Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.25 “The Curfew” and 3.26 “Fuller’s Big Offer”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Season 3 comes to an end as the Tornadoes play in the state championship and Coach Fuller is faced with a big decision about his future.  It’s hang time!

Episode 3.25 “The Curfew”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 6th, 1997)

The Deering Tornadoes are in the championship tournament!  After they arrive at Indiana University or the University of Indiana or Gary Community College or wherever it is that they’re playing, Coach Fuller tells them that they’re under curfew.  However, Teddy sneaks out to a sorority party and then the rest of the team sneaks out to bring him back.  Then Fuller shows up at the party, looking for his team.  Since no one on this show can just do the simple thing and admit to having screwed up, the boys dress up like sorority girls and Julie dresses up like a frat boy and they attempt to sneak back to the dorms.  Everyone but Teddy shows up before curfew.  When Fuller finds out what happened, he benches Teddy.  Even when a player gets injured, Fuller sends in some guy we’ve never seen before and keeps Teddy on the bench.  What’s funny is that the player Fuller does send in pauses to dramatically glare at Teddy as he heads out to the court.  I wonder if he’s related to the guy from the Fake ID episode, the one who snapped, “I don’t want to let the team down!” when Fuller asked him if he could play despite being injured.

Even though he’s not on the court, Teddy still helps the team by joining the cheerleaders and cheering them on to victory.

This is stupid and the next episode is a lot more interesting.  Let’s move on.

Episode 3.26 “Fuller’s Big Offer”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 6th, 1997)

The Deering High Tornadoes have a chance to win the state championship but they’re struggling.  “The Tornadoes are self-destructing!” the in-game announcer says.  Their heads are not in the game!

Well, who can blame them?  Coach Fuller has been offered a chance to become the head coach at Southern Florida University.  The team is convinced that Fuller is going to leave them after the season ends but, in a rousing locker room speech, he tells them that they can’t worry about what’s going to happen in the future.  They have to concentrate on the here and now.  Inspired by his words, the Tornadoes take the court and win the championship!  Of course, Julie scores the winning point because Julie was the greatest player in the history of basketball.  And, of course, the Tornadoes only win by a point because the Tornadoes almost always only won by one point.  It just seems like a truly great time wouldn’t always have to come from behind and win by a point.

At the dinner to celebrate the championship, I can’t help but notice that Fuller and all of the starters are there but the rest of the team is nowhere to be seen.  It’s hard not to feel bad for the members of the team who never got names or storylines.  Not only do they have to spend all of the games sitting on the bench but they also aren’t allowed to attend the championship dinner.  Fuller toasts his starters and announces that “All good things must come to an end.”  Awww, he’s leaving.  Then, Fuller says that he can’t wait to win another championship with the Tornadoes!  Yay!  He’s not leaving!  The season ends with a jubilant team surrounding their coach.

Except, of course, Fuller did leave.  Season 4 opened with Fuller in Florida and a new coach in Indiana.  We’ll get to that next week.

So, what happened with the finale?  Apparently, Reggie Theus left the show because he was offered a real-life coaching job but the offer wasn’t made until after this episode had been filmed.  Here’s what I think happened.  I can’t prove this but my theory is that the ski lodge and basketball camp episodes were meant to be the final episodes of the season.  I think the championship episode was probably supposed to happen before all of that.  (The ski lodge episode was taking place during everyone’s vacation, which indicates to me that it was supposed to be happening during the summer break.  The whole basketball camp also seems like something that would happen during the summer as opposed to the middle of the school year.)  But, when Theus announced he was taking a coaching job, the episodes were rearranged so the season now ended with Fuller getting offered a coaching job.  Though the video on YouTube ends with Fuller announcing that he’s going to stay, several commenters say that they can remember that, when the show was originally aired, it ended with Fuller saying, “All good things must come to an end.”  That indicates to me that the episode was hastily edited to try to create a cliffhanger, just in case Reggie Theus decided that coaching wasn’t for him.

Regardless of what may or may not have happened behind-the-scenes, this was a strong season ender.  In fact, it would have been a perfect way to end the series.  After three seasons, it would make sense that most of the characters would be graduating from Deering.  (And indeed, Reggie Theus was not the only cast member to depart after season 3.)  The show would have ended with everyone together one last time before moving on to even better things.  It would have been poignant and sad and it would have have brought tears from even this cynical reviewer.

However, that was not to be.  Instead, the show would continue with Julie and Mary Beth somehow still students at Deering High and a new coach stepping into Coach Fuller’s shoes.  Next week, we start season 4!

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.23 “Twister” and 3.24 “Goodnight, Vince”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Please, oh please, let the whole basketball camp thing be over with….

