Life of Luxury
Usually, I find it hard to sympathize with the travails of millionaires and billionaires, but it can't be easy to have the portly likes of Robin Leach clinging to you like some goateed Aussie barnacle. Waddling onto the screen looking like Opus' (the penguin of Bloom County fame) granddad, Leach latches onto tycoons and tycoonettes like gum on a movie theater seat cushion. First to be rear-ended is that old softie Donald Trump, who slogs from one garish multimillion-dollar development to another in a private jet marked "TRUMP" in 10-foot-high letters made of 24-karat gold. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he's got taste, but is there true love after Ivana and Marla? "It's very hard for a woman to compete with (my) life," the Donald says with a sigh. He might want to tilt an ear to Sharon Osbourne, who guided unsuspecting viewers through the ups and downs of her breast job: "I had National Geographic boobies. Now I have nice perky boobies!" We got to see her artificial navel, too. I'm sure this revelation was carefully weighed by the folks at Nexim when they bought advertising time for their antacid medication.
And speaking of those pesky advertisements... Are you depressed? The FCC does not allow the glorification of drugs on TV even cigarette smoking is verboten yet pharmaceuticals took up nearly a third of the ad space on prime time. Anti-depressant ads fascinate me the most. Paxil and Wellbutrin, for example, promise freedom from melancholy and social anxiety in exchange for the occasional debilitating and embarrassing side effect. If happiness is nausea, sleeplessness and sexual dysfunction, I'm glad I'm depressed.
Biography: The Osmonds
The most important thing to be gleaned from last night's Biography is that there was only one person in human history who had any business being onstage in a studded, buckled jumpsuit and his surname was not Osmond. I'll take a roly-poly, perspiring Elvis slurring through "Hound Dog" over a winsome Donny Osmond simpering through "Puppy Love" any millennium. For a family so devoted to faith and family, it is curious how often George and Olive's kids gurgled up diluted versions of other people's music, making the Osmonds the pop equivalent of the supermarket generic brand. To be fair, some people buy generic. Not me, but other people. Rolling Stone's David Wild, who can appreciate finger-snappin' chicken pop as much as the next Jann Wenner lackey, called "One Bad Apple" "a heckuva good record." High praise indeed for a feeble knockoff of the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" bleached a paler shade of pale. Now I dare Wild to wade through the filler tracks of their albums. Similarly, it dawned on me that Donny & Marie and Sonny & Cher were the same show. Well, except that Marie had a moustache.
Yes, Dear is the sitcom equivalent of a musical passing tone. Its basic function is to kill time until Everybody Loves Raymond. The jokes are corny, the acting broad and the kids grating. But I was willing to sit through the hackneyed repeat about the gang's misadventures in Legoland just for a glimpse of the adorable Jean Louisa Kelly. I've been loopy about Jean since I first dialed her up on the TV playing an AT&T operator on a mid-1990s commercial. Some guys are leg men. I'm a sucker for curly gals. Jean's dazzling tendrils rank with those of Keri Russell, Bitty Schram, Melina Kanakaredes, Marina Sirtis, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Brenneman on TV's pantheon of power-pouf girls. Which reminds me you can revive your luscious ringlets anytime now, Debra Messing. Call me old fashioned, but I don't associate straight with Will & Grace (and no, that wavy look doesn't cut it, either).
Everybody Loves Raymond
One sign of a great comedy is the proliferation of hilarious throwaway lines. Everybody Loves Raymond delivers more wit in a syllable than Yes, Dear delivers in a season. After suffering the Osmonds, Sharon Osbourne and Mike O'Malley, watching Robert give Ray marital advice in this wonderful repeat was like busting out of jail. Newlywed Robert has apparently found the secret to a great marriage: "Hold hands." Ray calls him "an idiot wrapped up in a moron" but gives hand-holding a try anyway. Alas, he does it in bed while Debra tries to read, sparking a quarrel in which the two point fingers at each other's hapless hand-holding style (she calls Ray "Mr. Cadaver Hands"). During a dinner party to celebrate her three-month union with Robert, Amy ticks off Debra by loaning her a marriage advice book. A tag-team verbal brawl pitting Debra and Ray against the newlyweds ensues until a cooler head prevails. Ironically, that cool head sits on Marie's shoulders. As Frank munches away on a "juicy" chicken leg, she lets slip the secret of their 46 years together: "We endure." The warring parties sit down sheepishly and clink glasses. "Til death do us part," says Debra. Fade to black. Few sitcoms capture the idiosyncratic absurdities of married life like this one, and fewer still can touch us off guard with such sudden, potent tenderness.
Jay Mohr is one of those guys who is either going to explode in the next few years or else be consigned to the "Talented People Who Never Caught a Break" file. He was an up-and-comer on Saturday Night Live (he owns the Christopher Walken impression), starred in the late, lamented comedy Action and later crossed over into films, notably as Tom Cruise's rival agent in Jerry Maguire. Stardom continues to elude him, however. Of course, playing slimy lawyer Aaron Schaecter on boring old CSI: Miami isn't going to make him a household word, but Mohr was riveting when his Schaecter gunned down his client to make a double murder look like self-defense. "Pick a shoulder, Ricky, left or right," he snarls before pulling the trigger. Of course, David Caruso's omnibrooding Horatio Cain isn't fooled for a moment because, well, Caruso is the star of the show. His showdown with Mohr's smirking Schaecter was a marvelous battle of wills, and although Cain had the last laugh, I was left rooting for Mohr.
Michael Jackson Number Ones commercial
In the CBS ad for its Michael Jackson Number Ones special, amateur King of Pop psychologist Beyoncé Knowles suggests everyone wants to be like Michael Jackson. That is something to ponder as I go into the office. Imagine going to your workplace knowing that every single person you encounter in the hallways, cubicles, offices and cafeteria tables wants to be like Michael Jackson. Now there is roughly 500 people in the building where I work. That means a sizeable chunk of TV Guide's scheduling grids, listings, layouts, photos, advertisements, subscriptions and customer service is, theoretically, handled by 500 potential Michael Jacksons. Actually it's more like 499 potential Michael Jacksons. You see, I'm a would-be member of the Yardbirds (specifically, a hybrid of Jeff Beck and Keith Relf). Honestly, I can sing and play "Heart Full of Soul" with the fuzz guitar riff and everything. Just ask the people who tell me to shut up. Rochell Thomas is on vacation this week. Today's column was written by G J Donnelly.