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TV Reviews: 'Charming' is cheeky; 'Banzai' downright weird

Sunday, July 13, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Turns out Prince Charming was a horn dog.

In TNT's fairy tale, Prince John (Sean Maguire) is a scoundrel who seduces a woman other than his bride-to-be on his wedding day. As punishment, his betrothed's father has a wizard cast a spell on John and his manservant, Rodney (Martin Short), turning them into frogs until the day John is kissed by a woman.

"Prince Charming"

When: 8 tonight on TNT.
Starring: Sean Maguire, Christina Applegate, Martin Short


When: 8:30 tonight on Fox


That takes about 500 years.

Although "Prince Charming" comes from executive producer Robert Halmi Sr., not known of late for programs that rise above the hackdom level of quality, this movie enchants with its cheeky humor that at times even gives off the vibe of a live-action "Shrek."

John and Rodney finally transform from poorly computer-animated frogs back into humans in modern Manhattan after a diva-ish actress, Margo (Bernadette Peters), kisses froggy John during a spat with her sometimes lover/director, Hamish (Billy Connolly).

According to the spell, John must woo Margo or he'll revert to frog form, but he's really smitten with a hansom cab driver, Kate (Christina Applegate).

The fish-out-of-water antics are mercifully kept to a minimum after the movie quickly moves to the present-day, but the humor, much of it stemming from Short's particular brand of zaniness, remains intact.

Seeing Short reunited with former "SCTV" co-star Andrea Martin, as Margo's assistant, is particularly enjoyable. Applegate is appealingly modern yet still wishing for a fairy tale prince, and Maguire, last seen on The WB's sexcom "Off Centre," is dashing enough.

Although children will probably be oblivious, some of the comedy is rather ribald, particularly when John has sex in a bell tower at the start of the movie. Later when John woos Margo, his attempts at chivalry fall flat.

"That's sweet, but I've been deflowered before," she says. "A few petals here and there."

Innuendo aside, "Prince Charming" has a positive message about the importance of true love and a young man's ability to mature, take responsibility and abandon his past selfishness.


Downright weird. That's the best way to describe this parody of Japanese game shows.

"Banzai" is particularly ill-conceived because most Americans are probably unfamiliar with Japanese game shows, so the satire will be lost on them. They'll just look at this, furrow a brow and then click to another channel.

Originally created for British television, Fox says "Banzai" became a cult hit on the other side of the Atlantic. That could happen here, too, but a cult-sized audience is unlikely to keep "Banzai" on the air.

It has no stars, just a bunch of Japanese actors making stereotypical martial arts moves in between segments featuring bizarre competitions that encourage viewers to bet on the outcome.

Some of the contests are quite funny, particularly "Mr. Shake Hands Man," in which a Japanese TV reporter shakes hands with a celebrity while conducting an interview and won't let go. Viewers at home are asked to guess how long before the celebrity pulls away.

Similarly, in "Lady One Question," a stern-faced reporter asks a celeb a single question and then goes mute.

"Have I said something wrong?" asks a dumbfounded Simon Cowell after Lady One Question lapses into a steely silence. "Are you angry at me?"

An upcoming episode asks viewers to guess how many dollar bills a woman can shove in her mouth in a short time.

"She use her mouth like a great big wallet," the never-seen announcer says in an exaggerated Japanese accent.

Tonight's episode features the "Old Lady Wheelchair Chicken Challenge." Two elderly women in motorized wheelchairs scoot toward one another at ramming speed until one chickens out and veers off.

"Banzai" has the look of a cheap basic cable show, and though it offers some mild entertainment, it's not as funny as TNN's "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge," which features American actors re-voicing an actual Japanese game show.

You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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