DVD Review: Call Me Fitz: The Complete First Season

Hi again!

Since I got to college, I have been known as Fitz. My Dad was known as Fitz before me. Now my wife is known as Dr. Fitz… Suffice it to say there are a lot of Fitz’s in my family. But none of them – not one – are as sick, wrong, demented, and as big a self-centered a-hole as Richard Fitzpatrick (aka “Fitz”) (Jason Priestley, Haven, Tru Calling, Beverly Hills, 90120), the car salesman in Call Me Fitz.

Call Me Fitz is a half-hour comedy series that has not been widely broadcast here in the US (except on DirecTV‘s Channel 101). It has been quite successful in Canada and just began airing season 2 in September 2011, with production already beginning on Season 3. It features Fitz, the bizarre behavior that is the norm at Fitzpatrick Motors, and a cast of side characters that get drawn into the wake of the trouble he causes.

Anybody who knows me will tell you I’m a pretty conservative, buttoned down kind of guy in blue jeans. So Priestley’s Fitz is about as far from me as you can get. He’s the classic slimy, misogynistic used car salesman with a drinking and drug problem. But somehow Priestley plays the character with a flair that makes him seem salvageable… sometimes.

So why is Call Me Fitz so much fun if it’s about a largely unlikable character?

I honestly think it’s not about Fitz at all – it’s about his relationship with Larry (Ernie Grunwald, Supernatural, Psych, CSI ). Larry is the opposite pole to Fitz’s depravity. He’s the show’s conscience. Where Fitz is slimy, Larry is upstanding and righteous. And though Larry is innocent and pure, he still manages to get drawn into Fitz’s schemes.

But don’t think that they’re alone in this world where swearing is the main form of communication. There’s the cantankerous and demented family patriarch, Ken Fitzpatrick (Peter MacNeill, Rookie Blue, Queer as Folk). There’s Fitz’s sister, Meghan (Tracy Dawson, Wild Card, The Gavin Crawford Show). There’s the pothead car lot mechanic Josh McTaggert (Donavon Stinson, Reaper, Eureka). There’s the car lot secretary Sonja Lester (Brooke Nevin, Breakout Kings, How I Met Your Mother, NCIS, The 4400) trying to be a salesperson even as she’s taken advantage of by the staff. There’s comatose potential car buyer Babs Devon (Phyllis Ellis, Three Chords from the Truth, Murdoch Mysteries, The Wilkinsons) and her lawyer daughter Ali (Kathleen Munroe, Haven, Stargate Universe, Survival of the Dead) seeking to pin Fitz to the wall. There’s the twisted girl scout Kara (Gillian Ferrier, Second Honeymoon, Ice Castles (2010)) seeking to help the lawyer…

The whole series reminds me of an even more twisted Arrested Development, but with more strippers, drugs, and alcohol and a vaguely Charlie Sheen bad-boy weekend vibe… If you’re not a fan of swearing, drinking, rampant drug use, misogynistic behavior, or sex on TV, I’d definitely skip the series. But I think that’s part of the its charm. By losing all inhibitions and letting these characters do and say whatever they feel like, you are along for the ride and almost feel like encouraging behavior that would at the very least get you slapped in public and probably get you arrested.

Call Me Fitz: The Complete First Season includes all 13 episodes of the debut season along with some brief features. It starts with Fitz taking Babs on a test drive of a beautiful late-60s cherry red convertible Ford Mustang and getting into an accident to avoid hitting a white rabbit in the road. And it ends with an all out war on Fitz by his various conquests throughout the season. The road to self discovery in Fitz’s case seems to be through the bottom of several bottles of whiskey and more than a few bedrooms.

One of my favorite episodes is “Long Con Silver” which pits Fitz against the mother who abandoned him as a child – Elaine (Joanna Cassidy, Blade Runner, Hawthorne, Boston Legal). When Fitz has to find his mother to see if Larry is actually a blood relation, it leads to all sorts of fun revelations and a con game the whole dealership gets wrapped up in.

And another favorite was “The Upside of Matricide” which pairs Fitz with Larry and Ali to dispose of Babs’ body in the way she requested in her will. Not only did I get to see more of the beautiful and talented Kathleen Munroe use her comedy talents, but I reveled in the absurdity of using 130 pounds of pork ribs to replace a body before cremation.

