The Light from the TV Shows: The Cast of “The Middle”and Their 10 Favorite Episodes

When it comes to this column, I don’t tend to do a lot of cross-promotional tie-in pieces, but I’m going to make an exception this time because it’s for a show that I have vowed to do as much to promote and to help raise its profile as I possibly can: ABC’s “The Middle.”

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Given that the sitcom was just renewed for its fifth season, it’s hard to call it anything other than a success, and yet I’m still reminded of something Mark Harmon said about “NCIS” back in 2011: “If it’s possible for a No. 1 show to be still be under the radar, then we’re still under the radar.” That’s kind of where “The Middle” stands, if you ask me…or if you ask just about anyone who who’s involved with the show, for that matter: they know they’re doing good work, the viewers know they’re doing good work, the critics definitely know they’re doing good work, and yet as of this writing “The Middle” has only received one Emmy nod to date (for makeup, of all things). That’s just ridiculous…and that’s why, over at the Onion AV Club, I pulled together a TV Club 10 list of the 10 episodes of “The Middle” which best represent the series and reveal what makes it such a pleasure to watch week after week.

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Then, in conjunction with that piece, I thought it might also be interesting to reach out to the cast of the series and see which 10 episodes were their favorites. Not everyone was readily available to contribute, unfortunately, but three out of five ain’t bad, so don’t be afraid to express your gratitude to Patricia Heaton (Frankie Heck), Neil Flynn (Mike Heck), and Eden Sher (Sue Heck) in the comments for offering up their picks.

In closing, I’d just like to say – and I think you’ll probably agree – that there is something so incredibly right about the fact that Eden Sher described the opportunity to select her top-10 episodes as “way too much fun” and then proved it by writing a full paragraph about each one. No actor wants to be told that they’re “just like their character,” but there’s just enough Sue Heck in Eden Sher to make her one of the sweetest and most contagiously enthusiastic young actresses on network TV…but, then, if you read my interview with her a few months ago, then you already know that.

And, now, on with the lists!

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with John Altschuler (“The Goode Family,” “King of the Hill”)

Hey, kids, remember “The Goode Family”? You don’t…? Boy, that’s funny. You’d think you’d remember an animated series created under the watchful eye of Mike Judge, the man behind “Beavis & Butthead” and “King of the Hill,” not to mention such cult-classic films as “Office Space,” “Idiocracy,” and “Extract.”

Oh, wait, I know why you don’t remember it: because it only ran for 13 episodes in the summer of 2009 before ABC axed it.

Thankfully, however, the fine folks at Shout Factory have come through for “Goode Family” fans in the same way they’ve come through for fans of so many other too-quickly-canceled series over the years, offering up a complete-series set which features all of the episodes, including audio commentary from executive producers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky on several of them, as well as deleted scenes and premises for unproduced episodes. Even better, the aforementioned Mr. Altschuler was kind enough to spend a few minutes on the phone with Bullz-Eye to discuss the series, not to mention some of the other projects he’s worked on over the course of his career.

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John Altschuler: So, Will, what can I do you for?

Bullz-Eye: Well, sir, I do this TV column for Bullz-Eye, I’ve more or less got carte blanche to cover what I want, and, dammit, I want to cover the DVD release of The Goode Family: The Complete Series.

JA: [Laughs.] Well, great…I hope!

BE: It is absolutely great. I was a fan for the all-too-few episodes that aired, so it’s been nice not only to revisit the series as a whole but also to listen to the commentaries that you and Dave recorded for the set.

JA: Excellent, excellent. Well, I can’t stand the sound of my own voice, personally, but I hope it wasn’t too bad for you.

BE: No, no, not painful at all.

JA: Well, good!

BE: So to begin at the beginning, as it were, you and Dave actually knew each other well before you first met up with Mike Judge on “King of the Hill.”