Episode 3.23 “Twister”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 29th, 1997)

At Coach Fuller’s basketball camp….


Anyway, the episode opens with Fuller telling his counselor that the camp is nearly finished — YAY! — and that he’s going to be leaving the counselors in charge of the kids while he goes to the airport to pick up a special guest.  However, the counselors have won tickets to a concert.  They decide to violate Coach Fuller’s number one rule by taking the campers to the pizza parlor and leaving them there while the counselors take turns going to the concert.  Coach will never find out, right?

Speaking of stupidity, Fuller also gives Mary Beth a priceless antique quarter to keep safe.  The quarter is worth $50,000.  Of course, Vince uses the quarter to get a Coke.  So, while the other counselors abandon the kids in a strange pizza parlor, Mary Beth and Vince try to get the quarter out of a vending machine.

Now, you’re probably already guessing that Fuller comes back early.  Accompanied by someone who I assume what a member of the WNBA, Fuller stops off at the pizza place.  Kristy and Teddy see him pulling up and, in a panic, they rush the kids out through the back door and head back to camp.  Unfortunately, a tornado also happens to show up and….


No, actually, everyone survives.  But, at the same time, they learn a valuable lesson about not allowing themselves to be conned into working as camp counselors by their high school basketball coach.  And hopefully, their coach learned a lesson about giving too much authority to a bunch of teenagers who, over the course of 50 episodes, have repeatedly screwed up even the simplest of tasks.

The good thing is that the tornado pretty much destroys the camp so I guess that’s over with now.

Episode 3.24 “Goodnight, Vince”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 29th, 1997)

Yay!  We’re back at Deering High!  Once again, the team just needs to win one more game to go the state championships but Vince has missed his last few free throws and is suffering from a crisis of confidence.  Will he recover?  Of course, he does.  He takes a nap and has a dream where he sees the future and is reminded that losing one game is not the end of the world.  Actually, that’s not a bad message at all.  After all the nonsense with the ski lodge and the basketball camp, it’s nice to see a simple episode of Hang Time that actually has something decent to say.

That said, this is a bit of an odd episode in that Julie and Michael do not appear to be dating (indeed, Michael talks about how he can’t wait to hit on the college girls at the state championship).  For that matter, Mary Beth is not at all concerned that Vince is having a meltdown and she and Kristy are back to acting like ditzes.  My guess is that this episode was probably written and filmed at the start of the season, before the writers decided to turn Julie & Michael and Vince & Mary Beth into couples.  It’s not quite as bad as that season of One World where Cray’s age (and height) changed from episode-to-episode but it’s still a bit jarring for those of us who have been paying attention.

But, in the end, continuity be damned.  The Tornadoes are going to the state championship!

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.21 “Kristy Connor” and 3.22 “Game Point”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Hang Time!  I’ll always remember me and my friends at hang time …. damn, that song really get stuck in your head.

Episode 3.21 “Kristy Connor”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 22nd, 1997)

So, apparently, Coach Fuller’s basketball camp is still a thing and the members of the team are still his camp counselors.  As I mentioned last week, it really does seem like everyone should be going to class and playing high school basketball but apparently, school is on hiatus.

After a long day of counseling basketball players, Kristy — who is NOT a basketball player so I’m still not really sure why she’s even at the camp — heads into town to get a pizza.  She borrows Julie’s jacket.  While at the pizza joint, she meets Jordan.  Jordan is a handsome and totally charming counselor at another camp.  He sees that Kristy is wearing Julie’s jacket and he immediately decides that Kristy must be his favorite basketball player, Julie Connor!  “You’re famous!” he says.  Julie is also blonde while Kristy has red hair so you have to wonder if Jordan is really that smart.  I mean, does he assume that anyone wearing a football jersey actually plays football?  Does he assume that the guy wearing a LeBron James t-shirt is actually LeBron James?  Or is he just really obsessed with that jacket?

Speaking of stupid, Coach Fuller asks Vince to call his father to have some hamburgers delivered to the camp.  Vince accidentally orders a cow.  Instead of telling Fuller what happened, the team tries to hide the cow in the camp.  Because that makes sense….

Anyway, Coach Fuller challenges the other camp to a basketball game.  Since Jordan is on the other team, Kristy has to pretend to be Julie on the court.  Jordan comes to realize that Kristy isn’t Julie but assures her that he still likes her.  “I like your red hair,” he says, which totally disproves my theory that he’s color-blind.

Eh.  I hate all of this camp stuff.  Let’s move on.

Episode 3.22 “Game Point”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 22nd, 1997)

“Remember that time you guys helped Teddy stop smoking?  Or helped Danny stand up to his bully?” Kristy asks, as this episode begins.

