Cast from the Past: My Family

The ability to capture an audience for a few seasons is quite credible for a comedy series. People do tend to get bored of them or the series just dries up due to the same old jokes and gimmicks. Even when changes are made to the sitcom to try and refresh the brand, it can fall flat on it’s face due to the audience not liking new characters or just plain old missing the characters that have left. The show “My Family”, however, managed to not only last for eleven seasons over the course of 11 years, but also made changes throughout the eleven seasons and stayed strong throughout the whole time.

“My Family” was a comedy series about a Dentist named Ben (Robert Lindsay) and his family, with many complications along the way that were either caused by their kids, their neighbours, their place of work, or just random happenings that they have no control over.

People thought that when Kris Marshall (Nick) decided to leave the sitcom, it would slowly wither away as he was one of the main forces for people tuning in. However, this was proven completely wrong, with the show lasting another 6 years before calling it a day.

“My Family” truly was a stronghold throughout the Noughties, with it being one of twelve UK sitcoms that managed to make it past 100 episodes when it finished in 2011. It allowed top talent to shine as well as bringing light to actors, allowing their careers to kick start.

As usual with this blog, I attempted to contact as many of the actors as possible who were a part of “My Family”. To my good fortune, I managed to get in touch with Keiron Self, who played Roger Bailey…

…along with Zoe Wanamaker, who played Susan Harper.

zoe wanamaker

Keiron and Zoe were happy enough to answer the questions I had for them. Here is what they had to say:

How much of an impact (professionally and personally) did the show My Family have on your life?

Keiron: Professionally and personally, My family had a fairly large impact. But I was so busy working on both that and a sitcom in Wales called High Hopes and with a theatre company I have with a group of friends called Mappa Mundi, that I maybe didn’t push myself more to be on other television series. I was very lucky for 7 years in that I always had a job to go back to with so many great people and I was doing interesting theatre stuff at home in Wales appearing in plays like The Canterbury Tales, She Stoops to Conquer, Dangerous Liasons and many more.

Zoe: It had a huge impact, massive.  I had never done a situation comedy before, which, as was the norm in the ’90s, was recorded in front of a studio audience.  It was a new experience for me and was therefore exciting and challenging.  For me it was an experiment which went well, in the same way as “Love Hurts” and “Paradise Postponed” had done earlier in my career.

 Was there anything from the time at My Family would you have liked to have changed? If so, why?

Keiron: I think the thing you never fully appreciate when you are working on a a job is how lucky you are. I was aware of that to a certain extent, but could have done more. I wish I’d had a go at writing a script for the show. I write as well as act and although there were some great writers on the show, I wish I’d tried to write one myself. It would have probably be thrown out immediately but it was something I always thought about doing but didn’t.

Zoe: No, there was nothing I would change.

 Is there anybody from the cast that you still keep in touch with regularly?

Keiron: Siobhan who played Abby I’m still in contact with. She’s so lovely and was a pleasure to work with, as was everyone else/ Rhodri who played Alfie lives round the corner from me now and we have the occasional meet up and pint when we can fit it in with our own families. We all send each other the occasional messages of support and general greetings. Usually there’s a drunken photo of the family sent to Robert on New Year’s Eve, that type of thing. Robert and Zoe are also patrons of our theatre company Mappa Mundi so we keep them up to date on what is going on with that. We are touring The Trials of Oscar Wilde around Wales in April and May this year, and inviting them along if they can make it.

Zoe: I’m in touch with Daniella (Denby Ashe) and Robert (Lindsay), as well as Milanka Brooks and occasionally Keiron Self.

 What are you up to these days? What is your latest project in life?

Keiron: My latest project is as mentioned above. I’ve just done an episode of Still Open All Hours which was filmed in the studio next to the one we used in Pinewood for My Family so that brought a lot of memories back. It was directed by Dewi Humphreys too who directed many of the episodes I was in and got me in for my first episode. I owe him a lot! I’m also writing a feature film with my writing partner and friend Giles New. We have five features in development at the moment and are hoping one of them at least will come off!

Zoe: I have just finished filming “Britannia” for Sky and Amazon, where I’m  playing Queen Antedia, and I also worked on “Babs” for the BBC.

 If there were ever to be a reunion show in the future, would you be up for it? Or would you leave it as it was?