The DVD set includes a few short interviews with cast and crew, bloopers, and a season 2 sneak peek, but I wish there were more extras. The bloopers are fun, but all of the features seemed very short and clipped so hopefully they’ll do more when season 2 is released.

If you’re a fan of shows with self-centered a-holes in the lead like Archer or House, Call Me Fitz should be right up your alley. Call Me Fitz: The Complete First Season is out on DVD now and I look forward to seeing the second season when it gets the DVD treatment sometime next year!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Halloween 2010, the dead rise on AMC!

Hey all…

Yes, I know it’s not even September yet and I’m talking about Halloween – one of my least favorite holidays… But this year will be different.

AMC is airing the 90-minute premiere episode of The Walking Dead… This will be a 6-episode series based on the comic of the same name written by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore and published by Image Comics.

The television series based on the comic is being directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist) and has been in the works for a while now. But up to now (unless you were at Comic Con) you might have missed the trailer (though it’s been going around the internet like wildfire).

Yes, there are survivors of a deadly zombie plague. But like all good zombie stories, it’s less about the monsters themselves but how people deal with them. When the chips are down, how do they react? Do they do what’s right? Or what’s convenient?

The survivors are led by police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) who’s simply looking for somewhere safe to call home. Rick’s wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and friend Shane (Jon Bernthal) are tagging along. And of course they pick up a few others along the way.

Here’s the trailer. It looks awesome and it’s weird looking forward to Halloween for a change! Be sure to check out the premiere on Sunday, October 31st at 10/9c on AMC.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting

Hi there!

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, Sesame Street was a good friend on the television. My parents knew it was safe to leave me in front of the TV for an hour. And when the Electric Company was on, it was a two hour event. Now as a parent, I know the content has changed but the quality remains high and I trust Sesame Street to educate and entertain this new generation just as well as educated me.

The Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting documentary was produced in 1989, covering the first 20 years of its continuing run on PBS. The series has continued to have another 20 years of success since then, so I can hardly wait to see what the show looks like in another 20! The documentary, hosted by Bill Cosby, provides a look back at the beginnings of the series, from its humble beginnings in 1969 to the worldwide acclaim and adoption it’s seen since then.

Watching with my two daughters, the video looks out of date but offers a great historical perspective on the series’ amazing legacy. Not only do you get some wonderful musical performances from Ray Charles and Plácido Domingo, but you get to hear from some of the actors who have called Sesame Street their home forever. What was more interesting to me was that Jim Henson appears to introduce the show, only a year before his untimely death. Neither of my girls knew him on sight, but when I mentioned the name they knew immediately who he was.

Seeing a much younger Luis (Emilio Delgado), Maria (Sonia Manzano), and Bob (Bob McGrath) really took me back to my childhood. It was quite obvious that the trio believed in the series from the beginning – not only as an integrated cast, but the first educational show to focus on using a curriculum to teach kids the alphabet, their numbers, language skills, shapes, colors, science, and much much more. Though the series went through occasional cast changes, such as when Mr. Hooper (Will Lee) passed away in 1983, that core trio has remained in place for more than 40 years now.

Add to that the many characters who call Sesame Street home – Bert and Ernie, Grover and the Grouch, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Kermit, and the whole gang – and you end up with a snapshot of that wonderful world. Cosby, with his usual humor and style, manages to interact with them all and give us a walking tour of the street most kids across America (and around the world) know and love.

It was very interesting to listen to the Sesame Street theme in different languages and see how different countries and cultures had adapted the show for their own children. Big Bird as a parrot instead of an eight foot yellow bird was fun to see, and listening to the theme song in Spanish, French, and Hebrew was intriguing. It’s amazing to think that kids in Germany, Israel, the West Bank, the Netherlands, and elsewhere are all benefiting from the pioneering work done by the show creators Jim Henson and Joan Cooney.

I have to admit that it’s a bit odd to me that Lionsgate chose now to release this special on DVD, but I think it proves the staying power of one of the tent poles of public television. Today, just like every day for the last 40+ years, children around the world have tuned in to learn and have fun at home.

Though I think this documentary will appeal more to parents than to kids, Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting provides a historical record of the great work Sesame Street has done for four decades and will hopefully do for my grandkids over the next 20. Hopefully we will see more of these “messages in a bottle” from the past to inform the viewers of tomorrow about the enduring legacy of this series.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great Sesame Street DVDs below!

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