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Old 02-12-2008, 12:31 AM   #1
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Cool Frank's Place Article From St. Petersburg Times(Aug. 9, 1987)

`Frank's Place' will really cook

NEW YORK - What started out as another sitcom-simple show has turned into one of the most innovative programs on television this fall. It's called Frank's Place and - surprise! - it's not on NBC.

CBS, which took few programing risks last year and as a result failed to even dent NBC's No. 1 ranking, is ready to gamble this fall. Frank's Place, airing Saturday nights, 8 p.m., beginning in September, is the first roll of the dice.

The program takes a black yankee yuppie professor and hurls him into the thick of the twilight zone - a smokey place that time forgot, where folks love spicy food and minty drinks; where voodoo is not taboo, and where female embalmers have liquid hips like Elvis.

A place called New Orleans.

Eleven characters haunt the ``Chez Louisiane`` restaurant-lounge in Frank's Place, and every one of them is deliciously appealing - as tasty as gumbo creole.

In 22 minutes, Hugh Wilson, creator of WKRP in Cincinnati for TV and Police Academy for the movies, has crafted some of the cagiest Cajuns and most luscious Louisianans ever to grace the small screen. And he did it in California.

There's Sy Weisberger, a Jewish Southern lawyer lifted right from Tennessee Williams who goes by the nickname ``Bubba.`` And Hanna Griffin, an embalmer with greased hips and ice-cold hands. Then there's the Right Rev. Tyrone Deal, a card playing, wheeler dealer preacher who dabbles in real estate and hangs out at the bar while trying to wheedle a pulpit.

Big Arthur is a big cook who carries a big stick - a baseball bat. Miss Marie is the ``waitress emeritus.`` She only serves customers who have been coming to ``Chez Louisiane`` for 20 years or more. There's a silver-haired senior bartender named Tiger and a tall Cajun assistant chef called Shorty.

Each character is so finely tuned, so blessedly refreshing, that any one could be extracted from Frank's Place and given a spinoff show of his own. This is clear after watching only one show - the 22-minute pilot.

Tim Reid, who played Venus Flytrap on WKRP, now plays Frank, the owner of the restaurant. His wife, Daphne Maxwell Reid, is the sexy embalmer. Other than these two, you may not have seen these actors before.

But what the devil is Frank's Place? Is it a sitcom, drama, action adventure, soap? There's no hunk, no vamp, no car wreck.

Actually, Frank's Place is a hilarious hybrid of the standard situation comedy. The laughs come without a laugh track, and it looks more like a movie than a teleplay or sitcom.

Originally, Wilson's idea for the show was to feature an ex-football player who buys a restaurant in Atlanta. But Kim LeMasters, CBS vice president of programing, had another plan.

``Before we got started Kim said, `I have an idea I want to talk to you about.' He pitched us this wonderful story about a restaurant in New Orleans,`` Reid said. ``He wanted to use strong textures, blues music, interesting characters. He kept saying he wanted to make this different.``

And different is what CBS got. Wilson shaped the show so that it would center on the black community, not the French Quarter. But this is not Cosby meets Cheers.

With The Cosby Show, the fact that the actors are black is irrelevent. They could be white and not a single line would have to be altered. In Cheers, which is supposed to be about a bar in Boston, you'd hardly know it from watching the show.

But with Frank's Place there's no mistaking the fact that these folks are black and that they are in New Orleans. All the flavors of the city are there. The music, the Dixie beer, the gumbo, the accent, the attitude.

``I thought it would be interesting to show black middle-class working people rather than the usual for TV, which is drug addicts or PhDs,`` Wilson said. ``Nobody seemed to have done it before. As we fooled around with it and worked on it we kept saying, `This seems new. This seems kind of fresh.``'

Wilson stocked the cast with three actors over 65, two of them over 70, one Cajun unemployed student who had never acted before. Every one of them carries it off.

``He's a man not afraid to take a chance and do something different,`` Reid said about Wilson.

``The way he cast it, the characters were so well rounded,`` said Daphne Reid. ``The words he put into their mouths were so perfect.``

Wilson had originally planned to create the show, stock it, and then leave it after the pilot to make a movie, as he did with NBC's Easy Street, featuring Loni Anderson.