Keiron: I’d be up for a reunion show, so long as the script was good and everyone wanted to do it. There was no real full stop to the series as no one knew if it would be the last one as we did series 11, so yes, a rounding off would be pleasing. I always said Roger and Abby could have a spin off, opening a dental practice in Wales! I’d get her out of that nunnery that’s for sure!

Zoe: I would definitely be up for it, depending on the scripts (it is always about the writing).  It would be a delight.

 Is there anything else you would like to add for the fans?

Keiron: I’d just like to add that people have always been lovely about the series. I’m glad we brought a few smiles to people’s faces Thanks for watching!

Zoe: I think what I’ve found is that people loved My Family and what is so charming is that when people who have been fans of the show meet me they smile, which is a wonderful legacy.  They seem to have really enjoyed sitting down as a family and watching an episode of My Family on a Friday night.  It was ageless.

I’d like to personally thank Keiron and Zoe for taking time out of their busy schedule to answer my questions, it was very much appreciated. If you want to say hello to Keiron, feel free to visit his website here, or you can talk to him on twitter here. Or if you want to see what Zoe is up to, feel free to visit her website here or drop her a message on her twitter here.

Robert Lindsay (Ben) went on to star in other TV series since My Family finished, such as Atlantis and Wormwood, along with still performing in theatres.

Kris Marshall (Nick) went on to be the face of the BT adverts and is now currently starring in the TV show Death in Paradise.

Daniela Denby-Ashe (Janey) has recently starred in the TV show Silent Witness and is currently filming in an upcoming film called Heidi: Queen of the Mountain, so keep your eyes peeled.

Gabriel Thomson (Michael) has given up acting and is pursuing Higher Education by studying in Philsophy at degree level, with the hope of eventually becoming a Human Rights Lawyer.

Since leaving the show in 2009, Siobhan Hayes (Abi) went on to star in Horrid Henry: The Movie, whilst also making appearances in Doctors, Holby City and Crime Stories.

Rhodri Meilir (Alfie) is currently starring in the highly rated Welsh TV series “Byw Celwydd”

Cast from the Past: Two Guys & A Girl (and a Pizza Place)

The 90’s sitcoms were not just dominated by Peter Engel and the multiple teen sitcoms that he created. There were other sitcoms that shone brightly within his teen-centric domination. One of these sitcoms was Two Guys, A Girl & a Pizza Place (later becoming just Two Guys & a Girl). This sitcom started off being similar to Engel’s sitcom template, which included a small group of friends, with an educational link to it. However, this sitcom did what Engel never let occur in his sitcoms. Instead of staying in the same environment, the show followed the characters on past their graduations and onto their separate studies, jobs or even on to some completely different path from what was originally expected. For me, this helped the sitcom grow, the characters went and got jobs, others decided education/the job wasn’t for them and changed careers, just like real life. All whilst still being absolutely hilarious. This portrayed to the audience a lot better in my opinion, with the change of environment keeping it fresh, meaning I thoroughly enjoyed every season of it. The cast bounced off each other brilliantly too. It was hard to have a favourite as each character had their unique likeable persona.

If you don’t know what Two Guys & A Girl is about (why wouldn’t you?!) it’s about two guys and a girl and their lives during college with most of the sitcom’s focus being about life choices on love, their studies/ jobs, whilst the guys having a part time job at a pizza place. It was created by Kenny Schwartz and Danny Jacobson and it ran for 4 seasons, airing 81 episodes from 1998 to 2001.

Where are the cast now? After attempting to make contact with most of the cast, I was lucky to receive a couple of replies from Richard Ruccolo, who played Pete Dunville…

RR

…and Suzanne Cryer, who played the part of Ashley Walker..

suzanneCryer

…who were willing to answer my questions. Here is what they had to say:

How much of an impact (professionally and personally) did the show Two Guys and a Girl have on your life?

Richard: Two Guys was a huge impact for me. My first series after only living in LA for three months. It completely changed my life. Had to learn on the job. It was like winning the lottery. At the same time it gave me a legitimacy. Which I had never had before. On a personal side it made things seem a bit too easy. Looking back I had a very “Well this is how it works. You come to LA and land on a series. No big deal.” I didn’t have any idea as to how lucky I truly was. Going from begging people to pay attention to you to getting everyone’s attention almost overnight is a bit of a mindfuck.  

