More TV Memories – Grounded For Life.

Grounded For Life (Fox, 2001-2002, WB, 2002-2005)

This is an American sitcom that was shown in a late-night slot on ITV1 for a while (you barely see any home-made sitcoms on ITV now, never mind imported ones). Grounded For Life centred around the Finnerty family, who live in Staten Island, New York. Sean and Claudia got married when they were 18, and they now have three children, Lily, Jimmy, and Henry.

They are beginning to reach their awkward years, meaning that, despite only being in their early-30s themselves, they realise that their children are almost teenagers. The other main cast members are Sean’s younger brother Eddie, and his dad Walt, who often gives advice on how the family should be run, whether it’s asked for or not. Sean sees himself as a modern, easy-going dad, but parenting’s just as tough for him as anybody else.

The idea is that it is Sean and Claudia who feel like they are the ones who are grounded, not the children! Grounded For Life starred Donal Logue, who had previously been in the CBS sitcom Public Morals in 1996, which was so badly received that it was pulled from the schedule after only one episode (although all 13 that were made were shown in this country on ITV). This one did manage to do better though.

This was also another of those sitcoms which had a “my totally crazy dysfunctional family” feel (and according to the opening sequence, they all like to play basketball together), but this was all rather overshadowed by Malcolm In The Middle, which launched around the same time and tackled a similar idea with more energy and wit.

Just after the start of the third series, Grounded For Life was dropped by Fox, and continued on WB, running for a few more series. By the end, Claudia had gone and popped out a fourth child, to much excitement. There were 91 episodes in total, but I don’t think that the later ones were shown on ITV1, although there were some repeat runs on Trouble too. But the story doesn’t end there.

In 2011, BBC1 launched In With The Flynns, which was a British remake of Grounded For Life, and starred Will “Jambo” Mellor in the lead role as the equivalent of Sean Finnerty. There were two series, including some episodes written by Simon Nye. But the reviews were rather middling, arguing that after Outnumbered and the like had revolutionised the domestic sitcom in this country, this rather more traditional take on the idea came across as rather redundant.

More TV Memories – Jesse.

Jesse (NBC, 1998-2000)

In the early-2000s, I used to enjoy watching the American sitcom Married… With Children on the Paramount Comedy Channel (having not seen any of the episodes when they were shown rather late at night on ITV). Around the same time, I was channel hopping one afternoon, when I came across a sitcom that looked like it featured one of the cast members, and that’s because it did, so I was interested in finding out more.

Having seemingly tired of having played the dumb blonde Kelly in Married… With Children for a decade, Christina Applegate took on this new role, and this time, she was the one with the children (well one child anyway). Jesse starred Christina as Jesse Warner, a single mother who was trying to raise her young son John in Buffalo, New York.

Jesse works at her rather overbearing dad John’s bar Biergarten, where the uniform is German traditional dress. She also has two brothers, Darren and John (and that means that with her dad, brother, and son all having the same name, there are three characters in this cast called John Warner). John has decided to give up speaking, and tries to find different methods of communication.

Jesse eventually meets Diego, a rather handsome Chilean, and they soon get together. This was a sitcom that was given some of the “this can’t fail!”-style promotion, with the first series being shown in America in the hugely coveted slot between Friends and Frasier, but this one achieved nowhere near the success of those popular long-running sitcoms.

This meant that there was something of a relaunch for the second series. Jesse was now training to become a nurse, her family are no longer seen, and cast members included her new group of work colleagues. But this didn’t make too much difference, and the second series turned out to be the last, although Christina was commended for trying to move away from her Kelly image.

All 42 episodes of Jesse were shown on Channel 4 in 2000 in an afternoon slot (which is definitely not a coveted place in the schedule), and I think that there were a few repeats too. Around the same time, this was also shown on satellite channel for teenagers Trouble, although I never had access to that one. I’m fairly sure that there has been no DVD release either.

More TV Memories – Ed Stone Is Dead.

Ed Stone Is Dead (BBC Choice, 2002-2003)

This is a sitcom from the later days of BBC Choice, refreshing TV for the digital age. There seem to be no clips of this show online, and only one picture of the cast together, but as I do remember watching this, I might as well do a review. Richard Blackwood is someone who was a host on MTV in the late-90s, before going on to his own late-night stand-up comedy show on Channel 4.

He was often claimed to be the next big thing, and after a while he became popular enough to even have some hit singles (“who da man” and all that). About a year or two on from this, he was a host of Top Of The Pops, and he had the lead role in this sitcom which had an unusual idea. Ed Stone (which sounds like “headstone”, do you see, ha-ha) is fatally hit by a bus one day, which is rather disappointing for him.

But there has been a miscalculation by the Grim Reaper, and his time isn’t up just yet. So it is decided that Ed sort-of becomes half-dead, meaning that he can continue his life, although he can now not do things like taste what he eats or drinks, feel pain, and so on. Ed tries to take advantage of this, and often talks to Nigel, a Grim Reaper-type representative, who is a big Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan.

Ed’s flatmates soon realise that there is something different about him, and what a crazy bunch they are! There’s Adam and Scotty, along with Kate (who is fond of Ed, and it must’ve been an interesting moment when he explained to her that strictly speaking he isn’t alive) and Beth, the quirky American one, because you’ve got to have one of them, haven’t you.

There was only one 13-episode series of Ed Stone Is Dead, which seemed to do well for BBC Choice, and I was a regular viewer. There has been no DVD release though. Among the writers were Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, who would go on to work on Channel 4’s Peep Show, and plenty of other comedy talent turned up, including Johnny Vegas, Catherine Tate, and Robert Webb.

There was some difficulty determining who exactly the audience was for this though, whether this was aimed at teenagers, or older adults. There was a repeat run on teenage channel Trouble, and presumably edits had to be made. Some episodes were also repeated in the unlikely slot of Sunday Morning on BBC2. And a few years on, there was another repeat run, on Freeview channel FTN.