Just Shoot Me aired from March 1997 until August 2003 on NBC.
Pretentiousness met profits ( and pretentiousness lost) in this cheerfull workplace comedy. Maya ( Laura San Giacomo) was a high-minded " serious journalist" who got fired from her TV newswriting job for standing up for her ideals once too often, and wound up writing for Blush, the sleazy New York-based women's fashion magazine published by her father-a publication that represented everything she detested. Pride was swallowed , however, and Maya reached a detente with Jack ( George Segal), her colorful, womanizing dad. Others around the office were Nina ( Wendie Malick), the bossy scheming former model who served as fashion editor; Elliott( Enrico Colantoni), the balding, intense head photographer; and Dennis ( David Spade), Jack's backstabbing young executive assistant. It seems gruff Jack was really a softy-he hired each of them at a low point in their lives, helping them turn things around. Unseen but often referred to was Ally, Jack's fourth wife, a bimbo/cheerleader who was a former classmate of Maya's. Wally ( Chris Hogan) was Maya's roommate seen only during the first season.
Most stories revolved around dating and office politics. In the 1998-1999 season finale Dennis abruptly married glamorous model Adrienne ( Rebecca Romijin-Stamos) and Maya married Elliott. In the fall Maya and Elliott discovered they were not legally married , but they continued to date off and on. Dennis and Adrienne were eventually divorced. In 2000 Jack and Ally divorced, putting him in the dating scene as well. Joining the cast in 1999 was Kevin ( Brian Posehn) the mail guy, and in 2002 opinionated Brooklyn hairstylist Vicki ( Rena Sofer), the magazine's new editorial consultant.
In the two-part finale aired on August 16, 2003, Nina married dense British rocker Simon ( Simon Templeman) and Jack returned to sail on his yacht, turning Blush over to Maya.
A Review from Variety
Just Shoot Me
By TONY SCOTT
Powered By Just Shoot Me (Tues. (4), 9:30-10 p.m., NBC) Filmed at Universal Studios by Brillstein-Grey Communications, Steven Levitan Prods. and Columbia TV. Executive producer-creator-writer, Steven Levitan; executive producers, Brad Grey, Bernie Brillstein; co-executive producers, Stephen Engel, Andrew Gordon, Eileen Conn; producers, Kevin C. Slattery, Erwin More, Brian Medavoy, Gina Rugolo; co-producer, Marsh McCall; director, Philip Charles MacKenzie; camera, Robert Caramico; editor, Dennis C. Vejar; production designer, Roy Christopher; art director, Chris Idoine; sound, Doug Nelson; music, John Adair, Steve Hampton, Korbin Kraus; casting, Deborah Barylski, Jonell Dunn. Cast: Laura San Giacomo, George Segal, Wendie Malick, Enrico Colantoni, Chris Hogan, David Spade, Emily Procter, Dave Clark, Scott N. Stevens, Shannon Maureen Brown, Donna Ponterotto, Raphelle Hink, Joel Traywick.
Writer Steven Levitan has cooked up a likable, funny arrangement in which likable, mellow-voiced Laura San Giacomo ("sex, lies and videotape") plays the estranged daughter of well-cast Jack Gallo (George Segal), publisher of Blush, fancy girlie mag that not only makes money but provides fodder for good humor. Levitan knows his oats. Maya Gallo (San Giacomo) , ankling her job as a TV news writer, stops by her dad's dame-clogged office to borrow some dough. Anonymous to the staff, she's snubbed by Jack Gallo's slick right-hander, ambitious aide Finch (David Spade), and by flourishing, snooty fashion editor Nina Van Horn (Wendie Malick), backbiters until they learn who Maya is. Where butter wouldn't spread, it now melts. Jack tries coaxing Maya to write an article for the mag to pay off the loan she wants, but Maya won't even read the razzmatazz mag. Jack, now married to one of Maya's less-than-bright classmates (she's his fourth wife) and Levitan pull some fancy footwork to set up the inevitable: Maya goes to work at Blush. Levitan and the two lead actors, abetted by deft director Philip Charles MacKenzie and a strong cast of supporting players, have delivered a promising first show. The opening sequence at the TV station, where Maya passively takes on a shallow-brained TV newscaster (Emily Procter), is cheering, and Blush's dry receptionist's (Donna Ponterotto) put-down of power-mad Finch shows a weather eye for amusing details. The comic timing by limber Malick and by SNL's Spade, Segal's nifty interp of Gallo, the warm self-assurance of San Giacomo and a bright premise concocted by Levitan and director MacKenzie add up to something worth checking out --- and something blessed with a future. ---Tony Scott
A Review from The New York Times
A New Collection of Stereotypes
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: March 4, 1997
NBC's new sitcom ''Just Shoot Me,'' having a preview tonight before being tested tomorrow in its regular slot of Wednesday nights at 9:30, is valiantly determined to drain laughs out of basically pathetic characters. There's an elderly man brandishing cigars (when is this instant in-your-face cliche going to go up in smoke?) and his new young trophy-wife; his daughter who wants to be a serious journalist but winds up shilling for Daddy's fluffy women's magazine; a former model who approaches middle age with a terror better reserved for death camps, and so on into the bottomless pit of contemporary stereotypes.
