Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 3.11 “El-Train In The Sky With Geena” and 3.12 “Miracle 134th Street and Lexington Avenue”

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!

Are the neat guys still smart and streetwise?  Were they ever?  Let’s find out!

Episode 3.11 “El-Train In The Sky With Geena”

(dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on November 27th, 1999)

Jamal is still dating Ashley (Trina McGee), the manipulative girl with the thick Southern accent.  However, Jamal is concerned when her ex-boyfriend Roger comes to visit “from the South.”  After lying to Roger about Ashley having to serve detention, Jamal and Chris take Roger on a tour of New York City, one that is meant to make him hate the city so much that he’ll never want to return.  At one point, they take him to — cringe! — the Twin Towers and make him walk all the way to the top, via the stairs.  They tell him to think of World Trade Center as being a “Stairmaster with a gift shop on the top floor.”  UGH!

Now, in all fairness, the creative team behind City Guys had no idea what would happen 20 months in the future.  At the time this episode aired, the World Trade Center was a popular New York tourist attraction and it made sense that Jamal and Chris would take a visitor to see it.  Still, watching this scene today is all sorts of cringey.  “Why do we have to take the stairs?” Roger asks.  “Because the elevators are broken,” is the reply.

Seriously, let’s just move on to the A-plot of this episode.

The students have raised $200 to buy Ms. Nobel a gift.  (What is the deal with these people and their pathological obsession with their principal?)  They give the money to L-Train, the class president.  Unfortunately, L-Train has a new girlfriend named Geena and Geena is hooked on …. MARIJUANA!  She’s so addicted that she even lights up at the movies.  She’s so addicted that, when she finds out L-Train has $200 in his locker, she steals it so that she can buy more weed.  She promises to pay L-Train back but the next time that L-Train sees her, she’s staring at her hand and talking about how she can’t feel her face.  What exactly has she been smoking?

Anyway, L-Train is forced to buy a cheap chair for Ms. Nobel’s gift.  Ms. Nobel is disappointed in him.  JUST BE GRATEFUL YOUR KISS-ASS STUDENTS GOT YOU A GIFT!  Anyway, Ms. Nobel encourages L-Train to give Geena a second chance and to get her in drug rehab.

Anyway, this was a dumb episode.  It turns out that Roger and Ashley only dated in the 2nd grade and Geena agrees to get help.  And I guess Ms. Nobel eventually gets a better chair.  Steven Daniel gave a typically empathetic performance but everyone else was definitely an autopilot.

Let’s move on!

Episode 3.12 “Miraclce on 134th Street and Lexington Avenue)

(dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on November 27th, 1999)

It’s a Christmas episode!

The gang is still working at the New York Toy Company, where Al and Jamal try to make extra money and from which Chris and Dawn are regularly delivering toys to the local community center.  After discovering that Allison, one of the kids at the center, wants to meet her father for the first time, Chris and Dawn track him down and reunite the family.  Ms. Nobel praised everyone for doing a good job.  No one mentions anything about the fact that Chris, Jamal, Dawn, Cassidy, Al, and L-Train would rather spend their holidays with Ms. Nobel instead of their own families.  Seriously, high school only lasts four years.  How are these people going to survive adulthood without having Ms. Nobel around 24/7?

Usually, I like Christmas episodes but this one didn’t really work for me.  I hate to say this but the performers playing Allison, her mother, and her father weren’t particularly believable in their roles.  Plus, it didn’t seem to occur to anyone that maybe there was a good reason why Allison’s father no longer had any contact with his family.  Instead, Dawn and Chris just took it upon themselves to tell him where Allison and her mother could be found.  I mean, they could have at least done a background check.

The neat guys did not impress me this week.  Hopefully, next week will be a bit better.

Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 3.17 “Angels of Harlem” and 3.18 “Rollin’ With The Homies”

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!

Roll with the city guys!

Episode 3.17 “Angels of Harlem”

(dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on November 20th, 1999)

Ms. Nobel’s church is celebrating its 100th birthday so, of course, her students are roped into helping to decorate because who cares about keeping the church out of school and all that other stuff.  It turns out that the church is going to be torn down by a real estate developer and that developer is …. CHRIS’S FATHER!

Chris and Dawn chain themselves to the church and …. well, look, this was a dumb episode and it featured way too much church stuff for my tastes.  Let’s move on.

Actually, before I move on, I guess I should mention that Jamal starts dating Ashley in this episode and, unlike Jamal’s other girlfriends, it appears that Angela is actually going to be featured in multiple episodes.  Ashely is played by Trina McGee, who also played Angela on Boy Meets World.  Oddly enough, Trina was already two years into Boy Meets World when she did City GuysBoy Meets World was also an ABC show whereas City Guys was an NBC show.  It’s just a bit odd to see her pop up on this show.

