Everybody Hates Chris


The Husband:

After four hilarious, heartfelt and slyly subversive years, Everybody Hates Chris has come to an end, and while I wish it could have gone on for years to come, I absolutely understand its cancellation. As Chris Rock, in real life, dropped out of high school at the time that this season ended, the show would have lost its focus, shifting away from the family and his junior high/high school stories and moved into the world of unpopular stand-up, a short run on SNL and then ultimately becoming one of the biggest comedians in the world. But those are stories we already know, and this show was about the stories we didn’t know.

So Rock ended the show the way he wanted to, and in a glorious homage to the Sopranos finale that had every member of Chris’ family sitting in a diner and waiting to open an envelope that would say whether or not Chris was to be held back a year due to excessive tardiness, the screen cut to black. (For those few who are both Sopranos fans and Everybody Hates Chris fans, maybe this ending can prove to you that Tony Soprano was not killed at the end of the series, nor did he live his life, because the answer, as it would be in this context, was both. Conspiracy theory assholes ruining my television blogs with inane chatter.) It was an appropriate ending to a show that never let any of its characters off the hook, a remarkably dark program that still managed to somehow appease the PTC by simply not being vulgar about it. (Although it did condone beating your children on a regular basis, which has always rubbed me the wrong way. It turned into a pretty consistent running gag, though, so I can’t really knock them for that.)

Not hating the ending of Everybody Hates Chris.

Not hating the ending of Everybody Hates Chris.

What episodes hit my chuckle button the most since we last checked in on this show? I loved loved loved Tichina Arnold’s performance in one of the final episodes, “Everybody Hates Tasha,” when she found out that Julius was still technically married to his previous wife thanks to a legal snafu. Arnold is one of the funniest actresses on television now, and I’m hoping for a return to film, but instead of being a singer (see Little Shop Of Horrors) she can be the scene-stealing comedienne.

Other funny episodes included “Everybody Hates Varsity Jackets,” where Chris joined the wrestling team and was only a success because their competition never had anybody in his weight class, “Everybody Hates The Car” which chronicled everything that could have possibly gone wrong with Chris buying his first car, and everything revolving around the pretty woman in the window, which Drew exploited for cash, in “Everybody Hates Boxing.”

The rest, however, were not as great as the show has been in the past, but they can’t all be gems. What worked about this show was tone tone tone, a frothy high about pretty damn serious things. And little things, like casting great character actors from previous African-American based shows such as What’s Happening? and 227, gave the show a considerably welcoming touch. (And if you’re looking to revisit some of those shows, there’s a cable channel, way late in the numbers, called TV One that airs a good deal of this classics in a great chunk each evening. Just say away from the Christian crap in the middle of the night, so don’t forget to turn off your TV before you doze off, lest you get inducted into the faith against your will.) Also a nice touch was having Drew perform at the Apollo during the finale, as he is based on Chris’ brother Tony who has a comedy and television career completely outside of Chris’ shadow.

On the same note as Ms. Tichina Arnold, Tyler James Williams, who carried the entire show on his shoulders this whole time, deserves a long career after this. He’s a star. He’s reliable, he’s adaptable, and he’s hilarious. And he deserves a hell of a lot better than Unaccompanied Minors. (I’m sorry, Paul Feig, I love your TV baby known as Freaks & Geeks and absolutely adore your books, but that was not much of a movie. Why can’t you find better projects for yourself? Grab your Sabrina The Teenage Witch co-stars Melissa Joan Hart and Soleil Moon Frye and make the greatest Woody Allen/Judd Apatow-type female neuroses movie ever.)

And as for you, funny-looking Vincent Martella, you should take all the free time you have now since you’re no longer playing Greg and convince Disney to make a full-length film version of the glorious show you voice for, Phineas & Ferb. The world needs it.

And, of course, Terry Crews is the motherfucking man as father Julius. A former NFL player, he has completely proven himself in every role I’ve seen him in. Now it’s time to rock in some action films in major roles. (It was a major shame to see that his entire role in Terminator Salvation had been cut save for one shot of him as a dead body.) And between this, Idiocracy and Balls Of Fury, you’re a gut-bustingly good comedic actor.

