This pretty, petite (5'2"), brunette began her career as an actor, including a stint with the famed improv group The Groundlings, but has found greater fame behind the scenes in features and TV. <p...
Our favorite shows feel perfect for their respective networks: The nude-friendly Game of Thrones is a tried-and-true HBO series, the tortoise-slow Mad Men fits AMC’s intelligent and patient viewers, and The Big Bang Theory never met a laugh track CBS didn’t like. But what if those series appeared on different networks? How would the show change? We’re exploring just that in our Network Swap series. Next up: What if Downton Abbey aired on CBS?
Series: Downton Abbey
TV Rating: TV-14/TV-NFVWT. That last one stands for “Not For Viewers With Taste."
Logline: Downton Abbey is an uproarious new multi-camera sitcom that centers on Matt Crawley, a New York City stockbroker who suddenly inherits a sizable fortune — and a sick mansion populated by his three long-lost British female distant cousins — when their parents die, leaving no male heir. (It's an "old fashioned" family.) Since Matt no longer has to work, is bored by his new upper-class suburban lifestyle, and is scorned by the bitter and uptight Crawley sisters, he instantly establishes a "bromance" with his stoner butler Bates, even though Matt's persistent bad behavior is always getting Bates in trouble with his girlfriend, Anna. (A local stick-in-the-mud bank teller, who is pressuring Bates to get married and somehow always in the house.) Matt will get to keep the house and fortune forever if he settles down and has a family, but will his wild womanizing ways (and the scheming, crafty Crawley sisters) get in the way of the life he always dreamed of?
Setting: The sprawling Westchester County, New York house of the recently deceased Earl and Countess of Grantham (they're sort of like the "Countess" from Real Housewives in that everyone jokes about their titles behind their backs), but they only show three rooms — the living room, Matt's bedroom, and the servants' kitchen. There's also a local bar that Matt and Bates frequent when they need to get out of the house.
Demographic: CBS' Downton Abbey dominates the Tuesday at 8 p.m. time-slot, due to its loyal male 18-49 demographic. It is particularly popular with sexually frustrated dads, Midwesterners, and men who don't think women are funny. No one in Brooklyn, New York watches this show. They only watch reruns of Breaking Bad on Netflix.
Pilot Plot: We meet Matt, who is hungover in bed with a beautiful New York City woman when he gets the call that he's now a very wealthy man. He quits his Wall Street job, packs his bags, and moves into Downton, where he is hilariously spurned by all three Crawley sisters and their wacky live-in cougar grandmother (Carolyn Hennesy) who refers to herself as a "Dowager Countess." He quickly bonds with Bates (who just got into yet another fight with his girlfriend) over a late night bottle in the jacuzzi. They bitch about the women of the Abbey, and a friendship is born.
Breakout Star: Sherri Shepherd, who plays the sassy, brassy, overweight cook Ms. Patmore. She's never afraid to say what she's thinking — and this large and in charge cook has a real "taste" for Matt. Her off-the-cuff one-liners are the new "How you doin'?"
Soundbite: "Well they don't call me Countess for nothing — but I count men, dear, not numbers." — The Dowager Countess, when Mary realizes that the recession has caught up to the estate, and some of them might need jobs.
Sweeps Twist: After a wild night, Matt wakes up in bed next to the Dowager Countess! He knows this will set off Mary, the uptight oldest sister who is Matt's main foil/obvious eventual soulmate. Distraught, and with the drunken Countess still passed out, he calls Bates to help him carry her back to her own room — but when Anna somehow catches them, all hell breaks loose. The sisters stop speaking to Matt and their grandma, and Bates is forced (by Anna) to quit — leaving Matt with no choice but to replace him with the scheming, comedically gay Thomas, who had been vying for Bates' position (and Matt's attention) all along. Uncomfortable gay come-ons and laugh tracks abound!
Reason People Watch: For the guys, Matt is living the dream — he's an everyman who suddenly gets reversed New Girl'd, only with hotter roommates and a ton of money. For the ladies, Matt's puppy dog eyes and occasional self-reflection make him a lovable antihero — and you can cut the sexual tension between him and Mary with one of Patmore's knives. Also, everyone knows that when single men and women try to platonically live together, hilarity ensues.
What the Critics Say: "If this is what a 'modern family' looks like, we'll take the old-fashioned type." "A must-watch for fans of Two and a Half Men." "Ballsy, bawdy, broad comedy fun — CBS at its very best."
Emmy Odds: Bates is a long-shot for Best Supporting Actor, but as soon as Parsons is out of the picture he'll be a shoo-in.
Spin-Off Possibilities: Who doesn't want to see Ms. Patmore's working-class, urban family life?