Episode 3.18 “Rollin’ With The Homies”

(dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on November 20th, 1999)

“Alright, alright, alright!” Jamal announces as he shows up at Manny High for another day of learning, “Only a few days to Christmas break!  A brother can’t wait for Christmas vacation!”  

Anyway, it’s time for the Winterfest Dance, which Cassidy explains is a dance on the roof in the middle of winter.  And since this is an episode of City Guys, it’s also time for Ms. Nobel to show up and tell everyone to get a Christmas job working at a toy store.  Did Ms. Nobel not have any other students to whom she could give these assignments?

The owner of the toy store informs Jamal, Chris, and L-Train that they’ll be working as delivery boys.  The first delivery is a bunch of video games to the owner’s house.  He explains that his son is home from boarding school and that the games are for him.  “Are you interested in adopting a young black child?” Jamal asks.

Al, Dawn, and Cassidy are assigned to be salespeople.  They get into a competition to see who can win the sales contest.  Yawn.  At least this episode acknowledges that Dawn and Al are now a couple.

Jamal, Chris, and L-Train make friends with the boss’s son, Tommy.  Tommy is in a wheelchair and his father is superprotective.  At first, Tommy is upset to discover that Jamal, Chris, and L-Train are getting paid extra to hang out with him but then Jamal makes it up to him by taking him out of the house without his Dad’s permission.  When Tommy’s Dad finds out, he fires Jamal, Chris, and L-Train.  Meanwhile, Tommy gets mad at everyone for treating him like he can’t take care of himself.

The next day, in school, Ms. Nobel decides to get involved because she doesn’t have a life outside of church and school.  She tells Jamal to treat Tommy like he would treat anyone.  Apparently, treating Tommy like everyone means throwing the Winterfest Dance in Tommy’s house.  Tommy gets a date with Cassidy.  Tommy’s father is a bit upset about the dance being moved to his house but Ms. Nobel talks him out of it.  Because Ms. Nobel can do anything.

I’m just being snarky.  By City Guys standards, this was actually a pretty good episode.  Al and Dawn are a cute couple and I’m glad Tommy had a good Christmas.

Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 3.15 “Funny Business” and 3.16 “Get Your Vote On”

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!

Hello Manny High!  When last we checked in with the City Guys, they were starring on a reality show.  Let’s see what happens this week….

Episode 3.15 “Funny Business”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on November 6th, 1999)

Oh hey, I guess the whole reality show thing is over.  In this episode, there’s no mention of Reality House or the Loft.  There’s no cameramen chasing Jamal and Chris.  In fact, no one mentions anything about ever having appeared on reality television.  I guess this is one of those things, like the video yearbook, where they’ll explain what actually happened two seasons from now.

In this episode, Rebecca (Lisa Pepper), a Manny High graduate, returns to her former school so that she can offer three internships at her architectural firm.  Of course, Dawn volunteers.  And then Ms. Nobel randomly draws two names out of a bag for the other two spots and, of course, she draws Chris and Jamal!  I have a feeling that every piece of paper in that bag had either Chris or Jamal’s name written on it.

Chris really enjoys the internship until Rebecca orders him to be her love slave.  After Chris says that’s not appropriate workplace behavior, Rebecca threatens to flunk him unless he become her boy toy.  Chris, Jamal, and Dawn secretly record Rebecca threatening Chris and Rebecca gets fired.

Every show produced by Peter Engel did at least one episode dealing with sexual harassment but I think City Guys was the only one to feature a guy being harassed by a woman.  The episode is a bit heavy-handed and, over the past two and a half seasons, Chris has basically tried to get in the pants of every woman that he’s met so it seems like a little out-of-character that he would turn down the first woman who has actually shown any interest in him.  I mean, if we’re going to be honest, Chris is a serial harasser who apparently can’t handle having the tables turned on him.  This episode says more about Chris than it does Rebecca.

Episode 3.16 “Get Your Vote On”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on November 13th, 1999)

Chris has two tickets to the Taxi, Taxi, “the hottest Broadway show.”  Both Cassidy and Dawn volunteer to be his date.

“Two girls, one ticket,” Al says, “you in trouble!”

Well, Al, let’s think about it.  First off, Chris has been trying to date Cassidy since this season began and now, she’s begging to go on a date with him.  Plus, Al — YOU’RE DATING DAWN!  Remember that!?  I’m going to guess this episode was actually filmed before the episode in which Al and Dawn got together and NBC, as they often did, showed the episodes out of order.  As I’ve said before and will probably say again …. NBC just didn’t care.

The Broadway thing is only the B-plot.  The A-plot features L-Train running for reelection as Student Council president.  Jamal decides to run against him because he feels that L-Train hasn’t done enough for the radio station.

While Jamal campaigns for the presidency, Dawn and Cassidy beg Chris to pick one of them to take to the Broadway show.  “You in a player’s paradise!” Al tells Chris before reminding him that Chris has all the power over Dawn and Cassidy.  Al …. DAWN IS YOUR GIRLFRIEND, YOU WEIRDO!