Oh, dammit, it’s a clip show.

Despite still being at the basketball camp, Kristy is having to do schoolwork.  It turns out that not all of her credits transferred from her “old school,” which I believe is the first time that the show has acknowledged that Kristy just kind of showed up out of nowhere at the start of season 3.  She’s having to write a paper on how team sports help people learn how to get along.  The players are a bit cynical about Kristy’s theory but she shows them the error of their ways by saying stuff like, “Remember when Michael first joined the team?”

It’s a clip show, with all of the awkward banter that tends to go with it.  It’s difficult to convincingly deliver lines like, “Remember that time we all stole Coach Fuller’s car?” or “Remember the last twelve guys Julie’s dated since this show began?”

Hopefully, next week, basketball camp will be a memory and the Tornadoes will be back in school!

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.19 “Love on the Rockies” and 3.20 “Fuller’s Camp”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Hang time!  Today, we go from the Rockies to a basketball camp.  Sorry, Deering High, your team has abandoned you.

Episode 3.19 “Love on the Rockies”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 15th, 1997)

The team’s rather bizarre ski vacation continues in this episode.  Two episodes ago, it was established that the team was invited to the ski lodge by Mary Beth’s parents so that they could help her celebrate her birthday.  Well, the birthday has been celebrated and Mary Beth’s parents haven’t been seen for a while so why is the team still at the lodge?  And why is Coach Fuller there?

While Coach Fuller takes the boys on the team skiing, Julie and Mary Beth head off to the mall.  However, as they’re walking through the ski lodge, they’re approached by a guy named Paul.  It turns out that, even though he look like he’s about 40, Paul is supposed to be Julie’s ex-boyfriend!  Apparently, Julie and Paul went out over the summer.  Paul wants to have dinner with Julie but Julie explains that she’s up at the lodge with her current boyfriend, Michael.  Paul says okay and walks off and then Julie mentions that Michael is going to be so surprised to hear that she ran into Paul.  Mary Beth tells Julie to not tell Michael about seeing Paul.  That’s actually pretty good advice.  Then again, Julie goes through a dozen boyfriends per season so I’m surprised she can step outside of the house without running into one of them so really, Michael should be used Julie’s ex-boyfriends popping up.  On Hang Time, the only thing that gets passed around more than a basketball is Julie.

Julie attempts to keep Michael from meeting Paul.  Unfortunately, as soon as Michael is away from Julie and hanging out with Vince, Paul walks by, overhears their conversation, and starts to tell them about how he’s been in love with a girl since the summer and he’s determined to win her back.  Michael wishes him the best of luck.  At this point, I’m finding it odd that no one on the team met Paul while he was dating Julie.  I assume that Paul also lives in Indiana and probably in the same general area as Julie.  How big is Deering supposed to be?  Anyway, Paul then reveals that Julie is the girl and Michael freaks out, both because Julie didn’t tell him but also because he thinks she might still like Paul.

After an unsuccessful attempt to befriend Paul and keep him too occupied to flirt with Julie, Michael and Vince end up watching through a hotel room window while Julie and Paul speak.  Julie tells Paul that she loves Michael and Paul apologizes for coming on too strong and he asks if they can still be friends.  Julie hugs Paul.  The audience says, “Awwww!”  Unfortunately, since Michael and Vince can’t hear what’s being said, they just see Julie hugging Paul and they decide…. give me a minute while I scream in frustration …. that Julie actually does like Paul.  This is the type of episode that I hate, where all of the misunderstandings could have been avoided by everyone not being an idiot.

Michael confronts Julie.  Julie breaks up with Michael, angry that he doesn’t trust her despite all of the time that she previously spent lying to him about Paul.  Luckily, there’s a “Snow Ball Dance” at the Lodge so Michael and Julie get back together, despite having next to zero romantic chemistry.

In the B-plot, Danny, Teddy, and Kristy rescue a millionaire who has had a skiing accident.  They think they’re going to get a big reward.  They don’t.

Episode 3.20 “Fuller’s Camp”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 15th, 1997)

The ski vacation is over but now, everyone’s working as a camp counselor at Coach Fuller’s Basketball Camp!

Wait, what?

I mean, I guess I can buy that Coach Fuller has a camp.  Supposedly, he was a pro NBA player before he became a coach and he does appear to have some money lying around.  And we’ve already seen that he’s willing to help young kids improve their basketball game.  But why are the Deering Tornadoes the counselors?  Are they getting paid for it or did Fuller tell them they had to do it?  And why are Kristy and Mary Beth working as counselors, despite the fact that neither one of them plays basketball?  It’s confusing.

