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What I Watched Last Night

Okay, if immigrants can come to New York with barely two nickels to rub together and end up owning a whole string of gas stations, restaurants and bodegas, then why can't an employed guy in Queens with $89 in the bank and a $100 savings bond get his slice of The American Dream without turning to a life of crime? Because it wouldn't be funny.

I like my TV humor dark and dry, but you can't beat a show that makes you almost piss yourself. It takes my mind off my own underpaid part of The American Dream that has me a paycheck or two away from living under a bridge. That's why I liked Wednesday's 30-minute pilot episode of The Knights of Prosperity, on ABC. I figured any show originally called Let's Rob Mick Jagger had to have something going for it. I wasn't sure what, exactly, since the Internet Movie Database says the working title before that was I Want To Rob Jeff Goldblum, and the working title before that was Untitled Donal Logue Project, but still.

Good thing they settled on Mick Jagger to rob. Jeff Goldblum would just talk the thieves to death with that rambling existentialist bullshit of his, and we'd just have a 13-weeks continuation of his diner monologue with Geena Davis in The Fly to look forward to. Then we'd all just have to kill ourselves dead.

Donal Logue (late of the under-appreciated Grounded For Life) plays Eugene Gurkin, an apartment building janitor/super careening toward middle age with a shitty job, a shitty apartment in a shitty building, and a shitty future. Instead of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Eugene was "born with a plastic spork in my ass." When a fellow, older-than-dirt janitor keels over while cleaning toilets, Eugene tells his fellow partner in grime, Francis "Squatch" Scuacieri (Lenny Venito, who's even more scary-looking as Brad Garrett, just nowhere near as tall), that it's time for a change in life. Turned down for a bank loan to begin his dream of owning a bar because he's broke, a dejected Eugene gets a brainstorm while sitting in his shitty little bathtub, drunk and watching Mick Jagger on an E! version of a cross between MTV's Cribs and whatever program it is where E! shows off all the lavishly excessive crap rich celebrities blow their money on.

When he's not busy running one of the most important bands in rock history into a yawning maw of irrelevance, Mick Jagger, we see, spends all his money on really stupid hats, and most of his day in his faaaaaabulously swanky New York apartment doing little more than taking yogurt baths and using his Thai houseboy as a soccer ball target. But that's okay, since it's tough to imagine Bono working with that sort of humor. To everyone's credit, Mick camps the whole thing up with a colossal wink-wink-nudge-nudge, down to the elevator music version of "Start Me Up." Which I'm pretty sure Mick's selling as an MP3 download somewhere.

Eugene figures, why not rob Mick Jagger? So he goes about recruiting his criminal gang by approaching every person on the street he sees with a dead-end job. Out of the group of the drunk, stupid and hopeless who show up to his big recruitment round-up on nothing more than a promise that there will be snacks, he assembles janitorial partner Squatch, Rockefeller Butts (Kevin Michael Richardson, as his "big black guy muscle"), Gourishankar "Gary" Subramaniam (Maz Jobrani, as his Persian cab-driving wheel man), and Esperanza Villalobos (Sofia Vergara), a Colombian waitress whose membership is approved just because she's hot. The last member is Louis Plunk (Josh Grisetti), a scrawny kid who just lost his college TV internship. Gary recruits him as their gang intern with a line that they're filming a sequel to Taxi, reasoning that the kid will be distracted from the real mission if he rides around in Gary's cab all day with headphones playing loud music. For college credit.

After some debate, they settle on The Knights of Prosperity as the name of the gang (because Eugene already had the T-shirts made) and then decide to which individual charities they're going to donate the excess booty from the heist. I won't detail of how the gang goes into action; it'd just be one of those "you had to be there" things. Instead, be there yourself by catching the repeat this Friday night.

The only thing that could potentially ruin this show, maybe, is that ABC will reduce it to a cameo-filled piece of crap (Kelly Ripa's not getting robbed already on one of the promos) where the clever, sarcastic writing gets so watered down that it disintegrates into a pointless, painful piece of slop. Just like NBC did with The John Larroquette Show after the first season.

***

I take back what I wrote yesterday. David Arquette actually is in something more than ten people have seen. That's because ABC sent us on another sitcom trip to Loserville Wednesday night with In Case Of Emergency, a show featuring four high school classmates who graduated in the late 1980s into their current lives of divorce, binge eating, financial ruin, and sex massage therapy.

Remember that one hard-ass every high school has who doesn't give a shit about anything, but he really does and everyone knows it, but he spends all his time trying to convince everyone he doesn't? That's what spending time with this show is like. It has virtually the same smirky, dreary-life tone and ambiance as FX Network's It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, but it doesn't want its characters to be quite that pathetic, so the writing's not quite as smart. It wants everyone to think it's a comedy instead of what it really is: an above-average comedy with an underlying, heartwarming message of friendship found in some of the unlikeliest of people. Which is the same formula Scrubs has used to avoid becoming a full-blown chick show.

Anyway, Emergency has plenty of actually-funny moments to make it, for now anyway, worth that empty half hour before tuning in at 9 to see whether this will be the week Sam Waterston disintegrates into a pile of dust on Law & Order.

Jonathan Silverman, who's about as Ben Stiller as you can probably get without actually being Ben Stiller, portrays Harry, a divorced, dateless dad whose only outlet for his unmet needs is the local Korean massage parlor. There he meets cheerful service employee Keli (Kelly Hu, obligatory eye candy), the fallen class valedictorian who also dates a cop (no! you don't say!) with the temperament of your typical cop with an up-close and personal relationship with Rodney King. Next, we meet Sherman (Greg Germann), a best-selling diet author who hijacks and tries to eat the entire contents of an Entenmann's truck when his wife leaves him. Finally, there's Jason (Arquette), a financial advisor of some sort who somehow managed to milk his investors dry (even he doesn't know how the whole scheme worked), seems to be on the brink of being nabbed by the IRS, and ends up trying to commit suicide by shooting himself in the foot.

Which brings them all together one night to the local hospital, where emergency room nurse Joanna (Lori Loughlin, who appears to have learned how to eat actual food) begins her second job of playing the sensible mother hen to them all because, well, she has a fiancee.

Curiously, the cast member who's the most interesting to watch is Arquette, who has the amazing ability to deliver bad pick-up lines and come off as one of the smoothest motherfuckers ever for being a smirky-looking white guy. He's exactly the kind of guy who'd be able to convince an insanely rich and famous TV star into marrying a B-movie actor. Wait a minute, he just did that not too long ago. Ah well, he's a trip anyway.

***

It's Thursday. Fuck Grey's Anatomy. Characters that incredibly stupid shouldn't be allowed to live, even on TV. If you care anything about yourself, the only network shows anyone needs to watch on Thursdays are My Name Is Earl (7 p.m., NBC), followed by The Office.

For your pleasure, the What I Watched Last Night files.



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Posted on January 4, 2007


MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
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SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Don't Let Your Pet OD.


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