As for the election, Jamal makes a lot of promises that he can’t keep and is elected over L-Train.  After Ms. Nobel informs him that the student council has no money and he’ll have to hold a fund raiser to keep all of his promises, Jamal decides to have a carnival on the roof of the school.  I have to admit that I’m kind of amazed at how strong that roof is.  I mean, they do everything on that roof!

For some reason, Jamal decides to bring a pig to the carnival.  L-Train, looking for revenge, plots to set the pig on the loose but, after Jamal offers to make him vice president, L-Train abandons his evil plan.  Unfortunately, the pig is already on the loose.  (There’s something I never thought I’d write.)  The carnival is a disaster.

“Jamal must go!” the students chant, until L-Train explains that he’s responsible for the pig getting loose.

While this is going on, Cassidy and Dawn get revenge on Al and Chris by having Cassidy’s uncle pretend to be a cop in the anti-scalping division.  After Chris tries to sell the tickets, the fake cop arrests Chris and Al and orders them to hand the tickets over to Cassidy and Dawn.  Ha!  Take that, Chris and Al!

Jamal and L-Train make up and then Jamal resigns so L-Train can become president again.  So, everything’s back to normal.  Yay! 

This episode wasn’t that bad, if you can overlook the plot.  Steven Daniel had some good moments as L-Train.  And the pig getting loose on the roof was a genuinely well-done moment.  Plus, Dawn and Cassidy got to see Taxi Taxi!

Next week …. well, who knows?  I’m sure it’ll be crazy whatever it is.

Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 3.13 “Down and Out In Soho” and 3.14 “When Al Met Dawn”

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!

Smart and streetwise!

Episode 3.13 “Down and Out in Soho”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 30th, 1999)

So, I guess the reality show is still a thing.  This episode begins with Ms. Nobel telling the Gang that she’s spoken to the show’s producer and she thinks it would be a good idea for them to do a community service project.  I find myself asking this every review but seriously …. how is this any of Ms. Nobel’s business?  Is Ms. Nobel a producer on Reality House now?

Anyway, the community service project involves hanging out with a bunch of Romanian immigrants.  This leads to a lot of scenes featuring the immigrants speaking in broken English and thick accents while the audiences laughs it up.  For a show that was supposedly all about celebrating diversity, City Guys certainly did enjoy poking fun at people with thick accents.

When Dawn comes across Euri, one of the Romanians, sleeping on the streets, she invites him to come live at the loft.  Jamal warns that the guy could be a thief but he’s outvoted by his loftmates.  Euri moves into the Loft and promptly steals a computer.  At first, Dawn is disillusioned and swears she’ll never help another immigrant.  Fortunately, Jamal and Dawn then run into Euri at a coffeehouse and he explains that his name is actually Joey and he’s from New Jersey.  Upon discovering that she was robbed by an American instead of a Romanian, Dawn feels a lot better.

In the B-plot, Cassidy starts a folk act with L-Train and Chris and pretends to be a bad singer so that Chris and L-Train will quit the group.  But if Cassidy wanted to be a solo act, why was she working with L-Train and Chris in the first place?

It was a bit of a confusing episode.  Apparently, everyone is watching the reality show but no one recognizes Chris or Jamal when they’re in public.  And we never actually see a camera crew filming the group.  If the Loft is full of cameras, wouldn’t they have  captured Euri/Joey stealing the computer?

Hopefully, this next episode will make more sense….

Episode 3.14 “When Al Met Dawn”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on November 6th, 1999)

“After two months of Reality House,” Cassidy says as the episode begins, “the best part is that you really get to know your roommates.”

“The worst part,” Jamal says, “is you really get to know your roommate.”

Actually, for the past two and a half seasons, the characters on this show have exclusively hung out with each other, to the extent that it almost seems like they’re in a Ms. Nobel-centered cult.  It also seems like they should already know each other.

Speaking of getting to know each other, Dawn and Al are working on a science project together and they end up falling for each other and you know what?  They’re actually a cute couple.  However, Dawn is worried about the pressure of pursuing a relationship while on a reality TV show.  “I mean, look at Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck!” she says, “Their relationship was killed because no one would leave them alone!”  

Wow, Ben and his love life have been pop culture reference points for a while now.

(By the way, Dawn and Al’s science project is a big bulky television mounted on the handlebars of a bicycle.  The idea is that you can watch TV while pedaling but it seems like it would just cause more accidents than anything else.)

Since Dawn and Al are keeping things a secret, L-Train sets Al up on a date with another girl.  When the girl kisses Al, Dawns sees them and freaks out.  At the science fair, Dawn humiliates Al by accusing him of cheating.  Ms. Nobel, who has nothing better to do, tells Dawn that it was actually all her fault for trying to keep things a secret.  (Ms. Nobel isn’t wrong but again, why does Ms. Nobel have to get involved in everything?)  Dawn hijacks that Manny High radio station and asks Al to meet her at their favorite coffeehouse.  Of course, everyone else from the reality show and the school all show up at the coffeehouse so that they can watch Al and Dawn get back together.  It’s kind of cringey but, again, they’re a cute couple.

