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October 03, 2001 - Image 7

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-10-03

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Open mic...
Wanna be discovered? Go to the Ark
tonight by 7:30 p.m. for your big
chance. $3 admission, $2 for students.
michigandaily.com/arts

ARTS

WEDNESDAY
OCTOBER 3, 2001

7

'According to Jim'.
offers nothing new

Genuine characters
make great 'Hero's'

By Katie Den Bleyker
For the Daily
Jim Belushi, of "Curly Sue" fame,
stars in the new ABC sitcom about Jim,
a "modern" dad
who parents from
his Lazy Boy. Jim
is both macho
According and sensitive, but
to Jim must cope with
his wife, Cheryl
ABC (Courtney
Tonight at 8:30 p.m. Thorne-Smith,
y "Ally McBeal"),
F' his two young
daughters, his sis-
ter-in-law Dana
(Kimberly
Williams, a tal-
ented actress who

The first episode of "According to
Jim" focuses on the trauma both par-
ents face when their oldest daughter
hates kindergarten and cries when her
parents leave her. Jim's innovative solu-
tion is to switch his daughter's school
so that they can attend kindergarten
together (and what guy wouldn't want
to participate in nap time again?).
The fact that he fails to mention this
to his wife, and bribes his daughter into
silence creates a bit of friction between
Jim and Cheryl, just as his brother-in-
law is having marital problems of his
own. Reoccurring throughout the
episode is the message that although
married people fight, often about stupid
things, they must kiss and make up in
order for the marriage to vork. Any
Psych 111 student could have told you
that.

By Beatrice Marovich
For the Daily
Hailed as one'of the most delight-
ful new voices in the recent wave of
young writers of Indian origin,
Anita Rau Badami has spun an
enchanting tale in her newest novel,

Courtesy of ABC
Jim Belushi and Courtney Thorne-Smith star in this mediocre new comedy.

Raymond" rolled into one). Jim Belushi
has a winning comic personality that is
likable enough to keep viewers watch-
ing from week to week.
However, the show needs to step up
its comic timing a bit. There are good
bits (Jim being dragged away from his
daughter's kindergarten class by school
security guards) mixed with not so
good ones (Jim playing a Spice Girls
song on his naked belly to make his
wife laugh - if I were married to this

man I would be very scared).
And speaking of flesh, the support-
ing characters need to be fleshed out a
bit, although there is plenty of opportu-
nity to do so in later episodes.
If "According to Jim" succeeds on
ABC, it would not be a surprise, but if
it fails, it would not exactly be a shock
either. Its premise and humor are very
generic which, in the world of TV,
could either be a very good thing or a
very bad thing.

The Hero's
Walk
Anita Rau Badami
Grade: A-
Algonquin Books

"The Hero's
Walk."
This is her
second novel,
but the first to
be published in
America. Bada-
mi, who lives in
Canada, recent-
ly beat out Mar-
garet Atwood's
"The Blind
Assassin," win-
ning The Com-
m o n w e a I t h
Prize in the

is grossly underused in the first "According to Jim" shows promise,
episode) and his brother-in-law Andy if not originality (imagine "Home
(Larry Joe Campbell). Improvement" and "Everybody Loves
Not even Babe can
save'Citizen Banes

By Ryan Blay
Daily Arts Writer
This summer I had the opportuni-
ty to watch the TV movie of the
"Growing Pains" reunion. Remem-
ber the premise? Mom Maggie
Seaver runs for
political office,
her lawyer
daughter with
Citizen the type-A per-
Baines sonality man-
ages the
CBS campaign, one
of her children
Saturday at 9 p.m. goofs up and at
the end they all
realize what
they have is
each other.
Well, watching
the pilot of
" C i t i z e n
Baines" was sort of like that. Minus
the catchy theme song.
James Cromwell ("Babe") takes
on the role of Elliott Baines, three-
term incumbent senator from the
state of Washington. Up for re-elec-
tion, he is confident he can defeat
his young republican opponent -
so of course he loses. All the while
his three daughters slowly reveal

their typecast personalities bit by
bit.
Ellen (Embeth Davidtz, "Bridget
Jones's Diary") is the hotshot
lawyer managing her father's cam-
paign. Ellen is high strung and per-
haps frustrated by her law firm,
which wants her to run for office to
give it. more political clout, and in
the next episode will tender her
father a job offer. The nerve!
Jane Adams ("Frasier") is Reeva,
the Married Daughter. With two
rambunctious kids at home and a
failing marriage, she is a wreck.
She discovers her husband might be
cheating on her, and to make mat-
ters worse, she is pregnant again.
Dori (Jacinda Barrett, "The Real
World") is the Young Daughter Who
Wants to be Out of Daddy's Shadow
But Doesn't Want to Lose the Perks.
When she goes in for an interview
for a position as a photographer in
Seattle, she discovers that her dad's
connections gave her the job. But
Elliott reminds her of all the help
he's given her through the years,
such as wiping out reckless driving
and marijuana possession issues.
Still, she wants to break free.
It seems natural to want to root
for Elliott Baines. After all, he's a
bit old but still reasonably liberal;

Canadian/Caribbean region. As an
immigrant from India, Badami mas-
terfully weaves her newfound West-
ern world with that of the quickly
changing East. Her juxtaposition Of
the two is one of the novel's many
enlightening qualities.
In a small coastal town near Ben-
gal, Badami's cast of characters live
and conduct their daily lives. Her
primary character, Shripathi Roy, is
a middle-aged copywriter who has
somehow managed to reside in the
same big house on Brahmin Street
since birth. In the mornings, before
ambling off to a job that he hates,
Shripathi writes scathing letters to
the editors of local papers under the
pseudonym "Pro Bono Publico."
Accompanying him through his
humdrum existence is his bizarre
family. His cantankerous old mother
constantly threatens to die and rob
them all of her existence. His 41-

Courtesy of CBS
The characters of "Citizen Baines" hope and pray for this show to survive.

frustrated by life yet still cares for
the people, and his wife died years
ago, complicating his family life.
He's no Josiah Bartlett, but he's no
Jesse Helms either. But then again,
the pilot spent a whole hour focus-
ing on the doomed campaign of a
character called Citizen Baines.
That tends to deflate a little of the
buildup the episode worked so hard
to create.
Part of the problem is the sad,
cliched plot. Besides stealing from
NBC's "Three Sisters" (three girls
bond over sisterhood, bail each
other out, help loving father),
"Baines" has the feel of "ER." -
Not fresh "ER" circa 1994, but
older, clunkier "ER." Perhaps Exec-
utive Producer John Wells should
share at least some of the blame for
this. As a writer/director on "ER,"
he has overseen some of the most
pathetic, melodramatic sap in recent
years. Tears, weepy violin music,

the whole nine yards. But Wells
also works on NBC's much superior
drama "The West Wing." So why
can't he create similar magic here?
The chief reason may be the
absence of writers as gifted as
Aaron Sorkin of "The West Wing."
He would never stoop to having
Baines encounter a rabid religious
man declare, "it will be as God
wants it to be," then use that very
line in Baines' concession speech.
The only saving grace of the.
show is Paul McCrane, a name not
familiar to most TV fans, but a tal-
ented character actor nonetheless.
Viewers of "ER" know him better as
resident bastard Dr. Romano. Here
he is not used to maximize his tal-
ents, but he is still the best part of
the cast. Perhaps the writers should
have Cromwell call out "bah ram
ewe" and magically get Babe to
save this show. Even that couldn't
work.