Okay, Everybody Hates Chris. You were a goofy, absurd, heartwarming and raw family show, something that doesn’t really exist anymore, and maybe 20 years ago you would have been a major hit. Unfortunately, you were on UPN and the CW, and the story is different. Your legacy shall live on in syndication, and I’ll catch you every once in a while down the road.

Advertisements

The Husband:

I’ve always been very curious about shows that, according to the Nielsen Ratings, nearly nobody watches, and yet they live year-after-year-after-year. Smallville is one of these, and despite my fluctuating appreciation for the show (I used to love it, now it’s just kind of a habit), I recognize that much of its survival (it’s in its eighth season now) is based off of Warner Brothers wanting to protect its property, as well attain as a guaranteed couple hundred episodes prime for syndication. (Those DVD sales aren’t too shabby, either.) One whose continued existence I really don’t understand, though, is Everybody Hates Chris.

Now, let’s not get off on the wrong foot. I think EHC is a great family sitcom, funny and surreal without being too wild, sweet but not without a sense of bitter life experience, subversive and yet written for the whole family. And I think Rochelle (Tichina Arnold) and Julius (former pro football player Terry Crews) may just be the best parents on television, despite all their shortcomings.

But nobody watches EHC, and it has shifted around at least four times in four seasons, first on UPN and now on the confusing grid that is the CW. Maybe the company just wants to hold onto narrator/producer/inspiration Chris Rock as long as they can, and maybe it’s one of the highest scoring African-American shows out there (a ratings list to which I have no access), but whichever way you swing it, the show is not a ratings success.

Truly, everyone does hate me.

Truly, everyone does hate me.

This season, the show is finally starting to show its seams. Now that Chris (Tyler James Williams) has graduated middle school, he has been thrust only mildly into high school. So far, the writers haven’t really known what to do with the new setting other than make him the manager of the football team, which in itself hasn’t really paid off in any big way, either. Best friend Greg (Vincent Martella, a.k.a. Phineas on Phineas & Ferb) has pretty much been shafted as far as any kind of story is concerned, and so have most of his classmates (save for that one episode where Chris becomes friends with a very effeminate man named Angel). Even Caruso the bully and Ms. Morello the unintentionally racist teacher-turned-principal have barely had any screen time.

This leaves us with the family itself to be the main catalyst for everything, and while Rochlle and Julius have had some great focus in several of the episodes here in s4, especially when they begin to butt heads over gambling for opposite New York football teams, or when Julius begins working for Mr. Omar and his happiness begins to rub Rochelle in the wrong way. But younger brother Drew (Tequan Richmond) and younger sister Tanya (Imani Hakim) have become almost completely irrelevant, either because the actors have other things to do, or that their defining features (his ability to draw in any woman into his orbit, her brattiness) have simply worn out their welcome.

There’s really nothing wrong, per se, with the season, but some of the episodes have seemed to just exist instead of breathing life into the dying form of the sitcom, which is something I felt the show always excelled at. One middling episode was taken apart piece-by-piece in Entertainment Weekly (that one being “Everybody Hates Big Bird,” in which Chris cruelly ignores a pretty cute girl at school because others make fun of her), but I save my disappointment for the very unfunny “Everybody Hates Doc’s,” where Chris goes into a battle of wits with his employer’s needy girlfriend.

There has been one absolute gem of an episode, though, called “Everybody Hates Homecoming,” when Chris finds a very worthy date for the titular dance, but first has to meet her parents. In a combination of homage and mockery, her family turns out to be the Huxtables, with Orlando Jones as Bill Cosby, complete with accent and sweater, spewing lame quips and puns in front of a live television audience. (If you haven’t seen the show yet, EHC is a one-camera non-laugh track show, so the change is especially jarring.) While looking back on a seminal 1980s African-American sitcom with reverence, it nonetheless showed that times have changed and that the rose-colored-glasses world of the Huxtables simply doesn’t fit in the new millennium.

I hope for the best with EHC, because it can continue to be this little cult hit that could someday be seen as a small classic. I just wish that they’d return to the more original tone of the first two seasons and stop relying so much on sitcom clichés. I know you’re better than that, Chris Rock, and that you care enough about the show based on your own life to do something about it.