Any anachronisms in the following review are used for comic
effect. How comedic that
effect is, however, remains to be seen.)
In my mind’s eye, I see a large
conglomeration of TV celebrities congregating during a break between
tapings of Hollywood Squares.
Ratzenberger is sitting next to Jamie Farr, and Robert Culp is
bumming a smoke from Sherman Hemsley.
On the other side of the sound stage, Richard Moll lurks in
the shadows, contemplating how he should go about asking out the
cute young intern who brings the VIPs coffee during commercials.
Though they are all renowned masters in the
relentlessly-demanding field of television comedy, they are
nonetheless savoring their moment of glory participating in
’s favorite game show - not to mention the chance to enjoy the
company of their fellow thespians.
But with the season finale drawing near, their whimsical days
and magical nights as wise-cracking Hollywood Squares’ contestants
are soon to be over. They
may smile on the outside, but on the inside they harbor only gray
clouds and empty packs of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Suddenly, in a moment of divine inspiration, Robert Culp spits the
Marlboro from his mouth and exclaims:
“Guys! The fun
doesn’t have to end here!” “
The others look up, surprised at his instant
“Let’s shoot a movie!”
He says. “Let’s
shoot a movie together!”
A murmur of excitement races through the crowd,
and they begin to chatter incessantly.
Richard Moll is initially excited as well, but suddenly
hesitates after realizing that participating in this collaborative
effort might conflict with the upcoming shoot for House
6: Citizens on Patrol.
“I don’t know, fellas,” He says.
“I have a couple projects on the ole backburner…”
Though none of the other celebs dare make such
a bold statement, they nonetheless nod their heads and grunt in
ambiguous agreement. Undeterred,
Culp continues: “But
guys! We’re all so
damn funny! Can you
imagine what would happen if we put our heads together?
Shared some ideas?! We’re
talking BOX OFFICE GOLD!!” Culp
smiles wryly, picks up his cigarette from the studio floor and props
it between his lips. “And
it just so happens,” He says.
“That a certain someone knows the guy who directed The
Brady Bunch in the White House, Love
Boat: The Next Wave, The
Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley as well as Surf
trails off; his grin now grazing both earlobes.
This revelation, of course, further piques the
others’ interest. But
a degree of skepticism still remains:
“We’re gonna need a good story,” Jamie Farr says.
“I mean, we’re all pretty damn funny, but you can only
stretch the jokes so far. We’re
going to need some razor-sharp narrative to move the plot along.
The jokes’ll keep ‘em laughing, but the story brings the
butts to the theater.”
“Stop the presses!”
Dick Van Patten says, emerging from a nearby Port-a-John.
“I couldn’t help but hear your conversation, and I happen
to have a buddy who’s been working on a very special script for
quite some time.”
“What kind of a special script?”
Sherman Hemsley asks.
“Weeell,” Van Patten starts, slapping his
hands together. “It
involves two kids who get into a lot of mischief.
You know, the usual stuff:
TP’ing school property, switching the signs between the
girls’ and boys’ restrooms – stuff like that.
Anyway, after years and years of pranks and general
tomfoolery, the boys finally push The Man too far and are sentenced
to military school – a combat academy, if you will.
Finally, their wacky ways are put to the test against a
hard-nosed commandant, his tough-but-well-meaning son, and the
requisite muscle-bound bully. Of
course we’ll throw in the usual rigors that coincide with any form
of military training: the
meticulous cleaning, strenuous physical education, following rules
and obeying orders, etcetera.”
John Ratzenberger exclaims.
“That does sound good!”
“And that’s just the start!”
Van Patten gushes, clapping his hands together once again.
“There’s also some great subplots involving the young
hooligan falling in love with the by-the-book sergeant, sibling-like
rivalry between two childhood friends, as well as the daunting task
of reciprocating love and respect between a father and his son while
adhering to the strict rules and regulations inherent to being a
member of the Armed Forces!”
“And we should throw in some evil
Russians!” Jamie Farr
says, thus causing the excited thespians to once again chatter
incessantly. Robert Culp
raises his hands, calming down his comrades.
“This is some heavy material,” He says,
picking out something green from between his teeth.
“We’ll need a strong lead.”
“Yeah, a strong lead, but a fresh new
Ratzenberger adds. “As
we symbolize the glamour of
present, he should symbolize the strength of
“How about that Michael J. Fox kid?”
Culp suggests. “He’s
pretty darn good.”
“Nah,” Van Patten says.
“His fifteen minutes of fame passed by two years ago.
The kid’s going nowhere.
The only thing that made him good in ‘Family Ties’ was
the strength of the material. You
want a star? How about
Keith Gordon? You know,
the kid who played Rodney Dangerfield’s son in Back
Culp says. “He is
Jamie Farr suddenly leaps to his feet with a
triumphant cry: “Count
me in, fellas!” He
says, shoving his outstretched hand in-between the huddled mass of
“This is a no brainer!”
Robert Culp says, placing his hand atop Farr’s.
“Guess I’m in too,” Sherman Hemsley says,
adding his hand to the mix.
Dick Van Patten, never one to mince words,
simply places his hand over Hemsley’s.
“Don’t forget about Big John Rat!”
John Ratzenberger says, adding his hand to the
Amid all the excitement, however, the troop of
future cinematic co-stars almost forget one crucial ingredient.
They look to Richard Moll - the final standout
- their eyes wide in anticipation.
Moll looks hesitant at first, but then that affable grin that
had grown to love slowly spreads across his stone-like countenance.
“Aw nuts,” He says.
“Who am I to let my buddies down?”
“Get over here, you big lug!”
Van Patten squeals. Richard
Moll finally puts his hand into the pile and almost instantly a
surge of power emanates through each and every one of them.
combine, and their thoughts become one.
They all knew they were embarking on something
very special. Something
that would not only changes their lives, but cinematic history as
well. Later, some would
argue that their collaborative celluloid effort was instrumental in
changing the face of our nation today.
In all honesty,
borders on tedious throughout its duration.
Think of the worst Police
Academy sequel, then subtract half the laughs (which
mathematically leaves the movie indebted to the viewer).
Despite his best efforts, Keith Gordon, who’s
likeable in films like The
Legend of Billie Jean, is painfully unfunny as the “wacky”
lead. In his defense,
few actors can take horrible writing and still be funny (a rare
trait called “The Bill Murray Effect”).
The same cannot be said about the “stars”
. Everyone pretty much
phones in their performance, with the exception of Richard Moll,
who’s extraordinarily horrible as a dimwitted professor.
The rest of the cast are left to flounder in a pool of bad
jokes, a slew of clichés, and an insulting Cold War subplot where
we learn not to hate those pesky Russians.
You would think a few talented comedians could
at least come up with something
that borders on funny. Say
what you will about the majority of the cast (I know I did), but
Sherman Hemsley is a funny guy!
-- Copyright 2005, J. Bannerman