Inspired by a recent article on Reddit, I felt compelled to take a deeper look into one of my favourite programmes of the 90s: The Critic, and discuss a handful of reasons why I believe it is the right time for it to make a return.
To tackle current movie trends
With every generation comes a host of new film cliches and overused genres, be it zombies, spaghetti westerns, buddy cops, superheroes, or vampires, and this provides the perfect material for a programme like The Critic. Even trailers had the wub wub wub phase that felt like it would never go away, and an incorrigible character like Jay Sherman would eviscerate them all in that delightfully joyful voice of his.
Although, The Critic didn’t just cover recent releases, it also did parodies and homages of older films such as Apocalypse Now, The Godfather and Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. It would be interesting to see movies that came out after The Critic went off air like No Country For Old Men, or even mid 90s titles like Men in Black get a shoutout.
I need to hear this man’s voice again! There are very few actors who have the unique ability to turn an often critical and obnoxious character such as Jay Sherman into someone whose candour is so endearing. Lovitz’s impeccable comic timing, combined with his soft voice and exuberant delivery fit the medium of animation perfectly.
How would it tackle modern technology?
With the rise of technology such as mobiles, internet and computers, there has been a vast diversification in the way we consume media. We can find reviews, previews, or general titbits about an upcoming release within a couple of seconds, and this has made film critics less relevant
That isn’t to say that I would want Jay Sherman to lose his job, but I feel that covering how film reviews programmes have changed would an interesting angle to cover. For example, it could comically show his boss, Duke Phillips, plying further pressure on him to modify the format of his show to appeal to a wider audience.
Who would be the new modern critics to be poked fun at?
Over the last fifteen years, there haven’t been any critics that stand at the forefront of film reviews in the same way Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel, Joel Siegel and Gene Shalit did for many years. I would be interested in seeing who they could poke fun at, whether they would acknowledge the drought of prominent critics, or if they would pay homage those who have retired and passed on.
How would Jay interact in modern day New York?
From the very first moment of the opening title sequence, we are shown a beautiful shot of New York from a distance. The title sequence then cuts to a handful of shots showing Jay and his son walking around famous buildings and locations in NYC, and then ending with Sherman in his bed, sleeping contently.
The Critic was apparently intended to be a love letter to New York and a remake of the original would be a way for the creators to look at how New York has changed over the last twenty years including how rent has skyrocketed, the modernisation of many areas within the city, how the crime rate has plummeted or even how an intellectual like Jay would feel about the closure of numerous independent and chain bookstores. The programme could look at both the positive and negative changes within the city and I feel that it could provide a tonne of material.
There are no programmes like it today
Yes, some TV shows do film parodies and others use flashbacks, but rarely are they pulled off quite as successfully as The Critic. I can’t think of many parodies that come close to being as humorous and off the wall as the scene involving Schwarzenegger, a mime, dinosaur, a little girl, a pig, a leprechaun and Clint Eastwood that lampoons the buddy cop movies of the 80s and 90s.
As someone who is a huge film buff, I always loved picking up on the wide range of subtle nods that The Critic would cover. During one episode, Sherman of Arabia, they make references to Bill and Ted, The Towering Inferno, Beverly Hills Cop and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids! to name a few. The Critic was filled to the brim and I can’t think of one recent programme that continually spoofs or references as many films like this show.
The brilliant writing of Al Jean and Mike Reiss
No one can deny the talent of these two writers. Best known for their work on the Simpsons; both Al Jean and Mike Reiss have an incredible eye for a good joke and an inherent ability to create sincere characters that excel in these kind of stories. Whether it is the fantastical boss, Duke Phillips, who has a lot of similarities to Ted Turner, the Paul Hogan-esque, Australian best friend who has an tendency to humblebrag, or the adoptive WASP parents who may be the oddest characters in an already quirky ensemble, each of these characters are unique, humorous and compelling in their own way. Even colder characters such as Doris and Jay’s adopted mother, Eleanor, have episodes that not only show them to be equally as witty as other characters, but also highlight how they have a softer, more caring side behind their personas.
The Simpsons has been on a slow and steady decline for the last fifteen years and I believe that working on a new series of The Critic would allow Al Jean and Mike Reiss to bring out their best comedy once again.
It was just an all-round great show
Great supporting characters, interesting stories, hilarious jokes and an incomparable amount of film spoofs. It is a shame that The Critic didn’t get a couple of more series before it went off the air, but I feel that a new series would be just as good – if not better – as there have been a tonne of awful films that have been released since it went off the air in 1995, as well as a good number of great films that could be spoofed.
Jay Sherman would most likely hate the idea of it coming back (as it isn’t pretentious French cinema), but most of us would like to see the self professed king dork return to the small screen.
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