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Fred's Views


A New Reality

It seems to me that this TV season that is slowly winding down has been one of the strangest. Obviously, the war with Iraqi government has had quite an effect recently, but that's only a small part.

TV shows have been moved around the schedule as never before. Shows leave the air waves for weeks at a time. And there seems no end of bad ideas and bad taste when it comes to the flood of so-called reality shows that spam the air waves.

This is the time of year when some shows get a short run to see if they can catch an audience while others get a short run just to use up the few episodes that some ex-executive ordered while in a drunken stupor (which doesn't necessarily mean the shows themselves were bad). Last night, as I write this, a show called Regular Joe debuted. It stars Daniel Stern as the father(Joe Binder, recently a widower,) and son of co-star Judd Hirsch(Baxter). Joe has two children: his son, Grant (John Francis Daley) and daughter, Joanie(Kelly Karbacz). Grant is in high school while his daughter, Joanie, is in college as well as being a single mother of Zoe. Hirsch is the owner of a hardware store where his son (Stern) works as well as his grandson (sometimes) and Sitvar (Brian George) a high-strung man of Indian descent.

In this episode, the daughter learns that she has been accepted by Columbia University. Unfortunately, her "college fun" was used to pay for the baby's birth and other such expenses. There's no money. Meanwhile, the son asks his dad for a raise and is insulted when he is offered a fifty cent per hour bump. He is egged on by the Indian employee who resents the fact that the son has been "promoted" to running the paint mixing machine. He threatens to quit which allows them to eventually work in the classic line: "You can't quit, you're fired!"

Now all of this is just fine and certainly nothing to write a column about, so why am I? Well it turns out that Columbia will cost about $12,000 a semester. I know university, especially in the U.S., is expensive, but that seems somewhat excessive. But okay. Meanwhile, although they are somewhat short for cash, Stern apparently has a daily $5 specialty coffee and a Danish. Then, when his son quits and gets a job delivering Chinese food, he brings lunch to his father: $18.75 worth. Now I know that $5 and even $18 is a long way from $12,000, but if he bought normal (or better yet, made) coffee and made his lunch, he'd save at least $20/day, $100.00 per week, $5,000 a year! But he's not the only one who doesn't seem to appreciate the value of a dollar. The girl tries waitressing for a while, but eventually can't balance being a mother, a student and a waitress. She settles for the local college. However, she doesn't quite give up on the dream: she spends $35 for a "Columbia" sweatshirt for herself and $20 for one for her child. O, and the son, he gets a $2.00 raise - presumably per hour although it did not specifically say.

Now I realize this is just a sitcom. The expensive coffee and Danish were mainly props for a shot of Stern gulping down the food in a manner that reminds one of his greatest roles from the first two Home Alone movies. And probably the cost of lunch just popped out of someone's head. But it seems a symptom of our times: instant gratification with little or no thought to the bigger long-term effect.

I don't know if Regular Joe will be successful. It didn't seem to have the smoothness or chemistry of some of the more successful, instant hits like Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, but one never knows. But I'd hate to think that this Joe is just a regular guy.

Regular Joe can currently be seen Fridays at 9:30 p.m. on ABC (I don't know if any Canadian stations have picked it up yet.)

Originally written in 2003. The series folded quickly.

Copyright © 2003 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.


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