Coming out of Brillstein-Grey Communications with its solid track record (''The Larry Sanders Show'' and ''News Radio''), ''Just Shoot Me'' does score passing comic points, but all too seldom. Losing her job on a television news program, feisty Maya Gallo (Laura San Giacomo of ''Sex, Lies and Videotape'') is forced to turn for help to her father, Jack Gallo (George Segal), the womanizing publisher of Blush, a magazine partial to articles like ''Rebounding From Disaster: 12 Easy Steps.''
Jack offers Maya a job, carefully noting that ''as long as you work the word orgasm in somewhere, I'm happy.'' Meanwhile, Jack's fourth wife, Maya's former classmate, is giving birth to a new daughter. At the office, a wary Maya must deal with, among others: Nina Van Horn (Wendie Malick), the beauty and fashion editor, whose intellect has the depth of her nail polish; Dennis Finch (David Spade of ''Saturday Night Live''), the lecherous office secretary, on a nonstop power trip, and Elliott DiMauro (Enrico Colantoni), the fashion photographer, whose work studio is dominated by a huge inviting bed.
The wisecracks crackle, and there are some clever swipes at the image-laden world of fashion. In a future episode, one suggestion at a conference for story ideas is ''The Comeback of Fur.'' Dennis's new employee manual of morals, ethics and personal behavior warns, clearly with Nina in mind: ''If you wore mini-skirts in the 60's, spare us in the 90's.'' At one point, Mr. Segal, gallant trouper, even plays the banjo, which is what he actually did when first starting out in show business.
''Just Shoot Me'': What does that unfortunate title mean exactly? It might have something to do with the fictional magazine's photography sessions. Or maybe it's just a cry of despair from the series itself.
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
STYLE AND ERROR (1997)
WITH A FASHIONABLE CAST AND A CREATOR WITH 'FRASIER' AND 'LARRY SANDERS' CRED, 'JUST SHOOT ME' SHOULD BE TAILOR-MADE FOR SUCCESS. SO WHOSE ALTERATIONS ARE SOFTENING ITS EDGE?
By Ken Tucker
The most interesting cast in a new mid-season replacement show can be found in JUST SHOOT ME (NBC, Wednesdays, 9:30- 10 p.m.), a zippy sitcom about life at a fashion magazine. It stars two actors best known for their work in feature films, Laura San Giacomo (sex, lies, and videotape; Pretty Woman) and noted banjo player George Segal, who's been in everything from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to The Mirror Has Two Faces. It also features David Spade, wise guy supreme from Saturday Night Live and sneery straight man in those so-dumb-they're-funny movies with Chris Farley, Tommy Boy and Black Sheep. Then there's Wendie Malick, most familiar as the ex-wife in Dream On but a sly, astringent performer who has invariably delivered the goods in any number of flop sitcoms and guest spots.
With this intriguing mix of people and acting styles, right off the bat you know this isn't going to be just the latest addition to TV's slew of magazine-world sitcoms. The pilot set up the premise nicely: San Giacomo is Maya Gallo, single New York gal and unemployed writer, reduced to asking her estranged father for a job. Segal's Jack Gallo cemented that estrangement by recently taking one of Maya's former schoolmates as his wife -- his fourth, in fact -- and Maya is pretty disgusted with him in general.
