Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Funnies: The PJ's (1999)

Claymation animator Will Vinton is, of course, best known for the California Raisins commercials and Saturday morning cartoons in the 80's. In 1999, Vinton joined forces with another 80's icon, actor-comedian-singer Eddie Murphy and actor-turned-filmmaker Ron Howard to produce a primetime claymation series which borrowed from a number of other sources, and, in turn, may have accidentally inspired an unrelated feature film based on a TV classic.

The PJ's was a mid-season replacement series when it bowed on Fox in January 1999, with the debut airing on a Sunday night, followed by a weekly run on Tuesdays, coupled with the far more successful King of the Hill. Murphy (ex-Saturday Night Live) served as co-executive producer (with Howard, Vinton, and others), co-created the series, and starred as the voice of Thurgood Stubbs, building superintendent, who wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, especially when it came to carrying out his duties.

Set in an inner-city housing project, The PJ's took inspiration from shows like The Honeymooners, The Jeffersons, and from Murphy's "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood" skits from his SNL run in the early 80's, among others. In truth, while Stubbs wasn't quite as bright as, say Ralph Kramden or George Jefferson, he was a natural leader, like the iconic sitcom characters of past generations. After 2 seasons on Fox, the series shifted to WB for its 3rd & final season, and as a result, swapped studio support, as Warner Bros. replaced Touchstone Television (Disney) as a packager, in conjunction with Vinton & Murphy's respective production companies and Howard's Imagine Entertainment, better known for its big screen successes, such as the Oscar-winning "A Beauthiful Mind" & "Apollo 13".

The PJ's merits mention because today, MTV2, sharing cable rights with TV One, and presumably also its own step-sister networks BET & Centric, aired a 3-hour marathon of the series. Here's the open:

Methinks this might've been a sort-of inspiration for the feature film version of Honeymooners having an African American central cast a few years back, headlined by Cedric the Entertainer. Of course, the movie bombed. At least we're thankful Thurgood, a modern day Fred G. Sanford, is back among us.

Rating: B.

No comments: