11 March 2007

The Loop

On March 15, 2006, FOX debuted the new comedy The Loop, starring Grounded For Life’s (he played the dumb boyfriend) Bret Harrison. It’s the story of Sam Sullivan, the youngest executive at the corporate headquarters of a major airline. As Sam tries to find a way to cope with the demands of his career- his boss Russ is a lunatic and his coworker Meryl, a 40-something sexpot, is continuously making sexual advances towards him - the social demands of his crazy roommates seem to continue to get in the way. He lives with his brother Sully (Eric Christian Olsen) , his college buddy Piper (Amanda Loncar, and who he secretly has a crush on) and Lizzy (Sarah Wright), the sexy bartender at their local hangout.

Created by former South Park writer Pam Brady and Andy Richter Controls the Universe writer Luis Gluck, the series does push the limits, and its humor sometimes can be crude as often as it is clever. Blending broad, bathroom humor with slick satire of corporate America is hard, but the creators also have added character development to expand the sometimes stilted stereotypes of sitcom TV. It also helps that the show in single camera, forcing the audience to laugh on its own.

The gem of the show is Mimi Rogers and Phillip Baker Hall who seem to having a great time with these broad roles. Rogers Meryl is so politically incorrect, and seems to take a cruel delight in teasing him -not only as his role as this junior drone, but sexually also - that she seems to be enjoying this role immensely. And Hall has made a career out playing villains and jerks, that his turn as the CEO of the airlines -who seems clueless at times, but ruthless in giving his customers less for more money - is perfect casting.

Meanwhile, Harrison has a rubbery face and plays the straight man very well. His double takes and ability not to get silly make his character very appealing, as he tires his hardest not be what every corporate drone has been for decades. Also, Olsen’s Sully is atypical older brother seen on TV and in the movies. He’s the slacker, and actually seems to be younger than his brother. The actor is appealing and like Harrison, cute and lovable.

Plus, as a bonus, both Harrison and Olsen spend a lot of time shirtless. So its got that going for it.

The two girls, Piper and Lizzy make up the rest and while fine, essentially could be dropped. The real element of the show is Harrison, Olsen, Rogers and Hall. And then there’s Joy Osmanski as Sam’s assistant Darcy. She is bitter that she graduated from M.I.T. yet can only get a job as an assistant to a guy who’s only talent it seems, is to remember everything about the airline buisness for the last couple of decades.

The show ran seven episodes, and to be honest, I expected it not to be renewed. While the show had weak ratings, it still did well enough as a post Idol show (well, it retained a larger audience than the previous show, something called Life on a Stick). In a surprise move, when FOX announced its fall schedule last May, they had order 13 new episodes for the 2006-07, but the show would re-tooled to focus more on the workplace adventures of Sam at the airlines.

In November of 06, FOX cut back the order of 13 to 10, perhaps knowing that by the time the show premiered in the 07, their schedule was too full to rerun the seven episodes, and then 10 new ones. In late February, the network announced the show would return in June, which is after the TV season has ended, and does not bode well for it continuing. As a matter of fact, Harrison is already doing a pilot, which more or less confirms the show is dead.

On March 6, the first season was released on DVD. The best part of the watching the show on DVD is to catch all the flubs. The show is set in Chicago, but beyond the lovely camera shots of the city, and the opening credits which were filmed there, its obviously filmed in LA. Take for example the opener, which had Sam giving a birthday party to Piper. They decide to have the party at Comisky Park, home of the Chicago White Socks. Of course, as a name, Comiskey no longer exists. It’s now known as US Celluar Field or as radio DJ Steve Dahl call, the Joan (because actress Joan Cusack ptiches for the cell phone dealer). Anyway, there is a pan to the jumbo tron and if you look closely (and freeze the frame) you can clearly see that they are in Dodger Stadium, as the Los Angeles Times banner can be seen.

Plus, of course, in the meetings at the “airfield”. Through the windows, you can clearly see the hills of California.

The show quirky, with an appealing cast and while I say it was never as clever as Arrested Development, it was still better The War at Home.

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