But a job's a job, and Jack is, after all, the publisher of Blush, a monthly that looks like a cross between Cosmopolitan and Vogue -- lots of skinny models, lots of expensive clothes, lots of verbiage about getting, keeping, and improving your man. Maya fancies herself too smart for this gig but agrees to work as a columnist. (This is, by the way, a major false note: Contemptuous or not, no way would a New Yorker as smart as Maya not kill for a column in a successful mag like this.)
Just Shoot Me was created by Steven Levitan, of whom we expect good things, because he's a veteran writer of two top-notch series, The Larry Sanders Show and Frasier. Shoot's debut episode was smart, funny, and whiplash fast. Spade, who plays Segal's fatuous, on-the-make assistant, can be obnoxious when he overdoes his smirky-smugness shtick, but Levitan's pilot kept Spade's ultra-smarm under firm control.
Watching two subsequent episodes, though, I was dismayed to see how quickly Shoot deteriorated. These later shows succumbed to obvious things like dumb-model jokes and turned Malick's smart, brittle fashion editor into a pathetic woman who sleeps around and gets razzed for having ''bony broomstick'' legs.
In the pilot, San Giacomo is set up as the sane center of the series, the one who's going to point out the foolishness of the fashion industry, the cynicism of magazine writing, and the sexism of everyone -- male and female -- around her. But her character has been drastically overhauled. Instead of maintaining a healthy disregard for the superficiality of her workplace, she's softened into a bright team player, a bafflingly happy camper reduced to acting as straight woman. And if all this wasn't bad enough, in one show, Segal actually played the banjo.
Maybe the two dud installments I saw after the first-rate pilot were flukes, but building an episode around the idea of Malick getting breast implants and filling the half hour with unoriginal boob jokes does not bode well for Just Shoot Me's overall approach to comedy. Levitan has said that he used the name Maya as a salute to his Sanders writing colleague Maya Forbes, who wrote one of that show's finest episodes this season -- the one about Larry writing a tell-all book -- and who helped overhaul The Naked Truth as it moved from ABC to NBC.
But the crass and slow-witted Naked has been a disappointment: Where's the knife-sharp thrust Forbes brought to Sanders? Sources say that ratings king NBC has been getting heavily involved in the development of its potentially Must See TV projects; might the blanding of Naked and the post-pilot drop-off of Just Shoot Me have to do with corporate mucking? It'd be a shame if an intelligent writer-producer like Levitan is aiming lower than he needs to, to attract a big network audience. Steve, I'm beggin' ya: Take that banjo away from Segal and give San Giacomo back her guts. C+
An Article from The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; The Glasses, The Hair, The Angst
By CARYN JAMES
Published: November 18, 1997
When Woody Allen phones the heroine of ''Just Shoot Me'' at the end of tonight's show, that really is Woody Allen's voice, not an impersonator's. The brief, disembodied guest appearance has everything to do with impersonators, though. This exceptionally funny and clever episode of the series, about an intellectual named Maya (Laura San Giacomo) who works for her philistine father (George Segal) at a fashion magazine called Blush, is shaped as an ''Annie Hall'' parody and features a character who looks, talks and acts like the Woody Allen of Maya's dreams.
Like the Allen character in ''Annie Hall,'' Maya looks at the camera, in black and white, and comments on a strange and wonderful romance. After she writes a fantasy article called ''My Dinner With Woody,'' she gets a call from a man who sounded like the real thing. When he shows up he is clearly an impostor, but one who steps so perfectly into Maya's caricatured image of her idol -- the plaid shirt, the neuroses, the love of Chinese food -- that she goes out with him anyway. The ''Annie Hall'' flashbacks include a parody of the famous lobster scene, this time with Maya and the fake Woody terrified by an ear of corn they're about to toss into a pot. When the genuine Woody Allen finally phones Maya, it serves as a seal of approval for an episode that fondly touches one of his own favorite themes: the way idealized romances collide with reality.