Anyway, this episode was all about how Julie is the worst person in Indiana.  When she meets the only girl who is enrolled at the camp, Julie puts way too much pressure on her and tries to turn her into a miniature version of Julie. Julie puts so much pressure on Mini-Julie that Mini-Julie nearly quits the camp.  With Michael’s help, Julie sees the error of her ways and Mini-Julie agrees to stick around.

As far as the B-plots go, Danny is jealous of how much the campers love Teddy.  Vince is upset to discover that one of the campers has a crush on Mary Beth.  As for me, I’m just hoping that Coach Fuller’s basketball camp was a one-episode storyline because I really don’t want to have to spend multiple episodes listening to Julie pressure Mini-Julie.  Seriously, why aren’t these people in school!?

I will say that, in theory, Fuller having a basketball camp does make more sense than everyone hanging out in Aspen.  But, this episode really suffers without the high school.  I mean, Hang Time is about a high school basketball team and the knowledge that the members of the team will always treasure their high school memories.  If you take the school out of Hang Time, the show loses its focus.  Hopefully, next week, we’ll be back in Deering.

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.17 “Mary Beth’s Parents” and 3.18 “The Laugh Riot”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

This week, Indiana’s greatest basketball team heads for the ski slopes!

Episode 3.17 “Mary Beth’s Parents”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 8th, 1997)

I did a double-take when this episode opened with shots of a snowy ski lodge.  It wasn’t so much that this episode was taking place outside of Indiana (as we did just go through the whole California thing) as much as I thought the show had already done a ski lodge episode, one in which a man dressed as a yeti was trying to keep Mary Beth’s father from developing the land.  However, once the episode began, I realized I was thinking of the episode of California Dreams where everyone is invited to Lorena’s father’s ski lodge.

(That said, I’m pretty sure it’s the same set that was used in not only California Dreams but also Saved By The Bell: The New Class.)

Instead, in this episode, Mary Beth’s parents have invited the entire basketball team out to a ski lodge to help celebrate Mary Beth’s birthday.  That includes Coach Fuller, who is super excited about going ice fishing and catching a legendary bass.  Again, that’s not surprising.  In the world of Peter Engel-produced sitcoms, parents were always inviting and paying for their children’s friends to come vacation with them.  But you do have to wonder why only the basketball team has been invited.  Doesn’t Mary Beth have other friends that would have wanted to come?  Obviously, Mary Beth is close to Julie and Kristy and she and Vince have an unlikely flirtation going on.  But why invite Teddy and Michael, two people with whom she’s had next to nothing to do with over the course of the series?  And why invite Coach Fuller?  Fuller’s an adult.  Does he not have a life outside of his job?  Does no one find the idea of a man in his 40s going on vacation with a bunch of high school students to be a little bit creepy?

That said, even though he shouldn’t be there, Fuller is super-excited about ice fishing and the team is super-excited about watching him ice fish, which really doesn’t seem like something to get that excited about.  However, there’s more going on here than just Fuller trying to relive his fishing glory days.  Instead of going ice fishing, Vince stays back at the lodge and overhears Mary Beth’s parents talking about getting a divorce!  Vince can’t bring himself to tell Mary Beth about what he’s heard and, if we’re going to be perfectly honest, it’s not really his place to tell her because he’s not family.  However, when the rest of the team returns from Fuller’s fishing cabin, Vince tells them and then Mary Beth walks in right when Teddy is making the same point that I just made.  “If anyone is going to tell Mary Beth about her parents getting divorced, it should be Mary Beth’s parents!” Teddy says while a stunned Mary Beth stands behind him.

Now, let’s give the show some credit.  At first, Mary Beth is in denial about her parent’s getting divorced and then she moves into the anger phase and then the bargaining stage.  And, for me, it brought back a lot of memories of going through my own parent’s divorce and the show, at first, handled things with a lot more sensitivity than you would expect from a Peter Engel-produced sitcom.  But then, because this is a Peter Engel show, things get cartoonish as Mary Beth tries to save her parent’s marriage by recreating their honeymoon in Mexico, which means that Mary Beth speaks in an exaggerated Mexican accent while Vince puts on a sombrero and a fake mustache.  It doesn’t work but, fortunately, Mary Beth moves from anger to acceptance in record time.

Again, let’s give some credit where credit is due.  I’ve been pretty critical of the Vince/Mary Beth pairing but Megan Parlen and Michael Sullivan both have a lot of chemistry in this episode and Sullivan, in particular, is better here than he’s been in any of the previous episodes.  And even the ice fishing storyline pays off as the normally stiff Reggie Theus really gets into trash-talking a legendary giant bass.  Fuller catches the bass (which is obviously a fake, rubber fish) but then he tosses it back in the lake.  It would be a touching moment if the bass actually looked like real, living fish as opposed to a rubber toy.

