Hollywood Notebook 'Undateable': Back to comedy basics

The Fresno BeeMay 25, 2014 

Talking to executive producers can be tough. They often have nothing to say. That's never the case with Bill Lawrence — the man behind such shows as "Spin City," "Scrubs," "Cougar Town" and "Surviving Jack."

"Undateable," his latest series with fellow executive producer Adam Sztykiel, begins at 9 p.m. Thursday on NBC (KSEE, Channel 24).

The new comedy looks at friends who are extremely close to getting into a relationship — they just need a little help.

Lawrence — in his usual energetic manner — explains how the series is going old school.

"Mostly we wanted to do a throwback show. I grew up loving and worshiping 'Cheers.' I love multi-camera sitcoms that only have two or three sets and that you're hoping, just watching, not only performers have fun with each other and riff and make up stuff on their own, but kind of laugh and enjoy each other. I think these guys pull it off," Lawrence says.

The "guys" include Chris D'Elia, Brent Morin, Ron Funches and Rick Glassman — all stand-up comedians. You might remember D'Elia as the best thing about "Whitney."

Picking the cast was easy.

"When we went about doing this show, we said the thing that we were kind of excited about doing is getting a bunch of stand-up comics that were friends before the show started and seeing if that translates to cast chemistry," Lawrence says.

Tough guy

Getting cast in FOX's new gritty, action-drama "Gang Related" is a big change from the last series role Ramon Rodriguez had. In this series, Rodriguez plays Ryan Lopez, a rising star in an elite Gang Task Force in Los Angeles.

Long before Ryan became a cop, he pledged allegiance to a Latino gang called Los Angelicos. That's miles away from his role as John Bosley on the updated version of "Charlie's Angels."

He goes from supporting player to the heart of this series. It's a complicated role that Rodriguez has embraced.

"The question is, is there an end game? I think my character hopes there's an end game, but I think he sees throughout the season that it's not that easy. There's a ton of challenges going on, whether it's with the family and the family trying to get out or whether it's with the GTF (Gang Task Force) and the GTF trying to take down his family," Rodriguez says. "So I think it just continues to get more complex as the season goes on.

"In the beginning, I think things were very simple at one point, and he thought, yeah, this is a great way to get the family out, it's working. And things really just get complicated, and he right now doesn't see an end game, I don't think, but he hopes for one."

One of the best parts of the job for Rodriguez is doing stunt work.

"I get to do a lot of my stunts, which I'm always trying to do as many I can as long as they're cool with it. I get to ride a motorcycle. I get to drive my car or stunts and jumping around. And as long as they let us, a lot of it's a blast," Rodriguez says.

Acting naturally?

One of the big questions I always have when I'm watching "America's Got Talent" is why certain acts get in front of the judges, who will tell performers that they don't have a "million-dollar act." That means a guy getting shot out of a cannon once is fun, but it isn't the kind of performance that would work nightly as a Las Vegas show.

Judge Howie Mandel explains that even when an act doesn't have the million-dollar qualities, that doesn't mean it's a failure. To him, it's all about capturing the attention of the viewing public.

"A couple years ago we had that guy, Horse, who was kicked in the genitals, he ended up getting a show on another network," Mandel says. "That's the beauty of this show — the most successful talent show on TV right now is on this network, and it's 'The Voice.' They have 'The Voice.'  We have everything else."

The few moments NBC revealed of the upcoming ninth season proves his point. The clip shows a guy biting into a license plate. Mandel stresses that the bite isn't the whole story. You have to see what he does after his metal meal.

"We'll sit there and look at each other and go, 'Can you believe that guy did that?'

"You see a millisecond of it right now and you're talking about a guy chewing through a license. That is nothing compared to the things you're going to see.

"It's more dangerous, crazier, more spectacular, more energy and more off the hook than this show has ever been before," Mandel says.

The new season starts Tuesday.


TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at www.fresnobeehive.com.

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