Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’ve got another Q&A entry, where I answer questions submitted by readers. Thanks to everyone who sent in something — if you don’t see your “Q” here, I just may “A” it next time. (And keep them coming — any related topic on which you want my opinion and/or a little research? Just let me know!)
Also, if you haven’t shared your opinions in our annual survey yet, do so now — it’ll close a few hours after this publication! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/H6VH65Z
Mr. Melody says… After recently binging Taxi, I couldn’t help but notice that, while its still a lovely show, it had characters (Bobby and Tony) that were creatively stagnant because of their part time job occupations, as a failing actor and failing boxer, which respectively limited storyline potential for both. So, how important should a characters job be in making potential storylines?
A character’s job is important if it’s relevant to a series’ “situation.” A domestic sitcom about relationships between family members probably won’t be deriving much story at their occupations, so a job is less important there than in a show like Taxi, an ensemble workplace comedy about a group of characters whose affiliation comes from the fact that they drive taxis (or work in the garage) as a means of making money, often while pursuing other dreams that we know are unlikely to pan out (for that would disrupt the “status quo” and take them out of the series). Regarding Bobby and Tony, specifically, I’ve thought a lot about the disparity among character usages on Taxi since I first discussed the show in 2015, and I think the reason their episodes — particularly Tony’s — tend to be less enjoyable is not merely because of their inherently doomed career pursuits, but rather because such stories don’t do as good a job of utilizing other members of the ensemble as support, like we often find in “Louie episodes,” or “Alex episodes,” or “Iggy episodes,” etc., where the regulars, or at least a few other leads, are often drawn in to the action. Accordingly, stories with a lot of Tony use fewer elements of the series’ “situation” than those focused on other characters, and since this makes them ultimately feel less like what Taxi is supposed to be, they naturally disappoint. (I think Bobby’s are slightly more successful, but, as always, the more the other leads are involved, the better!)
JaneCurtinStan asks… Do you think Jane Curtin did better work on “Kate & Allie” or “3rd Rock From The Sun”?
I think Kate & Allie afforded Curtin more chances to display a wider range in her acting abilities, while 3rd Rock From The Sun offered her unquestionably funnier material and on a more consistent basis. As far as this genre is concerned — and my corresponding personal preferences — I believe she was much better served by 3rd Rock From The Sun.
Jeremy B. is curious… Did you ever give any more thought to doing a Wildcard essay on “Herman’s Head?”
Yes, I actually watched all 72 episodes of Herman’s Head a few months ago with the intention of giving each season simple Wildcard treatment, à la Nurses. Unfortunately, while the show isn’t any worse than the blah Nurses, I’m afraid I didn’t find any specific segments that could justify granting the series such individualized attention. It’s a fairly unimaginative ensemble workplace comedy with rom-com elements featuring a great but largely wasted cast and a high-concept gimmick that, by design, should have allowed for a more introspective look at the lead character… but sadly, was mostly used as a sideline, jokey distraction — never meaningfully contributing to his depiction (in accordance with nobody really being well-explored). The one episode that I thought actually came the closest to using this gaudy but vital aspect of the “situation” to genuinely offer insight into the leads and their relationships was the series’ finale, “First Impressions” (first aired April 21, 1994), in which the various figures from Herman’s head get to personify him in flashbacks when the other regulars remember their first meeting with him. That idea — though ostentatious — adds to our understanding of the leads and their shared histories, and it utilizes the high-concept trapping to emphasize his characterization. Otherwise, nothing else even sticks out as mildly memorable by way of premise-validating episodic excellence. And I’m afraid that’s all I really have to say here about Herman’s Head.
MDay991 wants to know… What are your top three favorite forgotten short-lived sitcoms from the 1990’s?
I actually appreciate quite a few short-lived ’90s sitcoms (or think many had the potential for future greatness). But off the top of my head, the three that come to mind right now are The Powers That Be (1992-1993, NBC), Almost Perfect (1995-1996, CBS), and, you know what? A brief sitcom that’s coming up here soon — Everything’s Relative (1999, NBC). Those are the three that I would cite today — but, honestly, those answers might change every time you ask!
Charlie requests a list… What are your 10 favorite sitcom episodes from my birth year of 1997?
Have a question for me? Submit it at the “Ask Jackson (Q&A)” link.
Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more Cybill!