Well, I’m back from Las Vegas, and catching up on TV.
I only watched a couple TV shows while I was in Vegas. There are other, Vegas-y things to do, you know? But those that I did see had things to comment on.
I watched the first post-Ritter episode of Eight Simple Rules. They were forced into a tricky situation, making an episode dealing with the death of the central character of the series, to show to an audience who has affection for the actor who died. They balanced this by not having any laugh track, and by doing a serious-themed show that still had some moments of sitcom style humor.
And it was interesting to see how the humor worked, or failed to. It was still paced around live audience reactions that weren’t there. Doing humor in that style without a laugh track would work if it were delivered with energy, but the downbeat tone of the piece required low-energy deliveries, making the humor more something to observe than to react to.
It was a good earnest attempt, and I wish them luck in building a workable comedy show out of such a troubled situation.
Frasier did something interesting, and I’d be very curious to know the reasons why. They launched a new Maris-oriented storyline, and there are rumors that Maris will actually appear during this season. Maris, for those of you who have not paid attention, is a never seen (or even heard) character who was important through most of the years of this show, Niles’s now-ex wife. We know the character so well that they once showed a pale, slender, finicky, jittery dog and the audience got that it was supposed to look like Maris.
For years, there has been idle chatter about who would play Maris should the character ever be revealed. Among the truly knowledgable TV buffs, one name has been heard repeatedly: Valerie Mahaffey. She’s somewhat of an obscure actress, probably best remembered as the recurring character Eve (to Adam Arkin’s Adam) on Northern Exposure. Eve was a pale and believed sickly character through most of her run, but also quite attractive. An even better argument for making her Maris comes from The Powers That Be, wherein she played Caitlyn Van Horne, the overbearing wife of the nervous and cowed Theodore Van Horne — who was played by David Hyde Pierce, the same actor who plays Niles.
The odd thing is that the folks who make Frasier chose this episode to use the talented Ms. Mahaffey as an actress — but not as Maris. Instead, she’s playing the temp in Frasier’s new office. I cannot accept that this is mere coincidence. Was this done as a jape, as a laugh in the face of the cognoscenti telling us that we guessed wrong? Was it done because they tried her out as Maris but found that her talents would be more useful to them in another direction? Whatever the reason, she worked well in the role she was given. I do hope that her role is a recurring one, as it appears to be.