100%

Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue

Share

Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

November 18, 1987 - Image 22

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-11-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ENTER TAINM
TELEVISION

4 4

Serious
Comedies
Writer-producer Jay Tarses makes the TV
sitcom look irrelevant with shows that
effectively combine low humor and high drama

t

I .

*1

BY RON GIVENS

There's no particular reason why anyone
would ever notice this ugly, dark gray box of
a building. It squats between a tile store and
a flood-control canal in North Hollywood.
Across the busy six-lane street area "donut"
shop, a clinic that specializes in chiroprac-
tics and podiatry, a fast-food chicken place
and a video store. This is a typically nonde-
script commercial strip of the San Fernan-
do Valley, and even here the dark gray
buildingdoes not stand out. Yet it is here, in
what Jay Tarses calls "the bowels of hell, "
that the employees of Slap Happy Produc-
tions are trying to create television in a new
and exciting way.
ered one of the most brilliant
Who is Jay Tarses? He's consid-
men working in commercial
television today. But, unless
you're a dedicated scanner of
credits, you've probably never heard of
him. Tarses is a writer, producer and direc-
tor of television programs, as well as an
occasional actor. He has managed to devel-
op a glowing reputation in the TV industry
even though he's never come up with an
out-and-out hit series. In 15 years of full-
time TV work, only three of the shows he
has created, or helped to create, have run
beyond a single season. But Tarses, 48, pos-
sesses influence far beyond ratings. His
"Buffalo Bill," which starred Dabney Cole-
man as an abrasive talk-show host, has
become a cult show in its current incarna-
tion on cable. And in recent months, he has
pushed television comedy far beyond the
tired conventions of the sitcom-with "The
Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" last sum-
8 NEWSWEEKONCAMPUS

Taking a meeting: Brush, Doyle and
Tarses (from left); work and play E
mix on Tarses's desk

.-.
0. . Y "

mer on NBC and "The 'Slap' Maxwell Sto-
ry" on ABC this fall. Says Brandon Tarti-
koff, president of NBC Entertainment, "I
think he's one of the few original thinkers
in Hollywood."
Tarses is among a handful of producers
who've given TV a new, more serious
sense of humor. This can be seen most
strongly in a few influential shows that
blend comedy and drama in varying pro-
portions. The television industry has al-
ready coined a term for this kind of pro-
gram, "dramedy." (It's a term that some,
including Tarses, happen to hate.) Three
current shows fit this formatless format.
ABC has "'Slap' Maxwell" and "Hooper-
man," about a police detective, starring

John Ritter. And CBS has "Frank's
Place," about a New Orleans restaura-
teur, starring Tim Reid. Then there's
"Molly Dodd," which will return to the
NBC slate later this season.
All three networks have more dra-
medies in development. The reason is
simple, according to Bernie Brillstein,
Tarses's manager and the chief execu-
tive officer of Lorimar Telepictures,
who believes that the networks are
more willing to experiment because the
numbers of prime-time viewers have
been declining in recent years: "When
people have the [remote-control] clicker in
their hand, if you don't give
them an alternative, they're going to
turn you off."
It's 9:30 a.m., and the dark gray building
is bustling with activity. Tarses is meeting
with writer-producer Bob Brush and pro-
ducerRoz Doyle to discuss locations in New
York where "MollyDodd"mightshoot in a
month. In the back of the building, a group
of technicians is lighting a three-walled
kitchen set. And in the building's entry-
way, Beth Hillshafer is directing a "home
movie" version of Slap Maxwell's wedding
reception, to be projected later in the back-
ground of another scene. A small table has

4
I

NOVEMBER 1987

Back to Top

© 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan