Tag Archives: Curb Your Enthusiasm

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Richard Kind

8 Apr

One of a Kind

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Playing largely portly, often anxious and neurotic characters might seem to limit the roles an actor can get, but in Richard Kind’s case, as the go-to for the type, it means he gets a lot of them.  He’s done plenty of movie work as well, including a spot in 2012 Best Picture winner Argo, but we’ll be focusing on his TV work, the medium in which he’s had his biggest successes.

Kind, born in 1956, had his first role in TV movie Two Fathers’ Justice in 1985 as District Attorney.  He appeared in a failed sitcom pilot called the Bennett Brothers as one of said brothers, an odd couple, whose other member was no less than George Clooney.  He was in single episodes of Hooperman, My Sister Sam, Mr. Belevedere, Empty Nest, 21 Jump Street, and Anything But Love.   He was a regular on eight episode 1989 NBC series Unsub, a sort of proto-Criminal Minds about an FBI team which tracks serial killers, where he appeared alongside  David Soul and M. Emmet Walsh.

He began the 1990s as a regular role player in Carol Burnett one season sketch show Carol & Company, in which he acted aside future luminaries Peter Krause and Jeremy Piven. He then traveled along with Carol when a new version of The Carol Burnett show was produced for CBS in 1991, which also didn’t last long.  He was in episodes of Princesses, Stand by Your Man, Great Scott, and The Building, and in 1992 finally got his breakthrough as a recurring character in smash success Mad About You.  He appeared in 37 episodes of the series as Dr. Mark Devanow, who left his wife, and Jamie’s best friend, Fran Devanow to see the world.  He later reconciled with his wife, converted to Buddhism  and worked at a grocery store.

Richard Kind started to get regular appearances in main casts of failed sitcoms around this time.  He starred with Julia Campbell and Stephen Tobolowsky in Blue Skies in 1994 about two guys who operate a mail-order business in Boston.  Soon after Blue Skies’ cancellation the same creators imported some of the same actors (Kind, Campbell, and Tobolowsky, now with Corbin Bernsen and John O’Hurley) to work on A Whole New Ballgame in the same time slot, about an ex-ball player who becomes a sportscaster for a local Milwaukee TV station.  The show failed equally quickly.  Kind also appeared on six episodes of the Michael Chiklis-led The Commish.  In the mid-90s, he lent his talents to individual episodes of Nowhere Man, Space: Above and Beyond, Something So Right, The Lionhearts, and Strangers with Candy.

Delivering the Spin

In 1996, he got his next big break, and the part he is most famous for, as Paul Lassiter in Spin City.  Kind is in all 145 episodes of the show, including the two Charlie Sheen seasons, after Michael J. Fox left to cope with his Parkinson’s disease. Kind’s Lassiter is the Press Secretary for the New York City Mayor’s office, and is known for being gullible, subject to practical jokes, and a bit of a cheapskate.

He lent his voice to episodes of The Wild Thornberrys and Oswald, and appeared in Disney Channel’s Even Stevens.  He began the ’00s by showing up in two episodes of Still Standing (did you know every Still Standing episode title began with the word “Still”?  I sure didn’t) and individual episodes of Just Shoot Me!, Miss Match, Girlfriends, Oliver Beene, The Division (one of his first drama appearances) and Less Than Perfect.  He narrated a series of Disney interstitial programming known as Go, Baby! which featured two babies playing with one another.

He appeared in four Scrubs episodes as hypochondriac patient Harvey Corman.  He went back to kids TV to show up in episodes of Sesame Street and a voice role in five episodes of Kim Possible.  He also lent his voice to two episodes of famously failed adult animated series Father of the Pride.  In 2002, he made his first of four memorable appearances on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm as Larry’s irritating Cousin Andy.  He famously asked Larry for money to fund his wife’s cosmetology school after Larry offered to pay his child’s college tuition.

Larry and Cousin Andy

He was in TV movies Genetically Challenged and The Angriest Man in Suburbia and single episodes of series Head Cases, Reba, Psych, Three Moons Over Milford, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, as well as two each of E-Ring, Stargate: Atlantis, and All of Us.  He was in a Two and a Half Men, Trauma, ‘Til Death, and Harry’s Law, and multiples of Burn Notice, Leverage, and Mr. Sunshine as well as voice roles in American Dad! and The Penguins of Madagascar.

He co-starred in ill-fated but underrated David Milch HBO series Luck as Joey Rathburn, an agent for jockeys.  Within the last year since Luck was cancelled, he’s appeared in NYC-22, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Kroll Show, and Golden Boy, where he plays an interviewing journalist in the pilot.

We salute you for your work, Richard Kind.  The next supporting role for a slightly rotund man proud to live up to the occasional Jewish stereotype is just a call away.  Before we go, I’d like to additionally give credit to his work in the hugely underrated Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man, and note the interesting trivia fact that his best man at his 1999 wedding was his fellow Bennett brother George Clooney.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: The Outcasts, Part 4

30 Jan

This is my ranking of shows that I watched in 2012 – for the rules, see the intro;  so far we’re discussing shows that made my last list but not this one.

Here are the last shows that made last year’s list that didn’t make the cut this year.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry David

2011 ranking:  16

One of few shows on TV that can disappear temporarily and return at any time at the whim of the creator and star (see: Louie), Curb declined to air episodes in 2012 and may be over or may not be.  It’s a very funny show, and I’d certainly welcome it back for more.  In fact, I’d vastly prefer it if there were more episodes.  Still, there’s been eight seasons and there’s no serial plotlines that need to be wrapped up anymore, and it’s pretty much Larry David’s decision on whether to go on or not, so it’s hard to say I would be devastated if the show was over for good.  It’s a great show to just throw on an episode or leave in the background, and although it’s really awkward and somewhat uncomfortable to watch, the situations are usually ridiculously enough to avoid truly painful British The Office levels of discomfort.  It’s just Larry David and co. talking a lot, and it’s not exactly the most unpredictable or nuanced show, but it’s frequently laugh out loud funny.

Bored to Death

Watching this did not make me bored to death

2011 ranking: 11

Bored to Death is probably the show whose cancellation most frustrated me in recent years.  This is due to some combination of factors.  First, I really liked the show, thought it was as good as ever, and that it had a lot more to give.  Second, because the show had made it to its third season, it already had had some legs, and because it wasn’t past its fifth season, it didn’t seem like it was logically time to come to an ending. Third, because the show was on HBO, ratings weren’t quite as important as they would be on a network, especially because the show continued to get positive critical notice.  That basically sums up to the points that I really liked it and thought it actually had a good chance of returning, so I didn’t just accept losing it right away as I have other ill-fated shows.  Not to mention, the show ended with main character, Jonathan Ames, sleeping with someone who unbeknownst to him is probably his sister.  That has to be the strangest way a show has ever had an unplanned ending.


Where are the Terriers?

2011 ranking:  10

Terriers aired in fall of 2010, which was covered in my last rankings, though it seems like longer ago.  Because the show wasn’t a BIG show the way Game of Thrones is or the way one year failure Terra Nova was, I think it’s been easy to forget.  There hasn’t been a big bring-back-Terriers crowd, or constant references to Terriers as a show that died before its time.  However, that’s not to say it wasn’t acclaimed; nearly everyone who saw Terriers liked it.  Of course, the problem was largely than nobody watched it.  Part of the reason for that is the name – a terrible one, which not only revealed nothing about the show, but also doesn’t intrigue the type of audience who the show is geared towards.  Part was also the fact that well, it doesn’t sound that great, if you just describe the show in brief.   There was an ongoing plot but Terriers was basically the story of two characters played by Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James who were PI partners constantly finding themselves in over their heads on cases.  Of course there’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea; there’s no huge hook or complicated premise.  Anyway, since I can’t imagine you’ll be reading more about Terriers anytime soon, let’s give the show one last fond goodbye.

The Venture Bros.

Hank and Dean

20111 ranking: 8

The Venture Bros. has come to resemble late season Sopranos, in which a season only airs every two years.  A special Halloween episode actually aired this year, but I declined to allow that special to qualify the show for entry in this year’s rankings.  It’ll finally be back in 2013 though, so it can look forward to a spot in next year’s rankings, and hopefully a high one if the quality is what I hope.   No show handles a complicated continuity better than Venture Bros, and the mixture of sophisticated comic storylines with pop culture references and wise-cracking punchlines keeps Venture great.  Not every episode is amazing, but they’re mostly solid and when they hit, they hit. Season 4 alone created some instant classics including film noir-style episode Everybody Comes to Hank’s, and Season 4 premiere, Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel, told out of chronological order, with the only marking of time being the value of a rare comic book which slowly gets destroyed over the course of the episode.  Frustratingly, wikipedia decided to remove the individual episode pages, which were incredible and useful resources about the show.

Ranking the Show I Watch – 16: Curb Your Enthusiasm

6 Oct

(Note:  This was mostly written before this past season, and the sentiment is pretty much the same but I added an additional best episode at the end)

This awkwardness factor in this occasionally makes the Office look like a comfortable place to work.  It’s another unique show – although I don’t have any proof of this, I would wager there’s more improvisation in this show than in any other that I watch, and that’s not necessarily a good or bad thing but it works for this show.

I can’t think of any other popular show, or show that I watch anyway, that is driven by a single person as much as Curb.  It lives and dies by Larry – he’s in almost every scene and he’s far and away the most important character.  His wife, who would be second, is not even with him during the seventh season, and Jeff, the third most, is here and there.  I’m particularly not a huge fan of Susie – her schtick of cursing a lot and banning Larry from their house gets old very quickly.  The show works through the idea (like in Seinfeld) that Larry (and his friends Jeff and Richard Lewis) are immature and inappropriate and say the things we all think but don’t say, and even a bunch of the things we don’t even think.

Each season has an extremely loose running plot, and last season’s featured Larry trying to put together a Seinfeld reunion so he could cast his wife, spend time with her, and get back together.  The Seinfeld reunion I think was one of the better running plots and I thoroughly enjoyed Jerry himself being in about half the episodes of the season – it reminded me why I like Seinfeld a little bit better than curb – the addition of a straight man within the show really does help.

As further part of my rediscovery that in the right instance the catch phrase can become a potent weapon rather than a silly crutch, I’ve been able to identify three or four signature Larry quotes and actions that are fantastic.  Classics include his long and probing stare at someone who he thinks is bullshitting him, his semi-sarcastic prett-ay good, prett-ay good, and his, before asking an inappropriate or inane question, “Let me ask you something” – one of my favorite uses of this is in one of my favorite scenes in the series, when Larry, masquerading as a limo driver asks John McEnroe a series of ridiculous questions – “you have allergies?,” “ you believe in a god of some kind?,” “you like life?,” “do you garden?”

What It’s This High:  Seinfeld 2.0 more or less – the neurosis, the common every day situations spelled out, continuation of a successful formula

Why It’s Not Higher:  Slightly more less than more Seinfeld 2.0 – I love it, but yeah, sometimes I just want to shake Larry and tell him to give it a break, and the situations are relatable a little less often than in Seinfeld

Best episode of the most recent season:  Even though it doesn’t have Seinfeld in it, “Vehicular Fellatio” which contains of the funniest scenes of the season when Larry David, who wants to break up with his girlfriend, portrayed by Vivica A. Fox, but feels he can’t because she has cancer, tries to get her to break up with him by bringing her to a doctor notorious for advising women to dump men, and trying to act as stupid as humanly possible – Larry, after braying like a horse – “horses do it – and I can see why they do it – it feels good”

For the most recent season now, I’ll pick “The Bi-Sexual” mainly because it has the single funniest scene in the season, shown below.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Lenny Venito

28 Sep

Venito has made a career largely of playing an Italian stereotype, both in drama and in comedies.  At the beginning of his career, television appearances came infrequently.  In 1988, he appeared in an episode of The Equalizer, in 1992 in an episode of Here and Now, in 1995 in an episode of The Cosby Mysteries and in 1996 in an episode of New York Undercover.  He appeared in the TV movie Witness to the Mob about Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, who was played by Nicholas Turturro.

He next appeared as a regular in extremely short-lived sitcom Living in Captivity on Fox in 1998.  The show was about the ins and outs of a gated community inCalifornia.  Venito starred as Carmine Santucci, an auto parts mogul.  He next appeared on a 2002 episode of short-lived Dennis Leary show The Job and in six episodes of NYPD Blue as Julian Pisano.  He appeared in a Third Watch, a Hack, and as two different characters in two early 2000s Law & Order episodes, one of them as a mobster in Everybody Loves Raimondo’s, an episode I think I’ve seen half a dozen times.  He started to work more regularly in the 2000s, showing up in a The Practice, and in two The Jurys in 2004, and in two episodes of Blind Justice in 2005, one as his NYPD Blue character.

In 2006, he started a nine episode run in Sopranos as James “Murmur” Zancone.  Murmur was a friend and sponsor of Christopher and helps kidnap screenwriter J.T. Dolan.  He’s perhaps best remembered for helping to stealHollywoodgift baskets, wrestling them away from actors Ben Kingsley and Lauren Bacall.  In 2006, he also appeared in three episodes of more successful Dennis Leary show Rescue Me and in the pilot of The Black Donnellys.  In 2007, he was in two episodes of Queens Supreme and co-starred in the nine episodes aired of Knights of Prosperity, an ABC sitcom in which the title friends were plotting to rob Mick Jagger (the original title was Let’s Rob Mick Jagger.  Venito portrayed Francis “Squatch” Squacieri, next to Donal Logue and Sofia Vergara.  He was also in a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in the same year and in an episode of Flight of the Conchords as John, an incompetent mugger who later befriends Jemaine, both of whom were abandoned by their partners.

In 2008, Venito was in single episodes of Life on Mars and Ugly Betty.  In 2009 he reprised his Flight on the Conchords mugger role in another episode.  In 2010 he appeared in a Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and showed up in two episodes of Bored to Death as a mounted policeman who hires Jonathan to steal back some incriminating photos of him before the police raid an S&M club.  He most recently appeared in two episodes of short-lived but well-reviewed FX show Lights Out and in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm as the not-otherwise-named one armed man.  He evades Larry several times during the episode, as no one else believes in his existence.