Generally, ''Just Shoot Me'' has a split personality, too often relying on juvenile office pranks and leering looks at models. But that may be one secret of its appeal. As in last week's episode, which involved tickets to see ''King Lear'' in London, the series is best when it plays off the tension between the art-loving Maya and her shallow, scheming colleagues. The show is developing into a hit, with the nerve to make a television in-joke: the Woody impersonator's character (played by Ed Krasnick) is named Preston Beckman, the real name of NBC's head of scheduling.
JUST SHOOT ME
NBC, tonight at 9:30
An Article from The New York Times
TELEVISION; Out of the Polyester Past, a Comic Rogue Returns
By ANDY MEISLER
Published: January 4, 1998
IN THE MIDST OF A fullfledged 1970's revival, it's easy to forget that not every pop phenomenon from that curious decade was associated with polyester, disco music or free love.
The movie star George Segal, for instance, was merely a talented young actor with a flair for light comedy as well as drama. Around 1980, his stardom spent, he began a decade and a half of relative obscurity. But now, more because of the vagaries of network television than of any retro vogue for fondue forks or puka beads, he's back.
''I'm like a cork in the water, aren't I?'' says Mr. Segal, now 63, comfortably dressed in a Princeton sweatshirt, a well-seasoned corduroy jacket and a Greek fisherman's cap. ''I keep bobbing up in all sorts of places, although I never know in advance where or when.''
Somewhat rounder than in his movie star days but no less animated, Mr. Segal is sitting in his sparsely decorated dressing room near the set of ''Just Shoot Me,'' the nine-month-old NBC series that industry observers are calling one of those rarest of fin de siecle occurrences: a budding hit sitcom. The show has received good reviews and is regularly winning its time slot (Tuesday, 9:30 P.M.), beating its fellow newcomers ''Michael Hayes'' and ''Hiller and Diller'' and ranking 14th overall among viewers in the advertiser-desirable 18-49 age range.
The show has already been renewed for the rest of this season. ''If I were a betting man,'' says William Croasdale, president for national broadcasting of Western International Media, a Los Angeles media management company, ''I'd say it was a safe bet that the show will get a pickup next year.''
Mr. Segal reacts strongly to such talk. ''Don't say we're a hit,'' he says. ''In this culture you don't say, 'I'm in a hit sitcom.' We'll see what happens later with this, because the pitfalls in this are so incredible. You can't trust anything in any of this, so you just live for the day.''
In ''Just Shoot Me,'' Mr. Segal plays Jack Gallo, the roguish, much-divorced publisher of a Cosmopolitanesque magazine called Blush. Jack is a sort of amalgam of Hugh Hefner and a witty version of Donald Trump; the show revolves around the contentious relationship between Jack and his daughter (Laura San Giacomo of ''Sex, Lies and Videotape''), a talented but down-on-her-luck young journalist forced to take a job with her father's publication.
Jack was an absentee father during much of Maya's childhood, and rubbing salt in that wound is the fact that his fourth wife is one of Maya's old high school classmates.
''You are your magazine,'' says Maya accusingly in the pilot episode. ''You're glossy, you're slick, but when you open it up there's nothing inside.''
Jack replies breezily: ''I got another one for you. I get really fat in December.''
His character, says Mr. Segal, is only unfeeling and unlikable on the surface. Presumably the meanness and venality is the first layer that's ripped off. You've got to be likable to get away with all the mean stuff'' in the dialogue. Indeed, Mr. Segal's sitcom persona has definite similarities to the clever but somewhat self-destructive bad boys he played in movies like ''Bye Bye Braverman'' (1968), ''Where's Poppa?'' (1970), ''Blume in Love'' (1973), ''A Touch of Class'' (1973), ''California Split'' (1974) and ''Fun With Dick and Jane'' (1977).
Steven Levitan, executive producer and creator of ''Just Shoot Me,'' says of Mr. Segal: ''He's got tremendous instincts. I'll look at him and if he's not playing a scene well or right, I automatically think that something's wrong with it, because his instincts are telling him that something's not right.''
''It means there's something missing,'' says Mr. Levitan, 35, who says he has sampled Mr. Segal's movies on videotape and late-night television.
Mr. Segal was born and reared in Great Neck, N.Y. After leaving Long Island, he graduated from Columbia University, then took a job as a janitor at the Circle in the Square Theater in Manhattan.