Suzanne: When Danny Jacobson cast me in “Two Guys”, it had a huge impact on me, both professionally and personally. I will always be grateful to him for believing in me. “Two Guys” gave me the opportunity to work with a really interesting, bright and funny group of writers. I still cross paths with them all the time and am so thankful they created such a smart and hilarious character for me to play. I also got to work with many of the best comedy directors in the business. We did multiple episodes with Gail Mancuso – and then I shot a pilot with her only last year. It is so great to work with people years later having known them from early on. It was an unbelievable introduction to 4 camera television.

I really love doing 4 camera shows because I come from a theater background. I love the energy and immediacy of film in front of a studio audience. It is always funny to me because people complain that laugh tracks seem fake. I tell them – based on my experience – that the artificiality of the sound tracks is mostly coming from the fact that they have to be trimmed so much. Our audiences would laugh so long, so hard and so much that it is hard to understand how our poor sound department ever got clean takes. I never remember looping, so those guys were geniuses. Well, I had really wanted to get on a 4 camera show and knew I would be happy doing one. I had been testing all over the place after grad school, and producers thought I was funny, but no one was actually putting me on a show. I think networks thought I was too acerbic for a lead female, and not kooky enough for the best friend. I was really blessed to enter a show that already had a dynamic established and had Traylor Howard in it. I may have been brought on to play as Ryan’s girlfriend, but perhaps the more important dynamic was that I was so different from Traylor. She and I had a lot of fun doing scenes together and the writers put us together a lot. I feel really lucky to have gotten to work with her. She is a lovely woman and a terrific comedic actress.

Being in the shadow of “Friends” and “Will and Grace” was hard. However I think our producers were brave and funny and we had some ground breaking episodes. How many sit coms geared for a young demographic would be brave enough to do a silent episode? We really did some crazy, interesting and fun things on the show and our fans went along for the ride. I do believe the show, though loved ardently by fans, was unfairly dismissed by critics. It wasn’t hip to love us, but honestly, there was some truly terrific episodes of the show and we had a tremendous cast. Everyone is well aware of how immensely talented Ryan is. His comic skills and fearlessness are tremendous. Rich Ruccolo’s comic ability is massive. He and Ryan really worked together brilliantly, and Rich has a dry wit, a creative mind and a soulful pathos that make him unforgettable. I loved watching the guys work together and play. Getting to join them was truly a treat. Traylor was fabulous and I learned so much watching her work. She has a skill set I truly admire and she made me laugh so often. She had an ability to make things real and grounded so that you cared about her, even when her character was making poor choices. She really understood how to craft a full character, and I think her work is sometimes not fully appreciated because the boys were so hilarious with their clowning. But anyone who saw her do the “money dance” for Johnny will know this woman is a real comedienne. Nathan and I joined at the same time. I adore him. His work was just flawless. I loved that drain episode. He and I had a great time. He was so kind and Ashley was so cruel. It was great working with all of these actors – I learned from all of them and was allowed to be myself. So yes, the show couldn’t help but have a huge impact on me.

Was there anything from the time at Two Guys and a Girl you would have liked to have changed? If so, why?

Richard: The only thing I would have changed. As I stated above is my appreciation for how blessed I was. I let it fly by so quickly and never really gave myself the chance to appreciate how fortunate I was. People gave advice. I wish I had listened closely. Most of them wound up being right. 

Suzanne: Well we all wanted the pizza place gone. It left… but not soon enough. A bigger sadness was that it ended right before syndication. There was all this ridiculous energy over “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” at the end of our run. The network started putting it on the air 24 hours a day. It was hilariously insane. We were a steady performer and I wish we had done one more season. Plus, as I understand it, it wasn’t only because of WWTBAM. I think we got caught in the middle of some studio/ network negotiations that made our return complicated. Ah well.

How was it for the cast when it changed format and left the pizza place?

Richard: Ryan used to call the Pizza Place the ‘albatross set’. Because we were stuck in there at least once in every episode. It became difficult for the writers to find a reason to be in there. Hence losing the name. We were all pretty happy seeing it go I think. I think the writers more than us. But it was time to put it down. haha.

