Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"Propensity? I got propensity.": Everybody Hates Chris and Aliens in America

Everybody Hates Chris returns for it's third year, a show everybody likes, but nobody watches. And to be honest, this show typically falls to the bottom of my DVR, always an entertaining diversion, but rarely anything more than that.

With that in mind, I was still excited for the premiere of my favorite family sitcom on tv. My excitement was obviously misplaced. Even before the redesigned opening credits aired, the show was all wrong. The episode features Chris having to talk with a guidance counselor because of some sub-par assessment test scores, only to have the counselor played by . . . himself. Rather, the real Chris Rock.

Now, this is disconcerting for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the weird supernatural, paradox, flux-capacitor vibe it gives off. (Though I know it shouldn't, it still struck me as completely odd and out of place.) I can understand the want to have Rock appear on the show, to boost sagging ratings, or, well, just because it's his show. The problem lies in the fact that Rock already IS on the show. When I say this I don't just mean the character Tyler James Williams portrays (very well, I might add) but refer to the constant narration Rock provides for the show. This episode then, featured not only Rock as the guidance counselor, but then offering narration, occasionally in the same scene. It wasn't confusing necessarily, but odd, and completely took me out of the episode.

Beyond that was the fact that the premiere just wasn't very funny. Rock seemed overwhelmingly amused by whatever he said, while I was left cold. His advising Chris to make sure college was really what he wanted out of life was a good tip, but seemed a little premature to tell a kid just entering his ninth grade year. Beyond that, Chris' family was relegated to the B plot, in which Julius was taking care of getting the kids new school clothes. This relied heavily on the "Julius is cheap" character flaw to provide all the laughs. (This, along with "Julius works a lot" seems to be all they really care to tell us about his character.) Additionally, it seems like this would be a task that Rochelle would undertake. Nevertheless, it ends up in an argument (as it always does) that is neatly resolved in the episode's final moments.

My disappointment in this episode is pretty high. It has so much potential, that I just hate seeing it mired in lackluster plotting. It's a great lead in for Aliens in America, which brings me to . . .

Aliens in America was one of my top five pilots of the fall and a perfect sidekick for Everybody Hates Chris. After all, who can better relate to a black teen in a all-white high school, than a Muslim teen in a, well, all-Wisconsin high school? No one, that's who.

Except, therein lies the brilliance of the show. Raja, a Muslim foreign exchange student, comes to live with a white bread, Wisconsin family, expecting a friendly jock to befriend and elevate the popularity of their nerdy eldest son, Justin. As you can imagine, they are a bit bewildered by the turn of events and much drama (and comedy, thankfully) ensues. It's during this time however, that Justin discovers the kindred spirit that is his new house guest. Raja is an outsider, sure, but so is Justin, and this discovery opens up a whole new world for him.

I'm so pleased when shows like this make it on the air because they serve as the perfect counterpoint to the glut of other teen based shows out there. (See: Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, and that's just the CW.) Where those shows glamorize and sexualize, Chris and Aliens show high school for what it really is: a painful, ugly journey, often fraught with with hilarity, both intentional and unintentional.

The cast is pitch-perfect, with the exception of Scott Patterson as the father, Gary Tolchuk. Patterson tries to play the dad as a nerdy, penny-pinching pushover, and while sometimes playing against type works, this is not one of those times. All in all, though, this show is something to watch, perhaps it'll even rise to surpass it's predecessor.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

I liked the AiA pilot a lot, but unfortunately Mondays are already so packed I doubt I'll get a chance to watch it. I mean, I only have 2 Tivos. There's only so much a girl can do. I really liked the original dad in the pilot. I was bummed that the CW decided to shoehorn Scott Patterson in because of the talent holding deal they had with him. Harumph.

Everybody Hates Chris shoots on my lot. Every few days or so, about 45 small children dressed in 80s clothes infiltrate the cafeteria at lunch and pandemonium ensues. All I want to do is get a sandwich! Go away, extras! It's really freaking annoying.