ABC Television Network
It's been a rough year for freshmen comedies. Despite critical raves, loyal-but-tiny fanbases, and heavily orchestrated Twitter campaigns, we lost a lot of potentially great series this year. Trophy Wife showed us a new kind of TV family, but may have been crippled by its ironic title from the start. Enlisted won the hearts of its few viewers and the support of the U.S. military, but couldn't overcome a weak timeslot and wonky scheduling. And despite an A-list star in Robin Williams, advertising comedy The Crazy Ones never found its audience. But while we've had to say our farewells to these shows, we don't have to wave goodbye forever to the comic talents they introduced us to. Here are a few of this season's breakout stars who we know have illustrious careers in their future.
Parker Young, Enlisted
We're always surprised to find that someone so chiseled can be as funny as Parker Young is in Enlisted's first and only season. As sweet and sincere baby brother Randy, Young tempered the swagger and sarcasm of older siblings Pete and Derrick and brought some serious heart to the show. Before booking the military comedy and a role on the slightly longer lasting but also canceled Suburgatory, the actor's credits consisted of guest spots here and there and — obviously — several modeling gigs. Now that the world knows he's not just a pretty face, we're hoping for big things from Parker.
Albert Tsai and Michaela Watkins, Trophy Wife
If Trophy Wife left us with one gift, it was that of little Albert Tsai, who has the timing aspiring comics would chop arms off for. Bert worked in conjunction with any and every other character on that show, but we're especially fond of his scenes with loopy mom Jackie. Michaela Watkins isn't exactly a Hollywood newbie, but Trophy Wife reintroduced her to some viewers who hadn't seen her regularly since her single season as a SNL cast member. Watkins got to deliver some of the show's finest one liners ("Wait. Robert Downey had a son?") and we're dying to see her back on our TVs soon.
James Wolk and Hamish Linklater, The Crazy Ones
Wolk is no stranger to Mad Men fans, who know him as the mysterious (and, as of late, heartbreaking) Bob Benson. And Linklater is a veteran stage actor who also played a significant role in The Newsroom's second season. But The Crazy Ones got us to fall in love with the two of them together, and we just can't let go. Zach Cropper and Andrew Keanelly — or Zandrew, if you will — had a bromance that, given time, would have rivaled that of even Turk and J.D. Wolk and Linklater are both skilled actors in their own right, but we can no longer imagine them apart. Thanks, CBS.
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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