Meanwhile, Chris and Jamal are in love with the building’s new superintendent.  So, the Loft is actually in a real building as opposed to just being a Big Brother-style set?  I’m starting to think this show is not a realistic look at reality television.

Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 3.11 “Marriage Go Around” and 3.12 “Movin’ On Up”

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!

If I can turn it in tomorrow, it’ll be alright….

Episode 3.11 “Marriage Go Round”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 23rd, 1999)

It’s marriage class!  The class — which, of course, includes Jamal, Chris, L-Train, Al, Dawn, and Cassidy — is divided into couples.  Ms. Nobel assigns the couples and, for a few weeks, they pretend to be married and deal with any complications that come up.  Ms. Nobel also decides what the complications are going to be.  Why does Ms. Nobel get all this power?

Anyway, Jamal gets mad because Chris is “married” to Jamal’s previously never seen or acknowledged girlfriend.  (Apparently, Jamal broke up with the white girl who had the racist father.)  Jamal spends the entire show worrying that he’s going to lose his girlfriend and then he does lose his girlfriend but who cares?  We’ve never seen this person before.  Meanwhile, L-Train is assigned to marry a girl who thinks that she’s too good for him, Al is assigned to marry Dawn, and Jamal is assigned to marry Cassidy.  Considering that Chris is supposedly in love with Cassidy, wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to be jealous of Jamal than for Jamal to be jealous of Chris?

 As you may have noticed, this episode was recycled from an old episode of Saved By The Bell.  It wasn’t that good of an idea when Saved By The Bell did it.  It’s even dumber when it gets the City Guys treatment.

Episode 3.12 “Movin’ On Up”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 30th, 1999)

Rock TV (that’s this show’s version of MTV) is holding auditions for the cast of the latest season of Reality House (a.k.a. The Real World).  Chris, Jamal, L-Train, Al, Dawn, and Cassidy show up late for the auditions and then get into a loud argument about who is to blame.  The producer is so impressed by their argument that he hires them on the spot!  As he puts it, they’ve got “in-your-face, New York attitude!”

The Gang becomes reality stars!

They move into a loft but apparently, there’s not enough conflict and Chris and Jamal overhear the show’s producer talking about cancelling the season.  Chris and Jamal decide to manufacture conflict to keep the season going.  Isn’t that what the show’s producers are supposed to be doing?  

Seriously, as a committed reality TV fan, this episode offended me.  Why would you ever cast a reality show with an uneven number of men and women?  Why would you pick people who already know each other?  Why would you not toss someone in specifically to start conflict?  Where’s the naïve newcomer from the Midwest?  Where’s the frustrated artist with terrible personal hygiene?  Where’s the girl who won’t shut up about being a virgin?  Where’s the frat boy with a drinking problem?  I mean, no wonder no one is watching this show!

While the gang appears on reality TV, Ms. Nobel deals with a terrible new assistant named Marcy.  It was pretty dumb.  Even dumber is that Ms. Nobel somehow got involved in telling Chris and Jamal how to behave on the reality show.  Why does Ms. Nobel get involved in everything?  Is running a high school really that easy of a job that she can just spend all of her time hanging out at the diner and the reality show loft?

The episode ended with the TV show still going and everyone still living in the Loft so I guess this reality show angle is going to be the new thing.  I guess we’ll find out for sure next week!

Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 3.7 “Ebony & Ivory” and 3.8 “Reluctant Hero”

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!

Last week’s episodes of City Guys were actually pretty good.  Let’s see if it continues this week!

Episode 3.7 “Ebony & Ivory”

(dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 9th, 1999)

Jamal’s dating a white girl!  Kristen Jones (Amy Leland) is the daughter of a deputy mayor who pretends to be all progressive about race but who is actually a racist who doesn’t want Kristen dating a black guy.  But Jamal has asked Kristen to the latest school dance.  Chris agrees to pretend to be Kristen’s date but, when Kristen leaves her purse at the house, her father comes to the dance and catches Chris making out with his actual date, Sarah (Natalie Austin).  Racist old Mr. Jones makes a big deal about the world not being ready for interracial relationships.  Ms. Nobel and the students tell him off.

This episode had a good message but it was somewhat sabotaged by the fact that Kristen appeared to be in her early 30s and seemed to be too old to be dating anyone in high school, regardless of what race they may be.  As well, the actress playing Kristen delivered her lines in a somewhat creepy monotone.  For that matter, so did the actor playing her father and the actress playing Chris’s date.  All of the guest actors were so stiff and unconvincing in their performances that this episode took on an odd Twilight Zone sort of feel.  I found myself wondering if maybe Manny High had been transported to planet full of androids.

