I came back from New York last week, expecting to find an episode of Leno on my Tivo where Paul Reiser was guesting.
I knew he was guesting because I did a search for Reiser when I heard he was going to have a new series.
And I set my Tivo for the series.
And it showed me he was going to be on Leno while I was gone.
But when I checked, the two episodes of the series were there, but no Leno.
As of last night, I hadn't seen any of it.
Then, late last night, I checked the Tivo, and there was the Leno episode.
A week late.
It was that night's Leno.
This Tivo thing is a genius.
Because I set the episode by way of a search, it was going to record Leno whenever Reiser was on it.
Which turned out to be this past Monday night.
I put it on, and go right past "Headlines" and the first guest, to get to Reiser, who I always thought was a great standup comic,and very good on "Mad About You", a show I enjoyed very much.
Which is why I was looking forward to his new series.
Reiser, certainly looking older, grayer, and puffier than I remember, immediately starts trading banter, hilarious banter, about how his
show was cancelled by NBC after two episodes.
This was news to me.
And apparently pretty fresh news to him.
This pretty much begged the question "Why was he bothering to appear on Leno at all?".
When you give it any thought, the answer is pretty simple.
It was to bellyache, albeit in an hilarious fashion, about being dumped after only two episodes by a network for which he had provided an
enormous hit series for many years.
It was couched in how he really didn't want to do another series to begin with.
How he was coaxed, cajoled, if you will, out of retirement, to do this new show.
And the network just gave him the hook after two outings.
He made light of the situation.
But you could see the pain oozing out of him.
How could it not?
So what if you once singlehandedly made a huge network hit?
So what if you are so comfortably retired that you never had to work again?
Talk about "Fuck You" money!
But he was coaxed.
And he's a pro.
And when you're a pro, and you put on the uniform, you swing for the fences.
And when you are thoroughly rejected by the critics, the network, and the audience, who turned out in drove (the singular of droves),
how can you help but be anything but devastated?
This was definitely a wounded man.
I then watched the two episodes that I had Tivoed.
They seemed to be attempting to aspire to Larry David's style with
"Curb Your Enthusiasm".
The first episode even had Larry David in a couple of scenes.
Those two scenes were very funny.
The others, as Reiser would put it, not so much.
The scenes with Larry David appeared to be improvised.
And the camera seemed static, as was required.
The other scenes all seemed heavily scripted, with all the characters talking in Reiser's rhythms.
Very quickly. As does Reiser.
This works for Reiser, who plays himself. A comedian.
A man who talks naturally in professional fast comedy rhythms.
It doesn't work for any of the other characters.
They are not comedians.
This removes a layer of reality that is needed. Desperately.
I'm just sayin'.......
And in all of those scenes, the camera jumps around all over the place.
And there are editing tricks that call way too much attention to themselves.
The second episode was more of the same, but more domestic, about his family, and with no Larry David.
This compounded the felony.
So the overall effect is that of a show that is occasionally very funny, outweighed by it's constant freneticism and artificiality.
I doubt that I would have lasted another week with it.
I've certainly seen worse shows than this, but the network was basically right to not want him anymore.
Tomorrow: The time I was in on the ground floor of "not wanting Paul Reiser".
Manana (It's good enough for me.)
My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
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- mark rothman
- Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at email@example.com. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."