Flaws and all, this was ultimately a pretty good episode.  Will the streak continue with our second ski lodge episode?

Episode 3.18 “The Laugh Riot”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 8th, 1997)

We’re still at the ski lodge!  Mary Beth’s parents are nowhere to be seen but we know that they’re still getting divorced because Vince gives Mary Beth an expensive ring to help her get over it.  Awwwwwww!  Unfortunately, Mary Beth loses the ring, which leads to her going through a lot of trouble to keep Danny from finding out.  But then she finds it in her pocket and everything’s okay.  Yay!  This whole storyline made me anxious.  I hate plots that could easily be resolved by one person just telling the truth about what happened.

Meanwhile, the Lodge is holding auditions for a new comedian to perform at their comedy club and Danny decides to audition, despite the fact that he’s only there on vacation and will presumably be going back to Indiana in a day or two.  I’m not sure that Danny has really thought this through.  When Danny gets get on stage, he suffers from stage fright and freezes.  Fortunately, Teddy joins him on stage and they become a comedy duo.  They’re both hired!  But Teddy eventually realizes that stand-up comedy is Danny’s dream and he allows Danny to perform the show alone.  It’s kind of pointless, as none of the jokes are particularly funny and it’s kind of a stretch to imagine a club full of wealthy adults going crazy over Danny joking about reading his girlfriend’s diary.

This episode features an extended sequence in which Danny imagines himself as being Jerry Seinfeld.  CRINGE!

Next week, the ski lodge adventure continues!

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.15 “Teen Mom” and 3.16 “Midnight Basketball”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

The saga of Indiana’s greatest basketball team continues.  I’ll always remember me and my friends at Hang Time….

Episode 3.15 “Teen Mom”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 1st, 1997)

Danny’s latest girlfriend, Sarah, is a teen mom!  Danny decides that, since he loves Sarah and he loves her son Max, he wants to marry her.  Sarah turns him down and Danny says that if she ever needs a babysitter, she knows who to call.  Then he leaves her house, alone.

Wow, what a depressing episode!  Give some credit to Chad Gabriel, who gives a good performance and who proves that he deserved to headline more episodes of this series than he did but still, this was definitely not a cheery episode.

Fortunately, there is a comedic B-plot, in which Kristy gets addicted to playing a video game called Killer Klown.  It  causes her to miss a photo shoot but … oh well!  KILLER KLOWN!

Episode 3.16 “Midnight Basketball”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 1st, 1997)

In a storyline that was used in not just one but three different episodes of Saved By The Bell, the school starts a teen line!

Coach Fuller takes charge of the teen line and, of course, the operators are the members of the basketball team.  Despite the fact that they went out on a date just two episodes ago, Michael is not sure that Julie likes him and Julie isn’t sure that Michael likes her.  They each call the teen line for advice.  Mary Beth tells Julie to throw herself at Michael.  Danny tells Michael to ignore Julie and “play hard to get.”  It’s terrible advice and it leads to a lot of confusion.  Eventually, Julie figures out why Michael has been ignoring her and they end up kissing while the audience goes wild.  Doesn’t anyone remember how badly all of Julie’s relationships tend to end?

Meanwhile, Teddy befriends a caller named Eric.  Eric keeps getting into fights because there’s nothing for him and his friends to do at night.  Breaking the rules of Teen Line (much as Zach Morris once did), Teddy meets with Eric.  Taking sympathy on Eric, Teddy arranges for a midnight basketball game at Deering High.  Eric and his friends are defeated and thoroughly humiliated by the Tornadoes.  Needless to say, Eric is not happy about that and he trashes the team’s locker room.  To be honest, I don’t blame Eric.  How are you going to invite people to your gym and then humiliate them in the middle of the night?

That said, after a heart-to-heart with Teddy, Eric returns to Deering to help clean up the locker room.  Teddy promises to mentor Eric.  We will probably never see Eric again.

I have to say that, even on a show like Hang Time, Anthony Anderson was already a good actor.  There’s a lot of heart and sincerity in his performance here and it makes the episode work even when it shouldn’t.

Film Review: You People (dir by Kenya Barris)

Ezra Cohen (Jonah Hill) and Amirah Mohammed (Lauren London) have been dating for six months.  Ezra is a Jewish atheist who works at a brokerage firm but who says his lifelong dream has been to be a podcaster.  Lauren is Black and a devout Muslim.  A graduate of Howard University, she is pursuing a career as a designer.  Despite coming from very different backgrounds, Ezra and Amirah are deeply in love and want to get married.  However, becoming engaged also means …. MEETING THE PARENTS!