Interestingly enough, Chris spent the previous episode talking about how much he loved Cassidy but, even after it was revealed that she still didn’t have a date, Chris never asked her to the dance.  Instead, Cassidy discovered the L-Train also didn’t have a date so she agreed to go with him.  Dawn and Al, meanwhile, also discovered that neither one of them could get a date so they went together.  It fit into the show’s message about interracial relationships and that’s a good thing but, at the same time, it also felt a bit forced.  L-Train is the president of the student body and apparently a pretty popular guy.  Cassidy usually has a new boyfriend every week.  Since when have any of these characters ever had difficulty getting a date? 

Episode 3.8 “Reluctant Hero”

(dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 9th, 1999)

In order to combat crime, Ms. Nobel decides to appoint L-Train, Al, Dawn, and Cassidy as hall monitors.  L-Train and Al end up taking bribes in the form of brownies and Philly cheesesteaks.  Whatever.  It’s stupid.  Let’s move on to the main story.

Along with turning her students into narcs, Ms. Nobel also decides that the school needs a self-defense class.  Coming in to teach the class is Yvonne and …. OH MY GOD!  It’s Lorena from California Dreams!  That’s right, Diana Uribe plays Yvonne and naturally, both Chris and Jamal fall for her.  (“She’s got a black belt in hot!” Chris exclaims.)  Yvonne agrees to go on a date with Jamal but — uh oh! — Jamal’s been grounded.  Jamal goes on the date anyway and, afterwards, he sees a man being mugged.  Using his self-defense training, Jamal knocks the mugger out.  But — oh no! — now his dad will know that he went  out when he was grounded.  Jamal convinces Chris to take credit for knocking out the mugger.

Chris is declared to be a hero.  Jamal gets jealous, especially after the Mayor — THE MAYOR! — shows up at the diner to give Chris an award.  (No one asks the mayor anything about the deputy mayor who is opposed to interracial relationships.)  Jamal gets upset when Chris accepts the award but honestly, I have no sympathy for Jamal.  Jamal’s the one who told Chris to take credit for knocking out the mugger.  Anyway, after Chris has an attack of conscience and declines to accept the award, Jamal confesses that he disobeyed his father.  While he does so, everyone in the diner watches him.  I can only imagine how awkward it would be to witness something like that in real life.

This episode made me yell a lot because it was pretty stupid but, on the plus side, Lorena was always the California Dreams character to whom I most related so it was good to see Diana Uribe beating up the cast of City Guys.  They should have made her a regular.

Retro Television Review: City Guys 3.5 “The Players” and 3.6 “Raise the Roofies”

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!

Let’s see what’s happening at Manny High!  But first, let’s check out the theme song and watch as Chris and Jamal have way too much fun while wandering around New York City together….

Episode 3.5 “The Players”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 2nd, 1999)

Remember, way back during season one, when Ms. Nobel ordered Chris and Jamal to work together on the video yearbook?  That was kind of set up as being the season’s big storyline and then it was just abandoned.  Instead, Chris and Jamal got their radio show and people like me were left to wonder whatever happened with the video yearbook.

Well, in this episode, City Guys finally addressed the issue of the video yearbook.  When Chris and Jamal decide to make a movie and enter it into a film festival, Cassidy asks them what they know about making movies.  Chris and Jamal immediately mention the video yearbook.  Cassidy replies that they never finished the video yearbook.  

Later, Chris and Jamal ask Ms. Nobel, “When have we ever let you down?”

“Well, there was the video yearbook,” Ms. Nobel replies.

I have to admit that I actually laughed at that joke.  It’s not often the City Guys makes me smile but this episode succeeded.  Not only did I discover that I was right in my suspicion that Chris and Jamal just gave up on the video yearbook but there was also a funny B-plot in which L-Train, Al, and Dawn agreed to be tested for ESP.  They were asked to guess what a researcher was looking at on a card.  If they gave the wrong answer, they would get an electric shock.  Al and L-Train always got the answers right.  Dawn got shocked over and over again until the researcher finally revealed that the test was actually a social experiment to see how many time someone could be shocked without getting mad.  Again, I laughed, I’ll admit it.  Steven Daniel, Caitlin Mowery, and Dion Basco all really sold the story.

As for the main plot, Chris and Jamal try to make a movie together but Jamal wants to make a Spike Lee-style social drama while Chris wants to do an Austin Powers-style spoof.  Eventually, they realize that they need to work together so they splice their two films together.  Everyone loves the film, of course!  And you know what?  This plotline also worked far better than I was expecting, with Scott Whyte and Wesley Jonathan really selling both their fight and their eventual collaboration.  Jamal’s movie actually felt like a movie that the politically-minded Jamal would make while it’s very easy to imagine that Chris would probably be a huge fan of Austin Powers.  For once, the plot and its developments actually felt like an organic result of who the characters were.  This was a surprisingly good episode.  