JA: That’s right. Dave Krinsky and I go back to…we went to the University of North Carolina together and moved out to L.A…wow, back in ’87! And we just did movies and TV for, y’know, forever, and got hired on “King of the Hill” in its first season, and that’s how we met Mike Judge.

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The Light from the TV Shows: It’s Time to Meet “The Neighbors”

Unto each generation, there must come at least one sitcom about aliens coming to Earth and trying to learn the ins and outs of humanity. It’s a trend which began in the 1960s with “My Favorite Martian,” and it has continued through the ‘70s (“Mork and Mindy”), ‘80s (“ALF”), ‘90s (“3rd Rock from the Sun”), and even the ‘00s (“My Hero”), and rather than leave us sitting on the edge of our seat for the better part of the decade, ABC has jumped into the fray early and provided us with the requisite entry for the ‘10s: “The Neighbors,” which premieres tonight at 9:30 PM.

Here’s the premise, straight from the ABC press release:

Marty Weaver (Lenny Venito) just wants the best for his wife, Debbie (Jami Gertz), and their three kids. That’s why he’s moving them to Hidden Hills, New Jersey, a gated community complete with its own golf course. Marty is certain that their new home will be a dream come true. And then, they meet the neighbors.

The residents of Hidden Hills are a little… different. The Weavers have barely unpacked when 20 of their new neighbors show up in the driveway, standing in a triangle formation, each holding an identical cherry pie. Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) introduces himself as the “leader” of the community. Then he presents his wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye), and their two sons (yes, they’re named after famous athletes – Dick Butkus and Reggie Jackson). As Debbie and Marty frantically try to make sense of the weird neighbors – European? A cult? Amish athletes? – they discover that the entire Hidden Hills community is comprised of aliens from the planet Zabvron. ‘Turns out the Zabvronians have been holed up in Hidden Hills for the past 10 years, awaiting instructions from back home, and the Weavers are the first humans who have ever lived amongst them.

At first the Weavers are ready to cut and run. But the aliens seem harmless enough. And there is a lot of closet space… So they decide to stay and help their new neighbors adapt to life on this confusing planet we call home. But as the Weavers and the aliens face the struggles of everyday life together, they discover that some things – the ups and downs of marriage, the desire to be a good parent and raise a happy family – are universal, intergalactic even. And the Weavers realize they’ve found an ally in the family next door… even if they do cry out of their ears.

When people have asked me to cite my favorite new shows of the season, I won’t pretend that “The Neighbors” has been at the top of my list, but I have found that I can rarely finish such a conversation without at least bringing it up. Not because I like it, although I do, but because my seven-year-old daughter absolutely freaking loves it…like, to the point where she has watched my advance DVD of the pilot three times now, almost lost her mind when I told her that ABC had provided me with an online screener of the second episode, and demanded that I add it to the TiVo queue immediately.

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The Light from the TV Shows: 10 new series which *MIGHT* end up on Bullz-Eye’s next TV Power Rankings

If you’re a regular reader of Bullz-Eye, then you’re well familiar with a recurring feature that we like to call our TV Power Rankings. Back in the day, we used to offer up a list of our top 25 TV series every six months, but those who caught our most recent Rankings – we posted it back in February – know that we’re only doing it once a year now. As this is the first fall season to come around since we’ve scaled back, however, we thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the new programs that are slowly but surely making their debuts on the broadcast networks and give your our thoughts on which ones seem to have the potential to make their way onto the next Power Rankings…but with that said, you will please note the way we’ve made a point of clarifying above that this is in no way a formal declaration that they will end up on there. As we all know, shows can start strong, turn on a dime, and become craptacular within the span of only a few episodes. In short, it’s all very wait-and-see at this stage of the game, but if a show is on this list, that means that we at least think that it’s worthy of giving it a shot

Revolution (NBC)

At first glance, “Revolution” may seem to be a little bit like “Terra Nova” without the dinosaurs, given that it’s more or less about humanity trying to recover from a nasty situation (in this case, a sudden and seemingly total absence of electricity), but the pilot – directed by Jon Favreau – sets up the premise nicely, establishes the new power-free world, and gives stars Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito a chance to shine as the good guy and bad guy, respectively. The truth of the matter is that I’ll give anything with J.J. Abrams’ name on it a shot, but after the debacle that was “Undercovers,” I’m still going to enter with hesitation until “Revolution” proves itself.

