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Joe Bash aired from March until May 1986 on ABC.
Danny Arnold's dark comedy about a cynical old cop bore little resembance to his earlier police sitcom, Barney Miller. Joe ( Peter Boyle)was a balding, older New York City street cop near the end of his career, who just wanted to go out peacefully and with a nice, safe pension. Cynical about the system , he wasn't above a little larceny: in one episode he tried to keep the bag of cash he found in a dead woman's ratty apartment. Willie ( Andrew Rubin) was his enthusiastic young partner, who was supposed to learn from him, but spent most of his time keeping Joe more or less honest. Lorna ( DeLane Matthews)was Joe's hooker-girlfriend. A gritty " mean stretts" look and unappealing characters kept this series from attracting much of an audience.
A Review from The New York Times
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: April 17, 1986
''Joe Bash,'' on the other hand, is something else, something so unusual for a half-hour format in prime time that it could be either dismissed as a disaster or hailed as a breakthrough. After watching its first three episodes on Fridays at 9:30 P.M., I found myself getting used to its offbeat ways and actually beginning to like its oddball characters. ''Joe Bash,'' created by Danny Arnold, who is best known for the ''Barney Miller'' series, revolves around life as a policeman in a New York precinct in lower Manhattan. Joe Bash is nearing retirement and just wants to get through the rest of his tour with as little effort as possible. His new partner, Willie Smith, is young and still eager to help humanity. The two patrol their beat on streets that are clearly part of a studio set. There is no laugh track to signal the viewer as to whether Joe's misanthropy is really supposed to be funny. ''Joe Bash'' moves to its own special beat, apparently bent on demolishing every well-established cliche in sitcom territory.
The character of Joe Bash, developed by Mr. Arnold, Philip Jayson Lasker and Chris Hayward, has reached the conclusion that life is a mess and ''there is nothing I can do about it.'' Summing up, Joe declares that you come in with a slap on the rump and go out with a kick in the teeth - ''everything in between is toothaches and blisters.'' On his rounds with Willie, he copes with simmeringly hostile black and Hispanic people, old women found dead in their dreary apartments and old men who, lost in the ravages of Alzheimer's disease, remember actors like Fredric March (''when that man gives a performance, you believe every word from his lips''). While Willie tries to get a rise out of his grumpy partner, Joe goes about his business getting the local merchants to give him a free candy bar or another bowl of lima bean soup.
The title character is portrayed by Peter Boyle, the highly gifted character actor who in the 1960's brought another Joe, the hard-hat patriot, to vivid life in the film called ''Joe.'' With Andrew Rubin depicting his affable foil, Mr. Boyle manages to keep this Joe perfectly poised between being a scoundrel and a saint. In fact, on his own and off duty, Joe can be as sentimental as he is cynical. Divorced and lonely, he realizes that he doesn't have a ''knack for relationships,'' that he lacks a storehouse of comforting memories. ''Me,'' says Joe, ''I don't have much to remember . . . When I get old, unless I get senile, I'm screwed.'' Now being evaluated by ABC for further production plans, Joe may leave a good many viewers puzzled, but he is one of the most memorable characters to saunter through a television series in many a season. ''Joe Bash'' is to return the next Friday. Anyone interested in what is truly different on television entertainment these days should take note.
An Article from Time Magazine
Lonely Beat Joe Bash; Abc;
Monday, Apr. 21, 1986 By RICHARD ZOGLIN
A comedy series with no cackling studio audience, no laugh track--indeed, almost no laughs? Forget it. A police show in which cars never careen through the streets, drug pushers are strangely absent, and nobody draws a gun? No way. A network midseason replacement that tiptoes into the little-watched time period opposite Dallas for an unheralded six-show run? So long, Charlie.
Hello, Joe Bash. This ABC entry, created by Danny Arnold (Barney Miller), is not only the oddest new comedy of the season, it is also the smartest and most unexpectedly moving. Peter Boyle plays Joe, an embittered middle-aged New York cop who pounds the beat with a brash young partner, Willie (Andrew Rubin). The pair traverse the desolate city streets and cope with the unglamorous trivia of everyday police life. A woman is found dead in her apartment, and Joe and Willie debate what to do with the bag of money she has left. An old man wanders into a deli and orders a meal he cannot pay for; he turns out to be an Alzheimer's victim who has escaped from a senior citizens' home.
All of this swirls around the surly character of Joe, TV's most convincing misanthrope since Archie Bunker. In Boyle's sharp and unsentimental portrayal, crustiness never becomes cute, and there are echoes of authentic urban despair in the patter. "What are you gonna do over the weekend?" Willie asks Joe, whose wife left him 15 years ago. "Same as I always do. Sit it out till Monday," he replies. Willie nags him to get out of the apartment and make friends. "I had friends," Joe snaps. "I didn't like it." At the end of one episode, Joe is even found in bed with a prostitute, without apologies. Not exactly the stuff of Nielsen winners, but a TV breakthrough: the first sitcom about loneliness. R.Z.