Episode 3.6 “Raise the Roofies”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 2nd, 1999)

This episode opens with Al, Jamal, and L-Train giving Chris a hard time about his efforts to date Cassidy.  They mention that Cassidy is mad at Chris for dating that Greek girl behind his back.  Oh my God — continuity on City Guys!

Anyway, Cassidy has a new boyfriend and his name is Trent.  We know that he’s evil because his name is Trent and he’s a student at NYU.  No one named Trent is ever a good guy and, in the Engelverse, frat boys are always dating high school students and revealing themselves to be jerks with wandering eyes.

Trent has a roommate named Tom who compliments Trent on his girlfriend.  Trent reveals that Cassidy is in high school and she’s a “goody-goody.”

“I guess you’ll be sleeping alone this Friday night,” Tom says.

“Not necessarily,” Trent says with an evil laugh, “I’ll just need a little help from old friend, Mr. Roofie! …. And the best part is that she won’t remember a thing Saturday morning.”

Trent invites Cassidy to a frat party, which makes sense.  He also invites all of her high school friends, which makes far less sense.  Chris, in an effort to make Cassidy jealous, allows Al to set him up with an old woman, who turned out to be a taxi driver named Cookie.  Dawn meanwhile drinks a glass of punch that Trent was about to hand to Cassidy.  Dawn ends up passing out and while she’s being taken to the student health center, Trent takes Cassidy back to his room and attempts to drug her a second time.  When Cassidy refuses the drink, Trent tries to force himself on her.  Fortunately, Chris overheard some other frat boys talking about Trent’s plans and he breaks into the room.  Cassidy escapes and, upon learning what happened to Dawn, agrees to go to the police.

Wow, this was a heavy episode!  But again, the cast deserves a lot of credit for playing their roles with enough sincerity to make it work and the episode’s message was a good one.  

Wow, two good episodes of City Guys in a row!  I wonder what next week will bring!

Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 3.3 “Alley Oops” and 3.4 “Face the Music”

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!

Let’s get this over weight.  No, no …. I’m not at all second-guessing my decision to sit through every episode of City Guys.  Not at all …. this is definitely the best decision that I’ve ever made.

Episode 3.3 “Alley Oops”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on September 18th, 1999)

Oh God.  This episode not only features a lot of bowling but Ms. Nobel gets a storyline as well.

Even though it’s never been mentioned before, it turns out that Jamal, Chris, Al, and Dawn are all on the same bowling team.  What?  Like seriously, where did this come from?  Anyway, it turns out that the team would be great except for the fact that Dawn is a terrible bowler.  Okay, that makes sense.  There’s never been any indication that Dawn would be a good bowler.  And since Dawn has never been portrayed as being a member of the group’s “inner circle,” you have to kind of wonder how she ended up on the team in first place.

Anyway, there’s a big game coming up against a Puerto Rican team that is led by the flamboyant Lupe Guadalupe (Jose Urbina).  One of the interesting things about City Guys is that for all of its “Open up your eyes, we’re all the same” rhetoric and liberal posturing, it was a show that had absolutely no problem making fun of people of either Asian or Spanish descent.  Lupe and his team all speak with exaggerated accents and randomly drop Spanish words into their conversation, which the live studio audience finds to be hilarious.  On the one hand, Lupe is a stereotype.  On the other hand, he’s also the best character in this episode because he never stop taunting the City Guys.  Lupe is the better bowler and he knows it and he makes no apologies and it’s impossible not to enjoy the exaggerated rituals that he goes through before rolling the ball down the lane.  Considering that this show often acted as if Jamal and Chris were the center of the universe, it’s good to see a character who doesn’t have any respect for them and who is actually better than them at something.  Go Lupe!

Anyway, realizing that she sucks, Dawn fakes a wrist injury so that L-Train can take her place on the team.  L-Train is a great bowler and it looks like the City Guys might win the trophy!  But then Dawn cheers too hard and the cast on her wrist flies off.  Everyone really she wasn’t actually injured and an important lesson is learned about something.  I don’t know what the lesson was to be honest.  I don’t bowl.

While this was going on, Ms. Nobel developed a crush on the new substitute teacher, Mr. Washington.  But then she saw Mr. Washington with a younger woman and she assumed she was his girlfriend.  It turns out she was just his sister so yay!  Ms. Nobel’s getting it tonight.

Let’s move on….

Episode 3.4 “Face The Music”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on September 18th, 1999)

“Lionel,” Ms. Nobel tells L-Train towards the end of this episode, “I think you learned an important lesson tonight.  Before you show your songs to anyone, you should copyright them.”

Finally!  A lesson that all of City Guys‘s audience could take to heart!

