Monday, August 13, 2007

Really underrated TV shows: Just Shoot Me

In syndication, sometimes I rediscover something great in a TV show. Some of the shows that I have really fallen in love with in syndication and for periods have made it a point to watch daily are Just Shoot Me, Beverly Hillbillies, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Spin City, Newsradio, Cheers, and I Dream of Genie among others. I think I'm going to start a series on this called Great TV Shows, so if you click on that tag, you'll see the other links.

Recently Just Shoot Me started airing again on TBS during the day and I could not have been more excited. The people who run TV stations pay so much attention to those two or three hours of night time programming and so little attention to the TV viewers who happen to tune in during the early afternoon like myself.

Anyway, Just Shoot Me is a show that takes place in the plush offices of a trashy fashion magazine. The editor, Jack Gallow, is a typical businessman who lives large and marries a girl half his age. He's truly a good guy but he wasn't a particularly attentive father to his grown-up daughter Maya. She's a feminist-leaning reporter with some self-image issues and after getting professionally black-balled, she has to turn to her estranged father for work. Also on the staff are David Spade as snarky personal assistant Dennis Finch, Wendy Malick as has-been model Nina van Horn and Enrico Colantoni as photographer Elliot DiMauro. He's the sensitive artist type and enjoys the easy access to hot and easy models his job gives him.

Essentially, it's the typical workplace sitcom and that's why I ignored it the first time around, despite my like of David Spade. Upon closer inspection, I found I really liked the show however and if I had to pinpoint one thing that makes the show so great, it's how well the five characters complement each other. Each of them has strengths and needs that the other wants.

Maya is possessed with intelligence and the ability to think for herself, but she wishes she had the beauty of Nina and the interpersonal skills and love of her father. As evidenced by her being fired from her previous job in the pilot episode, Maya also doesn't vent out her frustrations well, and she needs to learn to have a sense of humor like Elliot and Dennis have so she doesn't take herself too seriously. Jack, highly successful as a businessman and well-liked person among friends, has been successful at everything in life except being a good father. The birth of his new daughter in the pilot is a great plot device because it makes him need his daughter more so that he can revisit his failure with his first daughter in order to learn how to prevent an estrangement with his second daughter.

Nina, Elliot and Dennis are all childlike and helpless in different ways and need Jack as a father figure to guide them. Nina who was once a model and who now has to prove her usefulness in other ways if she wants to keep working can learn from Dennis' sense of devotion and his ability to laugh at himself and Maya's smarts. While Nina would never concede to being jealous of Maya's looks, she is envious of her youth.

Dennis Finch is perhaps most in need of Maya among the other four adult children in the office. He secretly might envy Elliot for being more successful than him with the models, but he's really more desperate for respect. He's the second smartest person in the office behind Maya, as evidenced by his snappy remarks and his knowledge of various minutiae. While he likes his place in the office he wants to be taken seriously rather than as a "dumb seceretary." An example might be how offended he got in the episode where Jay Leno called him a "seceretary," how he wanted a Christmas present, or how he eventually went back to college. Dennis and Maya might see each other as intellectual equals, or I think that's Dennis' hope. In the episode where they form a softball team, Dennis could relate to Maya's past as a childhood progidy when he reveals how he was a figure skater. Dennis also literally wants Nina. She used to model for his company.

Elliott wishes he could laugh at himself a little easier like Dennis, but more than that Elliott longs for someone who can fulfill his romantic desires with intelligence which is where Maya comes in. With the Elliott-Maya tension, and the eventual relationship, it ties Elliott into the circle of wants and needs.

What's really great about all of this is that this layer of wants and needs that drives the group together is balanced with a surface-level atmosphere of bickering, put downs, office pranks, and even people stepping over each other to get ahead. But at the end of the day, it's about how what's most important is the sense of what each person brings to the people around him and the sense of family that's formed. Just Shoot Me is for every straight-A student who wishes she were prettier, every class clown who wishes he would have the respect of the valedictorian, every successful businessman who wished they could connect to their family, every nerd who wishes they could be friends with the prettiest girl in the room, and every overgrown child who wishes their boss could be more like the dad they never had.