An Article from The LA Times
Offbeat Humor Of 'Joe Bash'
April 25, 1986|HOWARD ROSENBERG
Try catching "Joe Bash" before it goes off the air, probably forever. You may not like it, but you won't forget it.
There's nothing on TV quite like jolting "Joe Bash." What a half hour, at 9:30 p.m. Fridays on ABC (Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42). What a bracing, offbeat, minor-key, wonderfully screwball series.
"The show came out to be sort of strange," its creator, Danny Arnold, said the other day while taping the last of six "Joe Bash" episodes that he agreed to supply the network.
"ABC said, 'What kind of show is this? We don't know how to sell it.' "
Whatever ABC is selling, relatively few viewers are buying, unfortunately. The first three episodes of "Joe Bash" predictably have been ratings clunkers opposite galloping "Dallas" on CBS. So you have to feel that this bent, weirdly off-center series will join NBC's "United States" and "Buffalo Bill" as fleeting, bold experiments deemed too bizarre and baffling for TV's leisure suits and white buck shoes.
Directed by Arnold and co-written by him with Chris Hayward and Philip Jayson Lasker--and superbly performed by Peter Boyle--"Joe Bash" is so unusual, so against type, so dark, brooding, cynical and grim that you have to believe that it startled even ABC. You have to believe that a desperate ABC gambled on the series because it didn't realize what it was getting.
Joe (Boyle) is a uniformed cop who walks a beat with his idealistic younger partner, Willie Smith (Andrew Rubin). They walk and talk and talk and walk. Joe, who carries his sagging body like a listing ship, turns out to be a bitter, beaten man.
"That's life," he tells Willie. "You come in with a slap on the ass, you go out with a kick in the teeth. And everything in between is toothaches and blisters."
Hardly "The Love Boat."
"Joe Bash" is difficult to define only in relation to ordinary TV, said Arnold, who's already done his good deed for America by giving ABC viewers "Barney Miller." " 'Joe Bash' is not a situation comedy and it's not a drama. It's a behavioral comedy, a comedy whose roots are in drama," he said.
Joe is no hero. Arnold called his character Bash because the name "sounded like an aggressive hitter, a victim who is striking back and totally cynical because he's accomplished nothing in his life."
The premiere episode was merely so-so. The second episode was a real kick, though, with Joe discovering a sack containing $60,000 in the slum apartment of a dead woman. Intending to steal the money, he instead used part of it to pay for the dead woman's funeral--a nice gesture--and turned in the rest. Well, almost all the rest. He kept $100 for himself.
So nobody's perfect.
The third episode ranked with the best TV I've seen anywhere, anytime. Jack Gilford played a confused Alzheimer's victim named Feinbaum who ran up dinner bills he couldn't pay and imagined that his dead wife was still living.
There were so many things happening in this remarkable half hour, including the anger of ghetto blacks toward white cops. And Gilford's mindless Feinbaum was such a skillfully crafted, touching soul--at once pathetic and funny, drawing from the defeated Joe a glimmer of humanity.
The laugh-trackless humor is delivered in short, crisp jolts.
Willie: You live alone?
Joe: I got a cat.
Willie: Same thing.
Joe: I know.
Why \o7 was\f7 ABC interested in "Joe Bash"? Mired in last place in the Nielsen ratings, ABC was desperate when then-network entertainment chief Lewis H. Erlicht asked Arnold to return to ABC.
Erlicht agreed to Arnold's conditions: Arnold was to "do anything I want to do" and have creative control over three half-hour series--of initially six episodes each--that he was to develop over two seasons. There would be no pilots.
ABC seemed puzzled by the first script for "Joe Bash."
"They had certain reservations when they read it, but they went ahead anyway," Arnold said. But why would ABC throw "Joe Bash" at powerful "Dallas?"
"I don't know if ABC just dumped it there or was trying to team it with another series ("Mr. Sunshine") in hopes of killing 'Dallas,' " Arnold said.
Some killing. In its last outing two weeks ago, "Joe Bash" ranked 68th among prime-time programs.
In the wake of ABC's takeover by Capital Cities Communications, Erlicht was replaced last November by Brandon Stoddard, who Arnold said agrees that "Joe Bash" is not the kind of series that can sell itself in six episodes. Arnold said that even "Barney Miller" needed time before becoming a hit.
"Joe Bash" has more problems than its ratings, however. There have been numerous production setbacks, the latest ones requiring Arnold to pull last week's scheduled episode off the air. And "Joe Bash" is a very expensive show.
"I've put in $1 million from my own pocket beyond the license fee I've gotten from ABC," Arnold said. "Even if the network ordered 22 more episodes, I'm not sure I'd do it without getting more money."
The whole question may be moot. Arnold expects fiscally austere Cap Cities to weigh the show's low ratings against its high cost and make the sixth episode of "Joe Bash" the last.
What a shame that there is so little room on regular commercial TV for new forms and new worlds, for programs that stretch and stimulate. What a shame that an audience of 6, 8 or 10 million is considered trivial.
This is brilliant, challenging TV that deserves life beyond a six-pack.
For more on Joe Bash go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Bash
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Keywords: Andrew Rubin & Peter Boyle