Mr. Segal soon won a role in that company's production of ''The Iceman Cometh.'' After serving in the Army, he appeared in ''Antony and Cleopatra'' for Joseph Papp and joined an improvisational group called the Premise, which performed at a Bleecker Street coffeehouse.
After a number of smaller roles, his movie career took off in 1965 when he starred as a profiteering prisoner of war in the adaptation of James Clavell's novel ''King Rat.'' The next year he earned an Academy Award nomination playing opposite Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as the ambitious young professor (Sandy Dennis's husband) in ''Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?''
During the next decade, however, he played mostly comedic roles and became the type of leading man that went somewhat out of fashion after the 1975 success of ''Jaws'' shifted Hollywood's focus to action-packed blockbusters.
''Then I got a little older,'' says Mr. Segal, ''and I started playing these urban father roles. And that guy sort of turned into Chevy Chase, and after that, there was really no place to go.''
He also felt he was in a creative rut, which was one reason he abruptly pulled out of the male lead role in the 1979 hit movie ''10'' (the part was subsequently filled by Dudley Moore). Blake Edwards, the film's producer and director, promptly sued him and won $270,000.
In the 1980's and early 1990's, Mr. Segal worked frequently but appeared mainly in forgettable feature films. He also starred in two short-lived television series: ''Take Five'' and ''Murphy's Law.''
His primary exposure to the public was as a frequent guest on ''The Tonight Show.'' His eccentric banter with Johnny Carson, usually punctuated by bursts of banjo playing, are what first made the young Steven Levitan a George Segal fan.
Mr. Segal's audition for the role of Jack Gallo roughly coincided with what is widely considered his comeback role, as Mary Tyler Moore's husband in the 1996 hit comedy ''Flirting With Disaster.'' He has also guest-starred as Ms. Moore's husband on the ABC (now NBC) comedy ''The Naked Truth.''
During that same period, Mr. Segal experienced major changes in his personal life. In June 1996, Linda, his wife of 12 years, died after a long illness. A former high school sweetheart, Sonia Schulz Greenbaum, helped him through the difficult time after his wife's death; they were married several months later.
Some things, Mr. Segal says, help put work, change and the passing of time in perspective. ''Listen, John Lithgow and I were in a play sometime ago in New York,'' he says. ''It was 'Requiem for a Heavyweight.' We opened that on Thursday and closed on Saturday. So that's what I call a short run. And now here we are on almost adjoining stages.'' (Mr. Lithgow stars in another NBC sitcom, ''Third Rock From the Sun.'') ''So when we see each other, we throw our arms around each other and then we look at each other in that peculiar way as people who have been in another kind of war and are now fighting this war.
''A more pleasant war? It is. It certainly is.''
An Article from The New York Times
TV Notes; Show Could Be A Contender
By BILL CARTER
Published: January 28, 1998
The great debate inside NBC about what to do on Thursday night A.S. (After ''Seinfeld'') may get more complicated this week after ''Just Shoot Me'' gets its first shot in the midst of NBC's ''must-see'' Thursday lineup.
The second-year comedy, which stars Laura San Giacomo, George Segal and David Spade as workers at a New York fashion magazine, has played on Tuesday nights at 9:30 this season to rising ratings and growing critical praise. Tomorrow it runs at 8:30 between ''Friends'' and ''Seinfeld.''
The one-time move to Thursday, with a special episode that guest stars Brian Dennehy as Mr. Spade's father, is a sign of NBC's growing faith in the series. Warren Littlefield, the president of NBC Entertainment, recently said ''Just Shoot Me'' was one of his possible ''choices for Thursday night'' next season.
But NBC's faith is definitely of the born-again variety, said Steve Levitan, the show's creator and executive producer. As elated as he is that NBC placed the show after ''Frasier'' this season, he is still a bit rueful about the network's early attitude.
He told a tale of network indifference bordering on outright hostility to the six episodes he produced last spring. For a long time, he said, NBC program executives wouldn't commit to a time period for the show, instead giving away choice real estate like Thursday at 9:30 to shows they liked better, like ''Fired Up.''
Though some NBC executives, including the head of comedy development, Karey Burke, fought for the show, others, Mr. Levitan said, wanted to kill it.