Shelley and Arnold Cohen (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny) are self-styled progressives who immediately embarrass Ezra by going out of their way to trying to show how liberal and non-racist they are.  Shelley, in particular, goes out of her way to bond with Amirah but it’s immediately obvious that Shelley views Amirah as being more someone to show off than as an actual human being.  Meanwhile, Akbar Mohammed and Fatima Mohammed (played by Eddie Murphy and Nia Long) are members of the Nation of Islam who admire Louis Farrakhan and who claim that the Jews were behind the slave trade.

Just from that plot description, you can see a huge part of the problem with the new film, You People.  Whereas Shelley’s problem is that she’s too quick to brag about how much she loves the idea of having a black daughter-in-law, Akbar’s problem is that he’s an anti-Semite.  His main objections to Ezra are that 1) Ezra isn’t black and 2) Ezra’s Jewish.  While Shelley takes Amirah shopping, Akbar tries to get Ezra killed by tricking him into wearing “the wrong colors” to a barbershop.  While Shelley shows off Amirah to all of her liberal friends, Akbar shoves Ezra onto a basketball court.  While Shelley is awkwardly trying to prove that she’s an ally, Akbar is inviting himself to Ezra’s wild Las Vegas bachelor party.  (Akbar is disturbed to discover that Ezra has a “coke guy.”  If this film had been made ten years ago, Ezra would have had a weed guy and it would have been easier to buy the film’s contention that Akbar is being unreasonable.)  Shelley is certainly obnoxious and she fully deserves to get called out for her behavior.  But Akbar is an anti-Semite who peddles the type of conspiracy theories that have been at the center of the alarming rise in recent hate crimes.  Whereas Shelley is clueless, Akbar is actually malicious.  And while that’s a story that one certainly could try to tell, it also makes it a bit difficult to buy the film’s fanciful ending.  The movie ultimately can’t decide if it wants to be a fearless satire of race relations or a feel-good romcom.  The tone of the film switches from scene to scene and Kenya Barris’s direction is so inconsistent that he makes Judd Apatow look like a disciplined filmmaker by comparison.

The cast is full of talent but the characters are largely one-dimensional.  Jonah Hill is undoubtedly a good actor but he’s also nearly 40 years old and, with his full beard, he looks about ten years older, which makes it a bit hard to believe that he would be that concerned with getting the approval of his future in-laws.  At first, a role of Akbar would seem ideal for Eddie Murphy but, with the exception of a scene where Akbar quizzes Ezra on his favorite Jay-Z song in an attempt to trick Ezra into saying the “n-word,” Murphy doesn’t really get to do much other than stand around with a pained expression on his face.  Probably the most interesting performance in the film comes from Mike Epps, who plays Akbar’s brother and who is one of the few characters willing to call everyone out on their hypocrisy.  But, unfortunately, Epps is only in a handful of scenes and the film uses him as more of a dramatic device than a fully rounded character.

As I watched You People, I couldn’t help but think about another film about an interracial wedding, Rachel Getting Married.  That film provided a believable and multi-layered look at two different cultures coming together.  You People, however, can’t quite make up its mind what it believes or what it wants to say and, unfortunately, what it does say is often said with a surprising lack of self-awareness.  At times, it’s so proud of itself that it feels like it almost could have been written by Shelley Cohen.

You People is streaming on Netflix.

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.13 “The Perfect Game” and 3.14 “Blood Drive”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Having lost the tournament in California, the Tornadoes are back in Indiana!

Episode 3.13 “The Perfect Girl”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 25th, 1997)

Coach Fuller finds himself subbing as the teacher of the school’s cooking class.  Thinking that the class will be an easy A, Michael, Teddy, Danny, and Julie all enroll in the class …. which, doesn’t really make any sense as they’re high school students and there are few high schools that will let you randomly enroll in a class halfway through a semester.  Add to that, they’re specifically enrolling in the class because Fuller is teaching it but what are they going to do when the regular teacher comes back?

It turns out that Fuller expects them to take his cooking class seriously and, when they screw around and even try to pass off a Stadium-bought pie as their own work, Fuller threatens to give them all Fs.  Seeing as how they randomly entered the class, couldn’t they just as randomly drop out before getting their final grade?  I’m really not sure how this high school works.  Eventually, the four of them get serious and make a real pie.  Of course, Teddy trips and accidentally smashes it into Fuller’s face.  Strangely enough, Danny did the exact same thing to a rival coach in the previous episode.