year-old, unmarriel sister is ready
to implode with sexual frustration.
His son, Arun, is an environmental-
ist who chooses to ignore his
father's spiteful comments and
remain unemployed. And his wife
Nirmala, who he often finds all too
ordinary, resents him for the
estrangement of their only daughter
Maya, who lives across the world in
Canada.
When an accident forces Shri-
pathi to become responsible for
Maya's 7-year-old daughter, Nan-
dana, the relative tranquility of the
entire family is shattered. Shripathi
in particular must re-learn every-
thing he once knew about children,
but his strange 7-year-old grand-
child is troubled and proves to be a
challenge. His 57-year accumula-
tion of various realities seems
somehow irrelevant and non-applic-
able now.
Badami's fantastic characters are,
above all else, authentic and credi-
ble. They are both beautiful and ter-
rible at the same time, concurrently
frightened and brave. Faced with a
changing world both on the large
scale and the small, they watch as
India becomes westernized. Ances-
tral houses up and down the block
are leveled and replaced by tene-
ment-like apartment buildings. Each
individual is on the brink of meta-
morphosis as well, fighting to better
understand themselves, their family
and perhaps the planet in general.
Badami's language is warm, sen-
sual and descriptive, bringing life
and vitality to her narrative.
Moments of emotional intensity
exchanged between the family
members are the real gems in this
novel. A style that is deliberate and
thoughtful but never lags may leave
you intricately involved with the
lives of her characters and regretful
to leave them behind.

Dreyfuss takes his
chance with drama

By Ryan Blay
Daily Arts Writer
Who is Max Bickford? If the pre-
miere of "The Education of Max
Bickford" is any indication, Max is
a badass teacher at an all-female
college who has the cojones to tell
his students they are brown-nosers,
and a family man who loves what
teaching used to be, hating what it
is now. He's crusty enough to be a
defender of teaching about Dead
White Males, but liberal enough to
care about students learning to

b
The
Education
of Max
Bickford
CBS
Sunday at 8 p.m.

think critically
and actually get
an education.
Max is played
by Richard
Dr ey fuss.
Richard Drey-
fuss won an
academy award
years ago, and
if you actually
watched CBS.
you were made
aware of that
several hundred
times on ads for

culture, which Bickford can't han-
dle.
At first I wanted Harden to suffer
through a miserable series after the
horrible crap that was "Pollock."
Yet, she seems to have made a wise
choice. The show has a decent
chance (albeit not a decent time
slot) and could become the "Boston
Public" of college dramas.
But since the title calls for the
education of Max, nothing goes
normally for him. His best friend
Steve is back from sabbatical ... as
Erica. His adorable son wants to
make the basketball team. He fails.
His daughter may be pregnant --
she turns out not to be, but she still
is a teenaged girl who just happens
to be a freshman at the same school
as Bickford.
Almost too casually, we learn that
Max nearly killed himself years ago
and used to be an alcoholic. His
beloved wife is dead (whose isn't on
CBS?). But what hurts him most is
the loss of the chair *after his 30-
plus years teaching. The president
of the college (Regina Taylor, "I'll
Fly Away") is his old friend, but she
gives him the hard truth and tells
him he has to adapt. Then Max does
the natural thing.
He resigns.
But of course he returns, accepts
the position of department head
(with all the bullshit that goes along
with it) and learns his lesson by
admiring his son and all his deter-
mination.

McKnight to read
at Drum tonight
By Ryan C. Moloney
Daily Arts Writer
Reginald McKnight's talent for detailing the human experience is
matched by few in today's literary world.
The prize-winning. fiction writer and current pro-
fessor of English at Michigan will give a reading of
his latest work, "He Sleeps," at Shaman Drum
tonight at 8 p.m.
Reginald The book tells the story of an anthropologist's
McKnight journey to Senegal and the personal turmoil and rev-
Shaman Drum elation that ensues.
In terms of setting, the novel is somewhat predi-
Tonight at 8 p.m. eated on a trip McKnight took to Africa in his mid-
20s on a fellowship.
Other McKnight works such as "The Kind of
Light That Shines on Texas" and "White Boys"
expertly capture the essence of the social and emo-
tional climate of a specific time period in a small
corner of the world.
"He Sleeps" is the full incarnation of a short story of the same title in
"White Boys" and was released in September.

Courtesy ofT Agonquin0ooKs

the show. Dreyfuss also portrayed
teacher Mr. Holland in "Mr. Hol-
land's Opus," something that CBS
conveniently forgot before creating
an eerily similar concept for this
show.
But at least Dreyfuss' teacher is
inspiring. As a history teacher, he
gets to make lots of crucial speech-

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