Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks - Television Edition: Workplace

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join the fun by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them.

I'm at work writing this right now, which seems only appropriate given that this month's TV Edition is focused on the Workplace!

Herewith, my three picks for this evergreen setting for TV shows:

Boston Public (2000-2004) This was required viewing in my household, as my Dad was a high school foreign language teacher turned Assistant Principal and my Mom was a school social worker. The show from David E. Kelly (The Practice, Ally McBeal) was about the goings-on at a public school in Boston, MA, and in particular focused on the teachers. There were plenty of opportunities to address Important Issues (some of which were handled well, others that were NOT), and plenty of opportunities for soap operatics (some of which were just WAY too weird given the setting), but mostly, it was a chance to show that teachers have a fucking DIFFICULT job, and that school administrators often have it even worse. Just try having a personal life when your job lasts from 6 AM to 6 PM and you have to deal with teenagers who would rather be anywhere else all day. With a great ensemble cast including Chi McBride as the Principal, Fyvush Finkel, Jessalyn Gilsig, Nicky Katt, Loretta Devine, Sharon Leal, Michael Rapaport, and Jeri Ryan as the teachers.

Veep (2012-present) Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives the greatest comic performance ever seen on television as Vice President Selina Meyer. Surrounded by incompetents, idiots, assholes, and every combination thereof, Selina bravely trudges through each day dealing with whatever obstacles are thrown in her way with some of the most creative insults on TV. Those, of course, come from Armando Ianucci, genius creator of this and the similarly brilliant British TV show The Thick of It. You may think I'm being hyperbolic about Louis-Dreyfus's performance, but trust me. She is SUBLIME in this role, brilliantly showing every single one of Selina's many sides often simultaneously. It's a wonder of a performance, aided by one of the most talented ensembles on TV.

Fawlty Towers (1975-1979) Ladies and gentlemen, the Perfect Sitcom. John Cleese's towering performance as Basil Fawlty, the owner of the perpetually on-the-brink hotel that gives the series its title, is nothing short of utter perfection. The main joke of the series is that Fawlty runs a hotel but can't stand his guests, and will explode at them if they so much as breathe at the wrong time. The hotel staff - Spanish waiter Manuel, maid Polly, and Basil's wife Sybil - run the gamut from incompetent to unfailingly professional, both of which make Basil seethe with rage - always hilariously. If you haven't had the pleasure, sit down and binge the whole series - you can easily do it in a day, if you don't die from not being able to breathe because you're laughing so hard!


  1. I'm not sure why I never watched Boston Public. I saw an episode or two and thought it was okay but in those pre-DVR days it was probably on the wrong night for me.

    I have no good reason that I've never seen Veep but I'm so far behind now I don't know if I'll ever catch up. I am curious since I like JLD.

    I love Fawlty Towers and now seeing it I can't believe I didn't think of that other great British workplace show Are You Being Served?! Love that one too!

    I reached back a ways for mine but there are SO many to choose from it was a bit overwhelming.

    Murphy Brown (1988-1998)-After spending some time in rehab for her drinking problem broadcaster and tough broad Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) returns to work on her news show FYI joining capable but insecure investigative reporter Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto), esteemed uptight anchorman Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough) and perky former beauty queen turned features reporter Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford) and led by high strung producer Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud) who frequently butts heads with the assertive Murphy. For ten seasons the team tackled topical subjects (including Murphy’s baby becoming a cause celebre when Vice President Dan Quayle condemned her for having a child out of wedlock) and Murphy’s inability to find a decent secretary-over the show’s run she had nearly 100. That is unless Murphy was home dealing with her permanent housepainter-daffy, endearing conceptual artist Eldin Bernecky (Robert Pastorelli). Winner of a massive amount of Emmys, Candice Bergen withdrew her name from contention after receiving her 5th.

    Designing Women (1986-1993)-At the small Atlanta interior design firm Sugarbakers the four female partners-sisters, the fiery feminist Julia & shallow much married Suzanne Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter & Delta Burke) plus single mom Mary Jo Shively & na├»ve country girl Charlene Frazier (Annie Potts & Jean Smart) struggle to make a success of the business while discussing and quarrelling about their lives and the situations that cross their paths to humorous effect. Providing the male prospective is their handyman, ex-con Anthony Bouvier (Meshach Taylor). Brilliantly acted sitcom addressed many sensitive subjects including AIDS, racism, spousal abuse, homophobia and in the award winning episode “They Shoot Fat Women, Don’t They?” the cruelty towards people because one’s surface appearance has changed. Ironically for a show about a workable partnership between four people the show because infamous for its hostile work environment behind the scenes with Delta Burke and the producers clashing so strongly (and publicly) that she eventually left the show. It never recovered the special chemistry of its initial lineup.

    Bay City Blues (1983)-Ensemble drama of minor league California baseball team The Bluebirds as they move from town to town. As the rookies, up and comers and one time big name players try and work together to form a winning team they have to deal with outside interference as well as each other. An entertaining “lost” series this extremely short-lived show (8 episodes) was Stephen Bochco’s follow-up to Hill Street Blues and starred many performers who appeared on that show or would on his next, L.A. Law including Dennis Franz, Ken Olin and Michele Greene plus a pre-stardom Sharon Stone.

  2. Veep! I love that show so much. It's my favorite comedy on right now. I don't see any hyperbole there, only truth.

    I didn't see any of the other two, though I remember Boston Public being on.

  3. I'm familiar with the first two shows, but sadly I haven't seen one minute of either.

  4. I haven’t seen the first 2 and I really want to see Veep..I just don’t have HBO. As for Fawlty, love love it and I almost picked it along with the other great Are You Being Served but I didn’t. I was hoping someone would pick FT and I’m glad you did.