Meanwhile, Mary Beth enters a modeling contest and makes it to the finals.  When she doesn’t win, she considers getting plastic surgery.  As someone who was once told that the only thing keeping me from potentially becoming a star was a nose job, I could relate.  And, much like Mary Beth, I did consider getting that nose job.  Ultimately, I didn’t because I actually like my imperfect nose.  It’s a physical feature that I shared with my mom and just about everyone else in my family.  Mary Beth, thankfully, also declines to get plastic surgery, largely due to overhearing Vince talking about how beautiful she is.  Awwwwww!

Episode 3.14 “Blood Drive”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 25th, 1997)

Kristy is tying to organize the school blood drive.

Mary Beth is trying to organize the school dance.

Danny helps Kristy because he likes her.  That’s not a surprise since Kristy bears a strong resemblance to Sam, the former team manager who broke Danny’s heart at the start of the second season.  Unfortunately, Danny gets jealous when he meets the handsome doctor who will be helping to draw the blood.  Danny almost ruins everything with his jealousy but then, he somehow convinces an actual NBA star to show up and give some blood.  The audience goes crazy.  Kristy, however, informs Danny that she’s not ready to date anyone.  (Seriously, Kristy, you’re only in high school for a limited amount of time.  You might as well try to have some fun.)

Meanwhile, Vince nearly ruins Mary Beth’s dance because of his inability to find a good band.  Finally, he finds a really cool old guy who plays an accordion.  Woo hoo!  The dance is saved.

Finally, I guess Julie broke up with that Jason guy because now she wants Michael to ask her to the dance.  However, Michael is insecure because he can’t dance.  Teddy tries to teach Michael how to dance and, even though it’s a really silly scene, Anthony Anderson gets so much into it that you can’t help but be charmed.  Anyway. Julie fakes an ankle sprain so that Michael, seeing that she won’t be able to dance, will ask her to be his date and it works.  Yay!  I just hope this relationship works out better than every other relationship Julie has had.  Chris cheated on her.  Josh and Jason both mysteriously vanished.  Michael seems to be a good guy, though.

This was a sweet episode.  Hang Time was at its best when it just let the teens be teens.

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.11 “The Hustlers” and 3.12 “Fuller’s Rival”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

The trip to California continues!

Episode 3.11 “The Hustlers”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 18th, 1997)

This episode reminds us that it originally aired in 1997 by featuring an entire subplot that revolves around how much the members of the Tornadoes love Mel Gibson.

The Tornadoes are still in California, preparing for their big tournament.  (Coach Fuller mentions that they’ve been at the hotel for a week, which sounds like a really long time to be out of school but whatever.  Maybe they’re on Spring Break.)  When Vince comes across a wallet in the hotel lobby, everyone is excited to discover that it belongs to Mel Gibson.  They’re so excited that they don’t even notice Dustin Diamond standing behind them, providing a painfully unfunny cameo as Saved By The Bell‘s Screech Powers.

(Speaking of Saved By The Bell, remember when Mary Beth made out with a character from that show over the summer, while they were both at Space Camp?  It’s odd that no one brings Ryan up while they’re all in California and apparently close to Bayside High.  It’s almost as if the show’s writers didn’t really pay much attention to what they were writing.)

Danny, Michael, Mary Beth, and Kristy pretend to be members of the cleaning staff and they break into Mel Gibson’s room.  When they step into the room, Mary Beth calls out in an exaggerated Spanish accent to see if Mel’s around because she’s pretending to be a maid.  Those who have been reading my reviews for a while know that I rarely get offended but I have to say that, speaking as both someone who is a fourth Spanish and whose mother took the occasional cleaning job in order to provide a good life for her four daughters, that actually did offend me a little.

Anyway, the group never does find Mel, though they do crash an exclusive Hollywood party that just happens to be taking place at the exact same hotel where they’re staying.  Hopefully, someone did eventually get Mel’s wallet back to him.

The majority of show dealt with Teddy and Julie getting conned by some basketball hustlers.  I didn’t even know that basketball hustlers were a thing but apparently, they were a huge problem in 1997.  After Teddy and Julie get conned out of a hundred dollars, Michael plays with Teddy and Julie to help them win back their money.  Unfortunately, Michael sprains his wrist (what is the deal with Michael constantly spraining stuff?) so Coach Fuller offers to play in Michael’s place.  When the hustlers say that they’ll only play against teenagers, Kobe Bryant suddenly enters the gym.  (According to Wikipedia, Kobe was 19 when he appeared in this episode.)  Being a teenager (assuming that you accept 19 as being a teen as opposed to a young adult), Kobe helps Julie and Teddy defeat the hustlers.  Julie and Teddy get their money back.  But, to be honest, if they really needed money, they could have just borrowed some from Mel Gibson’s wallet and saved everyone a lot of trouble.

Eh.  Between the racist humor and the Screech cameo, I don’t want to talk about this episode anymore.  Let’s move on.