Anyway, in this episode, it’s revealed that L-Train is a huge fan of the blues, a songwriter, and a follower of Slick Willie (Sherman Hemsley), a veteran bluesman.  Much as with the bowling league, all of this kind of came out of nowhere but, by this point, I’m kind of used to that as far as City Guys is concerned.  L-Train, Chris, and Jamal go to see Slick Willie perform at the local blues club.  L-Train lets Slick Willie see one of this songs.  Slick Willie steals the song and puts it on his next album.

Didn’t the same thing happen to Jake on California Dreams?

This felt like a bit of a throw-away episode, as if Peter Engel called the writers into his office and said, “We’ve got Sherman Hemsley for a day, find something for him to do!” and the writers panicked and just recycled an old California Dreams script.  It’s funny that a show about copyright law basically stole its plot from another show.  How much you want to bet that we’ll never hear another word about L-Train being an aspiring blues musician?

Eh.  You’re disappointing me, City Guys!


Retro Television Review: City Guys 3.1 “Greece Is The Word” and 3.2 “Mr. Baseball”

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!

Season 3 of City Guys begins with a new school year!  Interestingly enough, everyone was either a junior or a senior when this show began so you really do have to wonder why they’re all still going to Manny High.  I mean, L-Train was investigating colleges just a few episodes ago!

It’s almost as if TNBC just didn’t care….

Episode 3.1 “Greece Is The Word”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on September 11th, 1999)

Oh, Christ.  Let’s get into this….

A new school year has begun!  Al and L-Train are looking forward to hazing freshmen.  Dawn has sworn that she is not going to spread herself too thin this semester.  Jamal shows up on campus and all of the students applaud.  Chris shows up and explains that he spent his summer in Greece and had a romance with a girl named Ariana.  Chris and Jamal do not do their stupid radio program so maybe that’s something that the show has finally abandoned.

Anyway, Ms. Nobel thinks that a school dance will be the perfect way to start the year.  Cassidy and Chris immediately volunteer to organize the dance.  It can be a 50s dance, they decide.  Everyone can wear leather jackets and poodle skirts and they can have a hula hoop contest!  Is there some reason why these schools can never have a normal dance?  

In order to research the 50s, Chris and Cassidy go to an arthouse theater that is showing …. you’ve already guessed, I’m sure …. GREASE!  Chris and Cassidy end up making out while watching the movie so they are now officially dating.  Except …. uh-oh, what’s Ariana doing in New York!?  Her father is in New York on business so Ariana decided to come with him so she could see Chris.  It turns out that she still thinks that she’s dating Chris.  It also turns out that Ariana delivers all of her lines in heavily accented broken English and the audience thinks it’s hilarious.

What’s dumb is that Cassidy already knows that Chris had a romance in Greece.  He told her about at the movie.  So, it’s not like she doesn’t know who Ariana is.  Cassidy got into a relationship with Chris fully aware that he had feelings for Ariana just a few weeks previously.  But, instead of telling Cassidy that Ariana is in town, Chris decided to lie to both of them.  He tells Ariana that he doesn’t have a New York girlfriend and he doesn’t tell Cassidy a thing.  Chris thinks that he can pull it off because Ariana is only going to be in town for a day but what if Ariana decides to stop by the dance before she leaves the country?

And yes, that’s exactly what happens.  Ariana gets upset and yells in broken English, which the audience finds hilarious.  Chris, who is dressed up like Elvis, apologizes to Cassidy.  Cassidy says that they’re going to have to take their relationship slowly.  So, I guess that means the writers still hadn’t decided whether they really wanted to commit to Cassidy and Chris as a couple.  We’ll see if this is another one of those storylines that gets abandoned or not.

This was the type of episode that drives me crazy, in that all of the conflict could have been avoided by people not being stupid.  It’s certainly not a good start to everyone’s second senior year at Manny High.  Hopefully, things will get better in our next episode….  

Episode 3.2 “Mr. Baseball”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on September 11th, 1999)

After spending the previous two seasons as an unathletic goofball, Jamal is suddenly revealed to a star baseball player in this episode.  In fact, Jamal is so good that he has never been struck out and there’s also a scout coming to the game to check him out.  Of course, Jamal lets the fame go to his head.  And, of course, Jamal strikes out with the scout watching.  Jamal’s immediate reaction is to announce that he’s quitting baseball and then to get into a fight with a random Paul Rudd look-alike on the roof.  Ms. Nobel, however, gives him a good talking to and Jamal decides to keep playing.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Chris and Jamal do still have their radio show but, with Jamal devoting all of his time to baseball, L-Train takes over as Chris’s co-host.  While the whole radio station thing has never made much sense to me, I do have to give credit where credit is due.  In the role of L-Train, Steven Daniel was often this show’s secret weapon and he shows it here, managing to get laughs from even  the lamest of jokes.  L-Train often got the worst lines but Daniel always delivered them with such sincerity that it was impossible not to smile.

