indian subcontinent? It looks like Kyle's partner is Hispanic, and I think the actor playing him is from Chile, but something about Kyle's backstory leads me to believe they'll break up before too long.)

I especially liked Lina Warbler, the somewhat daffy goof; even her slight speech impediment, which I understand is for real, I found to be charming. Something about her made me think of Joan Cusack by way of "Annie Hall". Maybe it was that red hat.

I think her twin sister Kat will grow on me as well, but her sharp retorts seemed to be blunted in the pilot. For someone whose hobbies include watching other people suffer, verbally judging those around her (and hiking), I think she was being forced to hold back on the venom. There must be some way to make her sharper and yet retain some softness to make her acceptable to the audience. Amy Pietz was able to do that with her character of Annie in 'Caroline In The City'.

So all in all, I'll take the word of those other reviewers and trust that 'The Class' will only get better as it progresses.

Now, as for its Toobworld potential......

When I heard that they were all in the third grade of Woodman Elementary School twenty years ago, my mind started racing with the pretzel logic needed to make the connection with 'Welcome Back, Kotter'.

The actor who played Mr. Woodman had died in the early 1980s; his character was no longer associated with 'Welcome Back, Kotter' after 1979..... Maybe this school was almost brand new when these kids attended it in 1986, and it had been named after the late Vice Principal of Buchanan High.

I don't know how I missed the fact that the sitcom is set in Philadelphia. Did that even get mentioned in the pilot? I guess I just have a knee-jerk belief that all big-city sitcoms take place in Manhattan.

But that's.... okay. With an ensemble cast this large, there will be plenty of opportunities to find trivial connections to other shows that have been set in the City of Brotherly Love.

Thanks to TV Acres, here's a list, sitcoms and dramas alike:

American Dreams/NBC/2002-2004
Boy Meets World/ABC/1993-2000
Bringing Up Jack/ABC/1995
Bustin' Loose/SYN/1987-88
Family Album/CBS/1993
Lock Up/SYN/1959-61
Pursuit of Happiness/ABC/1987-88
Shannon's Deal/NBC/1990-91
Strong Medicine/LIF/2000+ [Rittenhouse Hospital]
Tall Hopes/CBS/1993
Teech/CBS/1991 [Winthrop Academy In Suburban Philadelphia]
The Tony Randall Show/ABC/CBS/1976-78.

Lina Warbler is in the hospital for the next two episodes, thanks to events in the pilot. So perhaps it could be considered that she's in Rittenhouse Hospital? And maybe at least one of the characters went on to attend Winthrop Academy after leaving Woodman Elementary.

But one thing's for certain: with a cast this vanilla, there won't be any links forged with 'Amen' any time soon!

One nice thing I liked about these characters - for the most part, they've all got very distinctive family names. Ellenbogen, Haas, Lendo, Velch. The only one that had a typically 80s blandness to it was for Nicole Allen.

In a way, this is a hindrance in trying to make theoretical connections through "Relateeveety", except for Nicole. But at the same time, it's nice to see the wide variety of names to be found out there. Take a look at the size of the Philadelphia phone book and you'll know there are a lot more names in there besides Smith, Jones, Johnson, Williams, Taylor, and yes, Allen.

But there will always be possibilities in what's available. There have been "Haas" characters on such shows as 'Wiseguy', 'Dallas', 'L.A. Law', and 'Beggars & Choosers'. There was somebody named "Warbler" in an episode of 'Diagnosis Murder'. And there was even an Ellenbogen in an episode of 'Grindl'.

Now that's trivial!

So for now, I have no problem spending 22 minutes on a Tuesday morning with 'The Class'. (Fast-forwarding through the blipverts, of course!) True, that's not high praise, but with so many viewing options available, I'm sure some network suit (May they be nibbled to death by ducks!) at the headquarters of the Great Eye will be glad to take it.


"When I was in third grade, there was a kid running for office.
His slogan was:
'Vote for me and I'll show you my wee-wee.'
He won by a landslide."
Dorothy Zbornak
'The Golden Girls'

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