Suzanne: A huge fucking relief. Rick and Kenny (the two show creators) put that pizza place in there on a whim I think, and it was fine for a while. But then it was a pain in the derriere for the writers and actors. You cannot have a damn physical life in a pizza place. You don’t have personal belongings there. My character didn’t work there. Sharon didn’t work there. Johnny didn’t have a reason to be there. Why would we want to go there? And poor Berg and Pete needed to grow up and do interesting things. So it was a giant albatross. Like a pet you thought was cute and then realized it was a bloody nightmare – coming home all excited from the pet store with Clifford as a puppy and having him slowly morph into Clifford the huge, nightmarish, big, red dog. Who could feed that thing? Who knows where to put him???

Is there anybody from the cast that you still keep in touch with regularly?

Richard: I still talk to Suzanne Cryer. Jillian Bach. And a bunch of the crew and most of the writers. Facebook helps. In fact I just saw the creators of the show last week. Rick and Kenny. Great guys. 

Suzanne: I always loved being on set with those other actors. It was a warm and welcoming place to be. We had fun working together and always really were excited and happy rehearsing our scenes. However I did not hang out with them after work. I really prefer to keep my work and my personal life somewhat separate. It is important to me to have a life that is not about the industry and separating the two worlds helps me a lot. Plus I was in a different place in my life toward the end of the show. Ryan and Nathan were beginning to have major film careers and I was really thinking about getting married and having kids. You cannot wait to do that as a woman. But Rich and I have always been close and I talk to him a few times a year. He is a peach. 

What are you up to these days? What is your latest project in life?

Richard: I’m honestly up to nothing. I’m always looking for work. Just the way this business is to some. I spend all of my days with my wife who’s my best friend. We have a great life and an RV that we’re usually in traveling around doing mostly nothing in different places. I’ve started writing but it’s no easy task. I wrote a comedy script with Greg Coolidge and Kirk Ward that we’re shopping around now. 

Suzanne: I am on a tremendous show – “Silicon Valley”. Brilliant writing and a hilarious cast. And HBO is a great employer. I occassionally am on “The Fosters”, which is a show I deeply respect. It grapples with issues that are thorny and complicated. I love how bold and unapologetic it is. It is helping American kids and doing a great service culturally. Also, I am in “10 Cloverfield Lane”. Briefly. I do things when they work with my schedule and when they come up. I am a busy, busy mom. Three kids. Lots of work on that front.

If there were ever to be a reunion show in the future, would you be up for it? Or would you leave it as it was?

Richard: I would love to do a reunion. It would be great and strange at the same time. I doubt Ryan or Nathan have that much time to do something like that. And I don’t even know if Traylor is acting anymore. I would love to see what the relationship between the three of them is now. It’s amazing to think where our real lives took us all. And where those characters would be. I’m sure it would involve Berg running for President…and winning of course.

Suzanne: Well, there surely won’t be a reunion because everyone is off doing different things. On one hand I would be happy to try to recapture the magic, but on the other hand, I think it is nice to allow things to be as they were. That show was very specific to a certain time, and it wouldn’t work in the same way now. Also I am not wearing bikinis and leather pants on TV anymore. I was 10 years older than Ryan and apparently ABC thought I could get away with that at 30, but now, yikes. That would be hard. No one wants to see an actress in her 40’s pretend she is 10 years younger than she is – that leads to a lot of botox and creepy work on the face! We already see it too much and it is sad and frustrating to me. We should be allowed to mature without frantically scrambling to pretend we are still nubile youths. Americans are terrified of aging and it is a bummer. So if Ashley returns, she needs to be Head of Surgery and have made her choices about her personal life – with a family or without one. But not screwing around and dating. She needs to be able to be a woman in her forties. And she has a kid, we know that. She was pregnant and about to be a mom. I don’t think that is what the show is about – so I think we need to let it RIP.

Is there anything else you would like to add for the fans?

Richard: Just that it means a lot to hear all of the good things. I wish the show didn’t end so quickly. Our cancellation was mostly REALITY TELEVISION related. It was the birth of it and the death for us. (Who wants to be a millionaire on 4 nights a week…really?) The compliments and the comments don’t go unnoticed. So proud to have been a part of it. 