Nashville (ABC)

As I’ve said elsewhere on Bullz-Eye, I didn’t even know I had a three-strike rule until I tried and failed on three separate occasions to get a decent interview out of Hayden Panitierre, so it’s a testament to how much I enjoyed the pilot for the country-music drama “Nashville” that I included it in this list. (Admittedly, it doesn’t hurt that she’s playing a complete bitch in the series.) There’s a very real possibility that the show could leave music-industry reality behind so quickly that I bail out well before mid-season, but with Connie Britton and Powers Boothe in the cast, it’s going to have to get pretty ridiculous for me to give up the ghost.

Vegas (CBS)

I’m a sucker for a good-looking period piece, so “Vegas” has already got me in its clutches by premise alone, focusing as it does on the growth of Las Vegas in the early 1960s, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that the show is headlined by Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis, then rounded out by Carrie Ann Moss and Jason O’Mara. I’m as excited about the possibilities of this series as I am just about anything premiering this fall…so don’t let me down, CBS!


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The Lyricist Lounge Presents Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier in New York’s East River Park

Last night at Manhattan’s East River Park, the legendary Lyricist Lounge continued their 20th anniversary celebration with a free show featuring two of Hip-Hop’s all-time greatest producers and deejays, Pete Rock and DJ Premier. Hosted by Lyricist Lounge founders Danny Castro and Ant Marshall, the show was dubbed “Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier,” though it was really less a battle than a collaborative showcase. Castro began the show by schooling the audience on a bit of trivia about the East River Park bandshell, which is where the finale of the 1983 Hip-Hop classic “Wild Style” was filmed.

Pete Rock and Premo opened their shared set with a tribute to Rock’s cousin, the late, great Heavy D, taking turns spinning some of his best-loved jams, including the classic “Nuttin’ But Love.” The evening was heavy on R.I.P. shout outs to some of the great musicians of the past, including a medley of Rick James songs like “Give It to Me Baby” and “Mary Jane,” a brief medley of the Jackson 5 hits “I Want You Back” and “ABC,” and a much more extended medley of the James Brown classics “The Payback,” “Soul Power,” “Make It Funky,” and “Sex Machine.” Along with cuts from Al Green, Kool & the Gang, the Commodores and more, Premo and Rock’s set felt like a miniature history lesson in black music, continuing into the rest of the evening.

Promising to soon go head to head with some of their own original beats, the two deejays first segued into the Hip-Hop portion of the evening with some ’80s favorites like Afrika Bambaataa‘s “Planet Rock,” MC Lyte‘s “Survival of the Fittest,” Audio Two‘s “Top Billin’,” Eric B. & Rakim‘s “Move the Crowd,” and Biz Markie‘s “Nobody Beats the Biz.” When Premo spun the Boogie Down Productions battle classic “The Bridge is Over,” a diss track aimed partly at Marley Marl (a huge influence on both Rock and Premo), Rock observed, “It’s even hard to hear at a distance, ’cause those are my people.”

Unfortunately, before they could get into the golden era of ’90s Hip-Hop, including the promised battle of their own productions and a promised special guest rapper (who, based on the outstanding scope of their past collaborations, could have been virtually any heavyweight emcee still alive and breathing), there was a power failure that brought the show to a premature end. I thought it was a gimmick at first, and much of the crowd began chanting “Hip-Hop,” as if our true belief could bring the lights and sound back on. Sad to say, in a city with subways full of ads featuring the slogan “Never be powerless,” the promoters and technicians were unable to bring the show back. It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise enjoyable evening of music brought to us by two of the greatest deejays alive. 

  

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