Meanwhile, Dawn is upset that the Manny High’s mascot is a hunter.  She wants to change the mascot to a big apple.  Everyone laughs at her until she mentions that the Big Apple will always be accompanied by cheerleaders.  Did the Manny High Hunter not have cheerleaders?

Anyway, this wasn’t a bad episode at all, even if it was all a bit predictable.  Wesley Jonathan was not the most convincing athlete that I’ve ever seen but he did do a good job of portraying both Jamal’s anger and his shame after he struck out.  Even Cassidy gets a decent storyline, one which sees her getting thrown out of the game for excessive trash talk.  You go, Cassidy!

Maybe season 3 won’t be so bad after all….

(We’ll find out next week!)

Retro Television Review: City Guys 2.13 “Saving Private Johnson” and 2.14 “A Gift of Friendship”

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!

Today, the 2nd season of City Guys come to an end with L-Train considering his future and Al considering the true meaning of friendship.  Let’s get to it!

Episode 2.13 “Saving Private Johnson”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on December 5th, 1998)

It’s career day at Manny High!  Dawn wants to be a doctor.  Al wants to be a stockbroker.  L-Train wants …. well, L-Train doesn’t know what he wants.  In fact, he’s so upset at his bad midterm grades that he decides that he’s going to drop out of school and join the Marines!  Ms. Nobel is stunned and says that she feels like she failed with L-Train.  L-Train tells her it’s not her fault.  Ms. Nobel wishes him luck and she also wishes for peace….

It’s interesting to watch this episode today because we know what the future would have held for L-Train if he had joined the Marines.  L-Train would have eventually ended up in either Afghanistan or Iraq.  From that perspective, this storyline feels a bit different in 2022 than it probably did in 1998.  Of course, L-Train doesn’t end up joining the Marines.  He’s not allowed to join because the Marines discover that he’s dyslexic.  L-Train returns to school, confident that he will now be able to get good grades and go to a good college.

This is one of those “very special episodes” that shouldn’t work but it does.  This largely due to the performance of Steven Daniel, who bring just the right hint of melancholy to the scene in which he tells Nobel that he’s dropping out of school.  L-Train was often a one-joke character but Steven Daniel always played him as being someone who was secretly far more intelligent than even he realized.  Daniel took the role seriously, even if the show’s writers often didn’t.  Steven Daniel was often this show’s secret weapon and this episode shows why.

Episode 2.14 “A Gift Of Friendship”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on December 12th, 1998)

It’s the Christmas season and Dawn and Cassidy are in charge of the canned food drive.  Ms. Nobel is proud of them but, unfortunately, some of the students aren’t as concerned about helping out as Ms. Nobel believes they should be.

For instance, Chris, Jamal, and L-Train are all excited because Chris’s uncle has a place in Florida and he’s willing to let them use it during the Christmas break.  They just have to pay their own way to Florida and that won’t be difficult.  Chris has a rich father.  Jamal has a middle-class father.  L-Train gets a job walking dogs.  However, by going on vacation, they won’t be around to help “feed the poor.”  Ms. Nobel tells them that she’s very disappointed in them.  Considering that 1) it’s their Christmas break and they can do whatever they want with it and 2) none of what they’re planning has anything to do with the school, I have to kind of wonder just how exactly it is any of Ms. Nobel’s business.

Meanwhile, Al hasn’t even donated any food!  Al keeps saying that he’ll bring some food “tomorrow” but, unfortunately, Al can barely afford to feed himself.  Al’s father has been laid off and Al is planning on dropping out of school so that he can take on a full time job so that he can help support the family.  Ms. Nobel is not happy to hear this and that’s not really a shock.  I mean, first L-Train tried to drop out and now Al!  Plus, Chris and Jamal would rather spend their break on Florida beach than getting mugged in New York City!  Ms. Nobel has failed them all!

Anyway, it all ends on a good note.  After Jamal reveals that Al’s family is struggling, Everyone goes to Al’s apartment and they give him and his family food.  Ms. Nobel dressed up as Santa Claus and announces that there is a janitorial job at the school for Al’s father.  Al realizes that there’s nothing wrong with accepting help.  It’s not a bad message for Thanksgiving and Christmas, though I did have to wonder just how exactly Ms. Nobel could just magically give someone a job.  I mean, seeing as how Mr. Ramos is going to be working at a school, it seems like he would have to at least pass a background check before he was hired.  Also, does Ms. Nobel offer a job to all of the out-of-work parents who have children enrolled at her school or is she just making an exception for Al?  Indeed, for all the time that the students spend singing her praises, Ms. Nobel really only seems to care about L-Train and Al.

Obviously, this episode presented me with a lot of unanswered questions.  But it also ended with everyone gathered in front of a Christmas tree and singing Silent Night and that was a nice moment.  It appealed to my sentimental side.  That said, I do hope that Chris, Jamal, and L-Train still went down to Florida because, seriously, they had nothing to feel guilty about!

Happy Thanksgiving!