Episode 3.12 “Fuller’s Rival”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 18th, 1997)

Finally, it’s time for the tournament!  Deering makes it to the final game against New York.  (New York High School?  I’m not sure how these tournaments work.  Are they representing a state or a school?)  New York is coached by Fuller’s former rival, B.B. Byrnes (Barry Wiggins).  B.B. taunts Fuller to such an extent that Fuller loses his cool and gets kicked out of the game.  Then Michael gets upset and also gets kicked out of the game.  And then the Tornadoes lose!

Fuller apologizes to the team and tells them that good sportsmanship is important.  Then, at the award banquet, Danny smashes a cake in B.B.’s face so I guess the lesson wasn’t learned.  Oh well.

This episode, especially compared to the previous one, was actually pretty good.  Reggie Theus, who could be a bit of a stiff actor, really gets into tearing up the gym when he loses his temper and, for that matter, Adam Frost (who played Michael) finally gets to show a little emotion as well.  Plus, this show often tended to portray the Tornadoes as being unstoppable.  I always appreciate the episodes where they learn a lesson from losing a game as opposed to the ones where they magically pulling off a last-minute victory.

The California story arc may have been uneven but it ended on a good note.  Next week, I assume we’ll be back in Indiana.

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.9 “Not a D’Amata” and 3.10 “Kristy’s Other Mother”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

The Tornadoes go to California!  But first, we have to sit through some crap about Vince and his brother….

Episode 3.9 “Not a D’Amata”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 11th, 1997)

It turns out that Vince has a bother named Nick (played by Michael Sullivan’s real-life brother, Billy).  Where has Nick been over the past season and a half?  He has been in Paris, at music school.  When he returns from France, Vince is shocked to discover that Nick has gone from being just like Vince to being someone who wears a beret, speaks fluent French, and writes poetry!  Vince is so upset that Nick has switched from being one stereotype to another, he rejects his brother.  Fortunately, Michael points out that not everyone is a three-point shooter and not everyone is a …. well, he uses a lot of basketball terms.  The important thing is that Vince accepts the new Nick.

(If this episode were made today, it would be about Nick coming out and Vince struggling to accept it.  But, since this episode is from 1997, it’s instead about Vince freaking out over Nick wearing a beret.)

While this is going on, Mary Beth and Kristy throw a fund raiser for the library.  Apparently, they’re going to raise money by having Coach Fuller throw balls through a basket.  Unfortunately, Fuller keeps missing his shots.  It looks the library is going to be closed!  Fortunately, a real basketball player named Gary Payton shows up and goads Fuller into regaining his confidence.  Not being a fan of the game, this whole storyline was weird to me.  I just know the audience went crazy whenever anyone threw a basketball.

Episode 3.10 “Kristy’s Other Mother”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on October 11th, 1997)

This episode opens with a shot of the Beverly Hills Hotel….

Wait a minute?  Isn’t this show set in Indiana?

Well, it turns out that the Tornadoes have been invited to compete in a tournament in Los Angeles and, for some reason, they’re saying at a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills.  (Remember when Mary Beth spent a thousand dollars on sports bags and was told that she had spent all the money the team had in its annual budget?  I imagine flying to California and getting rooms for the entire team at a luxury hotel costs a bit more than a thousand dollars.)  Strangely, Kristy accompanies the team to Los Angeles but none of the other cheerleaders come with her.  If you’re already wasting all that money on a hotel in Beverly Hills, why not bring the entire school?  Seriously, if you’re going to get fired for fiscal incompetence, you might as well go all out.

(How much school are the Tornadoes skipping to go to this tournament?)

It turns out that Kristy has a reason beyond cheerleading to go to California.  She wants to meet her birth mother, who turns to be a fabulously wealthy actress who is starring in a movie with Harrison Ford.  (No, Harrison Ford does not make an appearance.)  Kristy’s mom is like, “Move to California!” but Kristy ultimately decides that she prefers Indiana.  Considering what lay head for California, Kristy made the right decision.  That said, Kristy’s decision still doesn’t make much sense.  What teenager is going to choose small town Indiana over a chance to live with a movie star in Beverly Hills?

Meanwhile, Vince, Danny, and Michael appear on a dating game show that’s being filmed at the hotel.  Vince wins a date with a girl other than Mary Beth.  Needless to say, Mary Beth is not amused.  Wisely, Vince gives her a lot of presents.

This was a pretty silly and fairly mawkish episode but at least the hotel looked nice.  This episode was directed by Don Barnhart, who directed several episodes of Saved By The Bell and California Dreams.  It also ends with the Tornadoes still in California so I’m guessing this L.A. tournament thing is going to last for a few more episodes.  We’ll find out if I’m right next week!