Suzanne: I am glad to hear the box set of DVDs is available. I will show it to my kids when they are a teeny bit older. I hope the fans are psyched they can own “Two Guys” and see those insane Halloween Episodes whenever they want to chuckle. I also want them to know that I truly appreciate the opportunity I had working on that show. It was a great time in my life. So much fun to do and so much fun to remember. 

Ryan Reynolds (Michael “Berg” Bergen) has been in several big movies, such as Blade Trinity, Smokin’ Aces and Green Lantern with his latest being the record smashing Deadpool.

Traylor Howard (Sharon Carter-Donnelly) went on to star in the TV series Monk. I believe she is no longer acting as she hasn’t appeared on anything since 2010 and is enjoying being a full-time mother.

Nathan Fillion (Johnny Donnelly) has starred in many TV shows and films since, notably Firefly, Serenity, and his current TV series, Castle.

Jillian Bach (Irene) went on to star in multiple TV shows, such as Gilmour Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, Bones and The Mentalist. It seems she has taken time out of the industry to become a full time mother.

I would like to personally thank Richard and Suzanne for taking time out of their lives to speak to me and answer my questions. It is truly appreciated and wish them all the best in the future. Keep an eye out and fingers crossed for Richard’s comedy script and tune in to Suzanne’s Silicon Valley. Don’t forget, as Suzanne said, the box set for Two Guys and a Girl complete series is available already in the UK, but is available in the USA on June 28th 2016. If you are wanting it in the USA, you can pre-order it from most online shopping sites, including Shout! Factory here, so go reminisce and enjoy a fantastic sitcom that can be enjoyed for many more years.

An Ode to Chocolate Cake

As soon as I’m awake

Doesn’t take me long to take

A piece of my chocolate cake.

Now let there be no mistake

about this chocolate cake

and the qualities needed to bake.

The basic ingredients for any cake

is what you need to take

along with a chocolate flake.

You then give it a good shake

Allowing the flake to break

and then throw it into a chocolate lake.

Now the next part to take

to complete this cake

is to get my mate Jake.

But for goodness sake

keep an eye on Jake

as he will try to take

this most delicious cake

which takes so long to make

that it will make your heart ache.

So if he slithers away like a snake

Hit him in the face with a rake

and take the finished chocolate cake

for you to enjoy after your rump steak.

Or before, if you like….

Crazy is the new Sexy….and I hate it

Music videos since being released are designed to attract more people to your song, whether the song is catchy or not. They started off as just the bands or singer performing on stage to a crowd, but imagination and creativity started to creep in. Along the way there has been controversial videos, with a one off crazy song to a crazy video, but the popularity of the band/ singer didn’t hold (with the odd exception as Madonna combined the two throughout her career) and people leaned towards the sexy videos, with less clothing being worn year after year. The “Sexy” period really kicked into overdrive around the noughties mainly female singers such as Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears etc might as well just wear Bra and knickers whilst grinding on a pole to attract people to buy their material. At this point, I believe the motive changed from attracting people to music to attracting people to the sexy brand of themselves. Sexy videos in the 90’s was normally told in a story and was a one off as the next song was a different type of video, but Aguilera, Spears et al were churning out sexy video after sexy video. Even songs that were not that good were getting to number 1 due to them wearing PVC leather or a mini skirt that might as well just have been a belt. 

Many people jumped on the band wagon and not just in the music industry as tv adverts joined in with sexy videos to promote perfume or chocolate.

Crazy videos have also been around for a while but was always a one hit wonder for most. Then came along Lady Gaga. At first she was just a bit extreme in the fashion sense, but the videos were gradually getting more weird as were her appearances in public for talk shows or Award shows such as wearing a meat dress for example. Nobody has focused on crazy and surreal as much as Lady Gaga before and people are lapping it up. It has also helped that her songs have been catchy and original enough to warrant the number 1 spot for some of her songs. But as the years go by and more songs are released, the effort to up her crazyness is more notable than the effort to write or sing good material. Her most popular song to this date is still Poker Face, her 2nd song that she released, and has failed to reach those heights since. Therefore the motive from songs to craziness has transpired with her recent videos including having her head CGI’d onto a swan body and wearing clothes that wont even be seen on a fashion catwalk speaks volumes. 