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: PBS]
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Produced and served as story editor for the animated series "The Plucky Duck Show" (Fox), a spin-off of "Tiny Toon Adventures"
Voiced the character of Slappy Squirrel on "Animaniacs" (Fox, 1993-1995; The WB, 1995-1996)
With Oliver, co-wrote feature version of the 1960s TV series "My Favorite Martian"
Had recurring role in TV-movies based on the NBC series "Little House on the Prairie"; TV acting debut
Modeled for Disney animators for the character of Belle in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"
Contributed additional material to the Spielberg-produced CBS animated series "The Family Dog"
Feature screenwriting debut, "Casper"; co-wrote with Deanna Oliver
Wrote and served as story editor on "Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky and the Brain" (The WB)
Served as story editor, producer and writer on "Steven Spielberg Presents Tiny Toon Adventures"; also served as animation model
Was animation model for the character of Ariel in Disney's "The Little Mermaid" (dates approximate)
Developed and served as executive story consultant for the Fox animated series "Casper"
Film acting debut, "Impulse"
Was producer, writer and supervising story editor on "Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs" (Fox)
Provided additional vocals for "The Little Mermaid", credited as Sherry Lynn
Was member of the L.A.-based improv group "The Groundlings"
This pretty, petite (5'2"), brunette began her career as an actor, including a stint with the famed improv group The Groundlings, but has found greater fame behind the scenes in features and TV. <p>Throughout the early 1980s, the Kansas-born player found work in small roles in front of the camera in several TV-movies and the occasional feature. Often cast much younger than her years, Stoner first caught audiences' attention in two TV-movie sequels to the long-running "Little House on the Prairie". Her feature roles were also limited to generally bit parts (as in her debut in 1984's "Impulse"). Perhaps her biggest part of note was as one of the titular "Reform School Girls" (1986), a campy spoof of "women-in-prison" films (i.e., "Caged" 1950). Stoner played Lisa, an unstable teenager whose precious stuffed rabbit is taken from her by an obese matron (Pat Ast). Representing the weakling who cannot cope in a harsh environment, the actress played her role earnestly, even when the character was driven to suicide by the matron's harsh treatment and the overtures of a leather-clad lesbian (Wendy O Williams).<p>With her acting career stalled, Stoner finally found a new career: beginning in 1987 she began posing for the Disney animation team creating Ariel, "The Little Mermaid" (1989). Working for no more than two days a month over a two-year period, she provided the live action reference for the animators, who incorporated several of Stoner's idiosyncrasies into the character (e.g., her penchant for biting her lower lip; her use of her hands). Pleased with her work, Disney hired her as a live action model for Belle in 1991's "Beauty and the Beast". (In this case, the design team incorporated the way Stoner pushed back her hair.)<p>Around the same time, Steven Spielberg hired her to work as a writer on the CBS animated special "Tiny Toon Adventures: The Looney Beginnings" (1990), which had Bugs Bunny recounting the creation of a new generation of cartoon characters based on and inspired by classic figures. Stoner worked for two years as producer and story editor on the subsequent syndicated "Steven Spielberg's Tiny Toon Adventures", which, despite its target audience of children, was filled with adult humor, in-jokes and pop culture references. It set the tone for each of the series on which Spielberg and Warner Brothers collaborated. Some of Stoner's work was repackaged on the short-lived Saturday morning spin-off "The Plucky Duck Show" (Fox, 1992). Impressed with her efforts, Spielberg had her provide additional material to each episode of the short-lived primetime animated series "The Family Dog" (1993). By the time Stoner had been selected as producer and story editor on "Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs", she had found her calling. She created the Marilynesque Minerva Mink and wrote some of the more memorable segments of "Pinky and the Brain" (which was spun-off into its own series in 1995). Additionally, she provided the raspy voice for Slappy Squirrel, an irascible cartoon figure with a penchant for explosions followed by the catchphrase "Now that's comedy!" During her long tenure in animation, Stoner has accrued three Daytime Emmys for her work as producer and/or writer.<p>By 1995, Stoner had segued to writing for the big screen, collaborating with Deanna Oliver on the script for "Casper", executive produced by Spielberg. Critics were divided over this comedy; most praised its spectacular visual effects, but quibbled over its script. Some found it delightful and filled with knowing humor, while other complained of sentimentality and an uneven tone. Nevertheless, "Casper" proved to be a box-office success spawning an animated TV series and a sequel (in development as of 1997).
"When I do the stuff that ends up pleasing [the animators] the most . . . it has an emotional truth to it. They don't just want somebody to move their arm, they want the arm to move because you've touched something inside." --Stoner on her work as an animation model quoted in PREMIERE (November 1991)
"Automatically--an I mean this in a complimentary way--Sherri's face is very cartoony. . . She has cartoony timing. Her eyes--she has very big eyes--are more than just eyes." --Glen Keane of Disney quoted in PREMIERE, November 1991