Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 4.2 “The Users” and 4.3 “Cheat Happens”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

Oh, Hell, it’s that time of week, isn’t it?  It’s time to watch City Guys.

Episode 4.2 “The Users”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on September 23rd, 2000)

It’s midterm time!

Wasn’t it midterm time two episodes ago?  And the episode before that?  And maybe even before that?  My point is that Manny High seems to have a lot of midterms.  I mean, when I was in high school and college, you only took midterms once per semester because you could only be halfway through once.  Manny High has midterms every week!

Chris and Jamal are not only worried about passing their midterms.  They’re also concerned about what to do with Jasper, who is their new techie at the student radio station.  Jasper is very friendly and a very exuberant and very annoying.  Chris and Jamal feel that he’s trying too hard to be edgy and street and that’s really saying something when you consider that Chris and Jamal are the two biggest phonies not named Al at Manny High.  Jasper also appears to be in his 30s but he swears that he’s a student and that he’s got a straight-A average.  Chris and Jamal befriend Jasper so that he’ll tutor them but, when they get a chance to score an internship with a bigtime radio DJ, Chris and Jamal conspire to keep Jasper from finding out.  (Oh my God, they’re just using Jasper!  They’re users!  The episode’s title makes sense!)  After sending Jamal across town to pick up a fictional lunch order, Chris does his crappy Homer Simpson impersonation and the DJ is so impressed that it’s suddenly easy to understand why people eventually stopped listening to the radio.  Unfortunately, Jasper makes his way to back to the radio station earlier than expected, finds out about the internship, and gets his feelings hurt.  Realizing that they are the two worst people in the world, Chis and Jamal apologize to him.

“Yo yo, Jas,” Jamal says, “We didn’t mean to diss you, man.”

“Yeah,” Chris says, “we decided to give you some props.”

Yeah, guys, Jasper is definitely the one who is trying too hard….

(I am dramatically rolling my eyes.)

Anyway, Chris, Jamal, and Jasper all get the internship but, fortunately, it’s a summer internship so I guess we won’t actually have to watch any of the undoubtedly wacky adventures that they’ll have together.

Meanwhile, Ms. Noble is yelling at everyone.  You would think that this would lead to all the students finally figuring out that their principal is not their friends but instead, Dawn, Cassidy, and Al discover that Ms. Noble is having man trouble and they decide to fix things between her and her boyfriend.  (Her boyfriend, by the way, is the same guy that Ms. Noble had nostalgia sex with last week.)  It turns out that her boyfriend has been working late every night because he’s been trying to save up enough money to buy Ms. Noble an engagement ring.  He proposes to her at the crappy diner where all the students hang out.  The audience goes crazy.  Cassidy and Dawn get tears in their eyes.  People — SHE’S THE PRINCIPAL!  NOBODY IN HISTORY OF HIGH SCHOOL HAS EVER CARED THIS MUCH ABOUT THEIR PRINCIPAL!

God, this show is annoying.  Let’s move on!

Episode 4.3 “Cheat Happens”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on September 30th, 2000)

Mid-terms are over and it’s time for finals.  We’re only three episodes into the series and it’s already time for finals?  What the heck?  Anyway, Jamal says he’s not worried about his chemistry final because “this brother’s all about chemistry.”  Plus, Jamal says, “Jamal ain’t down with summer school.”

“Bam!  Bam!  Bam!” Chris later shouts, as he turns in his final.  Chris is feeling confident because he and Jamal made cheat sheets for the final.  Even though they lost the cheat sheets, Chris and Jamal apparently learned everything about Chemistry while making them.  Unfortunately, it turns out that they accidentally put the cheat sheets in L-Train’s textbook and when Ms. Noble spots the sheets, she accuses L-Train of cheating.  When L-Train refuses to confess to cheating, Ms. Noble announces that the entire class will have to retake the test.  Everyone blames L-Train.  Chris and Jamal are the worst human beings ever.

That said, Chris and Jamal may be terrible but at least they know how to host a radio show.  On the other hand, when Dawn and Cassidy demand to be allowed to host their own radio show, they totally blow it.  I guess telling terrible jokes and doing lame impersonations is a lot more difficult than it looks. Luckily, Dawn and Cassidy get a second chance and, by making fun of the boys, they’re a success!  Yay!  I don’t know what the future episodes of this show may hold but I have a feeling that we will never again hear a word about Dawn and Cassidy’s radio show.

Anyway, after L-Train nearly gets into a fight trying to defend his honor, Chris and Jamal confess and Ms. Noble replies, “I’ll see you in summer school!”  So, I guess that internship’s off!  That’ll teach Chris and Jamal to be honest.

Next week, this crappy series continues.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Martin Ritt Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

On this day, 109 years ago, Martin Ritt was born in New York City.  Like many of the Hollywood directors who came to prominence in the 1950s, he started his directorial career in the theater before moving over to live TV.  In 1952, his television career was derailed when he was accused of being a communist.  Blacklisted, it would be five years before Ritt could get another directing job.  When he did start to work again, he moved from television into the movies, starting with 1957’s Edge of the City.  Perhaps due to his own experiences, his films always had a social conscience and always defended the individual against corrupt corporations and governments.  In 1976, he directed one of the first films about the Hollywood blacklist, The Front.

As a director, Ritt was known for his skill with actors.  More than anyone, he played a huge role in making stars out of both Paul Newman and Sally Field.  He was also one of the few directors to understand how to harness Richard Burton’s self-destructive tendencies and, as a result, Burton gave one of his best performances in Ritt’s adaptation of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.  

It’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Martin Ritt Films

Edge of the City (1957, dir by Martin Ritt, DP: Joseph Brun)

The Long Hot Summer (1958, dir by Martin Ritt, DP: Joseph LaShelle)

Hud (1963, dir by Martin Ritt, DP: James Wong Howe)

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965, dir by Martin Ritt, DP: Oswald Morris)

Music Video of the Day: Shadow by Ashlee Simpson (2004, dir by Liz Friedlander)

Poor Ashlee Simpson.  I mean, she danced one stupid jig on Saturday Night Live and the world has never let her forget it.  Of course, I would probably be more on Ashlee’s side if she hadn’t initially blamed her band for the screw-up.  That wasn’t nice but, at the time, Ashlee was only 19 and the amount of ridicule that was directed her way was more than a little over-the-top.  She probably handled it better than I would have at that age.

Today’s music video of the day comes to us from Ashlee Simpson.

In Shadow, Ashlee sings about existing in someone else’s shadow and the struggle to find your real identity.  Needless to say, it’s usually assumed that this song is about being the younger sister of Jessica Simpson but Ashlee has insisted that it’s just about finding yourself.  Personally, I think it can be both.  The video features a happy blonde Ashlee co-existing with an angrier brunette Ashlee.  It’s easy to see the blonde Ashlee as being a stand-in for Jessica, though I think blonde Ashlee is more meant to represent the pressure on Ashlee to be as popular as her sister.

If it sounds like I’ve given this video too much, all I can say is that I’ve got sisters and I can relate.