But along the way something changed.

``Right in the middle of it, it became very clear to me that this was much more fun to do than a movie,`` Wilson said. ``The problem with that is now I have to sit down and do 22.``

We can hardly wait.
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Old 02-12-2008, 12:54 AM   #2
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Default Reid Goes to Top in 'Frank's Place' (St. Petersburg Times: Oct. 4, 1987)

Reid goes to the top in `Frank's Place' Series

LOS ANGELES - Tim Reid's newest series for CBS, Frank's Place, which airs Mondays at 8 p.m., locally on WTVT-Ch. 13, got its start over a game of tennis. Well, sort of.

In the show, which premiered last month, Reid stars as Frank Parrish, a straight-laced college professor from Massachusetts who inherited a down-home Creole restaurant in a mostly black neighborhood in New Orleans. His New England starchiness immediately clashed with the laissez-faire attitude of the restaurant's staff and customers.

His wife, Daphne Maxwell Reid, also stars as his love interest, Hanna Griffin, a mortician and embalmer.

Reid says the original idea evolved between serves during his Sunday morning tennis matches with Hugh Wilson, the creator-producer of his first series, WKRP in Cincinnati.

``One day Hugh said to me, `Think you might be interested in doing a show? Your serve.``' We knocked the idea back and forth for several months.

``Hugh would say, `How about if you're an athlete forced to retire because of an injury and you go into the restaurant business. Say, in Atlanta.`` I said, ``Great.`` Two weeks later we got a pilot deal with CBS and Hugh asked me, ``Do you remember what we talked about?``

Reid says they didn't even get a chance to pitch the idea to CBS programing executive Kim LeMasters.

``We walked in and Kim says he had an idea for a college professor who owns a restaurant in New Orleans,`` he says. ``He went on for about 20 minutes. Then he asked us to think it over for a few days. Hugh and I looked at each other and said we didn't have to think it over, this was better than anything we had in mind.``

Reid says CBS wanted to capture the music and the texture of New Orleans.

``They kept saying they wanted the feel of New Orleans. Well, what we ended up with was Hugh Wilson's creation. It's not exactly New Orleans, but it has the feel.

``Both Hugh and I went to New Orleans twice to do research. Hugh had recently given up smoking and on one flight he had to have a cigarette. He went to the back of the plane and bummed a cigarette from this man. He got to talking to the man, found out his name was Don Yesso and he was from New Orleans. He ended up hiring him to play Shorty La Roux, the assistant chef.``

There's a wide assortment of other characters, including Bubba Weisberger, a Jewish lawyer with a thick Southern accent, played by Robert Harper, and the Rev. Deal, a cleric of dubious reputation, played by Lincoln Kilpatrick.

``Hugh had in mind that Frank would also inherit some rental property, including a funeral home,`` Reid says. ``But when he got to New Orleans he found that most of the funeral homes are run by women. We went to one and found it was run by a beautiful young black woman. Hugh looked at me and said, `Daphne.' He added the character of her mother, who owns the funeral home and is very powerful and is in a wheelchair like Big Daddy.``

Reid's wife previously made several guest appearances on WKRP in Cincinnati. She also had a recurring role on Simon & Simon as TV reporter Temple Hill. Reid starred on the detective series (with Jameson Parker and Gerald McRaney) as an undercover detective named Downtown Brown.

After leaving Simon & Simon, Reid shaved his beard. ``That's the extent of my method acting,`` he says. ``I have so much faith in Hugh Wilson that if he says, `Tim, this is what your character is,' I would have stepped into it. I know it would be there.``

Reid's role in Frank's Place is his first as the top star.

``WKRP in Cincinnati got me established,`` he says. ``Simon & Simon gave me legitimacy.``
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Old 05-17-2010, 04:12 PM   #3
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Frank's Place has a unique distinction among TV series and not a desirable one: CBS hoped the critical acclaim would buoy the show and renewed it for 1988-89. It was on the fall schedule. But summer rerun ratings were so bad they canceled the second season before it was even produced!
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Old 10-30-2010, 07:03 PM   #4
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Summer reruns? Why would the cancel the show based on Summer Reruns? That sounds just silly to me. Then again, silly decisions are made by execs in tv. SMH.
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