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Tuned In: 'Rerun Show' finds new laughs in old sitcoms

Thursday, August 01, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

In a summer of "reality" shows and repeats, NBC's "The Rerun Show" (9:30 tonight) offers a fresh take on reruns, if that's possible, as it affectionately skewers sitcoms of the past. It's reruns done right.

Each of the seven episodes produced includes shortened versions of classic sitcom episodes performed anew by a repertory company of actors and comedians using the shows' original scripts. It's similar to "The Real Live Brady Bunch," a stage production of the '70s sitcom that played off-off-Broadway in the early '90s.

Tonight's premiere includes "Diff'rent Strokes" and "The Partridge Family," with Danny Bonaduce, on his knees, re-creating his Danny Partridge role. (In the "Strokes" episode, Gary Coleman's Arnold is played by Candy Ford, who also walks on her knees.)

"We tried to parody them in the nicest possible way," said executive producer John Davis. "We're confined to a script, so we can't go too far out."

Yes, they can.

In the "Diff'rent Strokes" episode, star Dana Plato's decision to pose for Playboy is brought up visually, and the episode also insinuates a lesbian relationship between Plato's Kimberly (Ashley Drane) and a female guest star.

Paul Vogt perfectly plays Charlotte Rae's Mrs. Garrett in both the "Strokes" episode and an upcoming "Facts of Life" parody.

"I love it when the doorman blows his whistle at me and calls me his high-rise honey," Mrs. Garrett says, suggestively kneading dough.

"It's kind of the old Mad magazine type of thing of 'scenes we'd like to see,' " said executive producer David Salzman. "We turn them on their side and add extra layers of comedy, physical gags, play the subtext of the afterlives of the stars and go for triple the laughs of a normal sitcom."

"The Rerun Show" is produced by Columbia-TriStar Television, and all of the series, with the exception of "Saved by the Bell," come from the company's vast library. Salzman said it took several years of persuasion before the company would allow "The Rerun Show" to go forward.

"This is the first show probably of its type that has been able to play to an audience of mostly people who grew up as the so-called television generation," Salzman said. "There are a lot of icons in terms of the characters, the stories, the shows."

Producers said they police themselves in their mockery and try to avoid drug humor. More recent series that are still making money in syndication, particularly "Seinfeld," are off-limits, but they did get a crack at "Married ... With Children."

"When we first looked at 'Married,' we thought, this show was already so over the top, how do we go any further with it?" Davies said.

They found a way. They took the "Married" script and remade it with actors playing the Osbournes playing the Bundy family.

For the actors, watching the original episodes of these sitcom classics is their best preparation.

"Sometimes we end up watching an episode multiple times because we'll watch it for how they move, we'll watch it for getting the voice," said Don Reed, who plays Willis on tonight's "Diff'rent Strokes" remake.

Other times, they'll play a character completely differently from the original. For a remake of the "One Day at a Time" episode where Barbara almost loses her virginity, Reed plays Barbara's boyfriend as Mike Tyson.

Though many of these classic series have been off the air for decades, some of the furniture and props from the sets were found in storage.

"We thought in 'The Facts of Life' that the furniture didn't look as great as we remembered it in that upscale prep school way," Salzman said. "And then we found out it was the actual stuff from the original."

Producers said they'd like to tackle additional series if this summer try-out of "The Rerun Show" is successful. (The series moves to Tuesday nights next week.)

"I can tell you my No. 1 favorite: 'Charles in Charge' Scott Baio," Davies said. "There's a lot we can do with that show."

Aguilera is 'Driven'

Wexford's own Christina Aguilera gets the "Biography" treatment in an episode of VH1's "Driven" (9 p.m. Tuesday).

The one-hour program chronicles her childhood interest in singing, her early teen-age years as a competitive singer and member of the cast of Disney Channel's "Mickey Mouse Club" and her fame-gaining move onto the pop charts with "Genie in a Bottle."

"God gave this to you, and he can take it away from you, so don't get big-headed," says Aguilera's mother, Shelly Kearns, remembering advice she gave her daughter.

Other interviewees include Aguilera's stepfather, uncle, teachers, friends, various record producers and Larry Richert, who welcomed a young Aguilera as a guest on "Wake Up!!! With Larry Richert."

'NightTalk' anniversary

PCNC's "NightTalk with John McIntire" will celebrate its sixth anniversary with an on-air party Monday, airing live from the Penn Brewery at 9 p.m.

Invited guests include Jim Krenn and Randy Baumann of WDVE-FM, Alan Cox of WXDX-FM, former Mayor Sophie Masloff, County Chief Executive Jim Roddey, Coroner Cyril Wecht, the Pirate Parrot and the Pirate Pierogies.

'Power' moves

Robert Schuller's "Hour of Power" hasn't aired Sunday mornings on WPXI since July 7, but it's not Channel 11's fault.

Program director Mark Barash said Schuller's organization asked the station to drop the program as part of a deal to move "Hour of Power" to cable. The program now can be seen at 7:30 a.m. Sundays on Discovery Channel.

Quecreek coverage

Some final observations:

dot.gif Whether reporters were from a big-name outlet or a small regional one, they all met with a tightly controlled media environment. A media center for the approximately 200 journalists (representing about 55 media outlets) was established in a closed Giant Eagle store where media relations personnel for the Department of Environmental Protection staffed the customer service counter.

The rescue site and the fire hall, where miners' families waited for news, were surrounded by police. Journalists who approached the premises did so under the threat of arrest.

Gov. Mark Schweiker made clear in his briefings to the media that he would inform the families of developments first.

CNN had Jeff Flock and Brian Palmer at the media center (Bill Hemmer arrived Sunday), and MSNBC had Robert Hager and Sarah Lee there, but the broadcaster with the highest name recognition on scene was Fox's Geraldo Rivera, who cried on camera and later called Schweiker "dude."

dot.gif A pool of four reporters -- one print, one radio, one still photographer and one TV, with crew -- was sent to the drill site in five-hour shifts, which is why local TV reporters attributed some reports to non-local sources as events began to happen quickly after 10 p.m.

dot.gif Though the networks were pre-empted locally, CBS broke into national programming with updates at 11:27 p.m. Saturday and 1:40 and 2:49 a.m. Sunday. NBC ran a crawl about the progress, but ABC had nothing.

dot.gif Having more personnel gave the lead anchors for WTAE and WPXI another person to play off of and saved those stations from rerunning the same video and graphics. A larger crew also allowed some reporters to staff the media center to avoid missing a briefing while other reporters went out into the community to turn out sidebar stories.

dot.gif On the air Sunday morning, WTAE's Michelle Wright said she and Wendy Bell didn't have a monitor and didn't know they were on TV when they showed their excitement over the rescue.

Miner movie?

Pitches for movies based on the ordeal of the nine Quecreek miners are already making the rounds in Hollywood. Chris Ender, senior vice president of communications for CBS Entertainment, said it's to be expected.

"Any time you have an event of this magnitude, particularly if it has an uplifting and inspirational ending, you're going to receive a multitude of pitches from movie producers," Ender said. "This case is definitely no different. We've certainly received a multitude of pitches as I'm sure the other networks have."


Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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