Due to the popularity of Lady Gaga, people are already (as expected) jumping on the bandwagon. The more notable being Nicki Minaj and her Neon coloured everything and her wacky hairstyles and the more recent Miley Cyrus with the short haircut, the constant twerking and tongue-sticking out malarky and the licking of sledgehammers. It’s all attention seeking to get people talking about them, whether it is good or bad, its still publicity and that is why Miley is on top of all the tabloids at the moment. The sexy phase is still around and is going strong for some (Katy Perry) and is starting to fail for others (Britney Spears, Madonna) but Crazy is definitely the new sexy and I hate it.

Why do I hate it? It’s because it’s unnecessary, that’s why. Why lick a sledgehammer? Why wear ridiculous clothes? What’s wrong with focussing on writing good enough material to reach the heights of the greats rather than swinging on a wrecking ball or having a hairstyle that looks like a Flump. You don’t see Adele twerking away to Rolling in the Deep do you? In fact she stays sat down throughout the video. Adele doesn’t need to do “Sexy” or “Crazy” as her talents shine through and beyond that. Emeli Sande is popular due to her voice and her songs, yes she has an original hairstyle, but she doesn’t act crazy or hump inanimate objects anywhere? That’s what singers should be about. Singing. Not their image, not how extreme they are, just write good music and sing it well. Nothing is wrong with a bit of sexy or crazy in small doses once in a blue moon to gain your own niche and originality, but for crying out loud stop attention seeking to the extreme and sing your song like a singer, not a Circus attraction.

The Hunger Games “Review”

After recently acquiring Netflix (on trial at the moment), I thought I would catch up on all the films I have missed out on that I have really wanted to see, with this including The Hunger Games. After all the hype and attention it got, it made me want to watch it even more, but the main reason why I wanted to watch it was because it sounded very much like an american version of Battle Royale.

 

After watching the whole thing, I didn’t feel like I wanted to shout to the rooftops like most people have, probably because I was expecting too much of it. There were also a couple of things in the film that irked me. 

 

1) I’m pretty sure most of the film was all about the build up to the Games rather than the actual fighting itself. I haven’t read the books and don’t know if this is how it is in the books, but for the focus of the film being about the games itself and expecting to see fighting and bloodshed for it to then see Katniss sleep in a tree half the time didn’t get me going. Maybe it was like the first Harry Potter and was just a film explaining everything rather than being entertaining…

 

2) During the build-up for the games, Woody Harrelson went on about sponsors so much that it was bound to be used heavily during the fighting. The only thing the sponsors were involved in was sending Katniss (and only Katniss) some Vaseline and some special chicken soup, which was for Katniss to give to big jaw kid. It was a huge let down. Why wasn’t sponsors used more during the Games? Again, they may have during the books, I couldn’t tell you. But for Woody to basically fap over sponsors throughout the film and hardly see them utilised when it mattered was poor form.

 

3) Why did that lad who saved Katniss from knife-throwing girl not kill Katniss afterwards? A life and death situation where the Highlander reference is highly important (“There can be only one”), knowing full well that there was literally 4 or 5 of them left, why didn’t he take advantage of the situation? He had a big-ass knife, plus built like a brick shithouse. He chose to save her “just this once”. It’s towards the end of the games you numbnuts, stab her! So after this happened, you think “Well he’s going to  appear later and have something to do with the ending”, but no, you just hear him scream later whilst he gets eaten by a half werewolf. half staffordshire bull terrier. Bit disappointing.

 

4) The lack of fighting in the film was also a let down. You saw a fair bit of killing during the start of the actual games, but for the rest of the games, I think I saw about….3 fights? Including the end scuffle? How can you make a film about people killing each other and only show a handful of fights. It’s like making a porno, but only showing the kissing.

Overall, it was an all right film, Jennifer Lawrence is pretty hot so kept my attention. Plus there was a football match I was following on twitter too so I kept phasing in and out during the tree sleeping scenes to check the score, but I don’t think I missed anything important. I’d probably watch the sequel just to see the story out. I did the same with the TV show Heroes when it went a bit shit. Also because Hayden Panettiere is hot.

So basically if there was no hot leading actress, I may not watch the next film. Also Battle Royale beats Hunger Games hands down due to excessive violence and original deaths, plus decent love story, but The Hunger Games still a better love story than Twilight.