''They told me flat out, 'If we didn't have such respect for you, we would probably burn the six episodes off in the summer,' '' Mr. Levitan said.
''Just Shoot Me'' finally got a spot at 9:30 P.M. on Wednesday against Arsenio Hall's much more highly touted comedy on ABC.
Although the show easily beat ''Arsenio'' and built on its ratings every week, things didn't get much better. Mr. Levitan heard rumors that NBC might use ''Just Shoot Me'' in the fall as part of its new, all-female comedy lineup on Monday, with shows like ''Suddenly Susan,'' ''Caroline in the City'' and ''The Naked Truth.''
''I really freaked out,'' he said. ''I went nuts. I told my agent to call them back and tell them I had no interest in doing the show if we're going to be packaged with those shows. If they can't see we're not that kind of show, then what's the point?''
When NBC called with the news that he was going after ''Frasier,'' Mr. Levitan said, ''I went from the lowest point to the highest instantly.''
The move to Thursday this week is further proof, and there may be more to come. ''What I'm being told is the show will play a major role for the network next year,'' he said.
Does that mean ''Just Shoot Me'' could actually end up as the replacement for ''Seinfeld?''
Mr. Levitan concedes that this is a long shot with hits like ''Frasier'' and ''Friends'' panting for that spot, and the unofficial title of ''best comedy on television'' that has gone with it for the past 15 years with ''Seinfeld'' and ''Cheers.'' But it may mean ''Just Shoot Me'' is near to official ''must-see'' status for the NBC executives who once doubted it.
''I want to be ready for that,'' Mr. Levitan said. ''I just want to be a show where the audience says, 'Yeah, that's a good show.' '' BILL CARTER
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on April 17, 1998
''Just Shoot Me''s unexpected success –- David Spade and co. made the mid-season replacement a hit and a contender to take over ''Seinfeld''s coveted spot
By Dan Snierson
So David Spade is strolling across an L.A. studio lot one morning on his way to a Just Shoot Me rehearsal, when whom should he spot pedaling by on a bike but Jerry Seinfeld. The two stand-up-circuit buds happen to work on adjoining soundstages, and Spade feels comfortable enough to flag him down for a chat. They dish on the pitfalls of the biz, how tough it will be to end the beloved Seinfeld, and all the behind-the-scenes machinations over the show's still-warm time slot — with Spade's own sitcom one of the prime contenders. ''I don't know what they're going to do with our show,'' Spade tells Seinfeld with a shrug. ''I'm just a foot soldier, dude.'' — And what sage advice does the King of Comedy offer his buddy? Spade laughs: ''I think he said, 'Just stay out of my parking space, or you'll be towed. Hard.' ''
Rough town, Hollywood. And never rougher than right now, as a slew of NBC shows vie for the 30 minutes of prime real estate the network will sublet to one very lucky series this fall. Of course, everyone knows The Time Slot Formerly Known as Seinfeld comes with a hefty price: How do you follow up...nothing?
Some are looking no further than the moptopped Spade. Just Shoot Me — centering on a dysfunctional group of misfits duking it out at fashion magazine Blush — has emerged as one of the biggest ratings surprises of the season, with Dave Boy rising as TV's patron saint of smarm. But let's call a spade a spade: Does this still-gelling show have the chops to pacify a grieving, Jerry-less nation? Furthermore, do Spade and his costars even want so daunting a challenge?
Let the debate begin.
It's another fine el nino morning in early February, and rain has delayed some of the Shooters for a reading of next week's show. A goodwill gesture from NBC has arrived on time, though, and it's Laurent Perrier champagne. The cause for celebration: Shoot has just landed a permanent Thursday slot — sandwiched auspiciously between Friends and Seinfeld. A Peacock exec clears his throat: ''You know, Union Square didn't exactly set the bar high, but we think you guys can do better....''
''Hey, we like our bars set low!'' interjects Shoot's creator and executive producer, Steven Levitan.
Actually, they're happy to have any bar to clear. The sitcom was developed two years ago as a smug ode to the dissonance of 9-to-5 life and its cagier characters: brash magazine mogul Jack (George Segal), his naive, intellectual daughter Maya (Laura San Giacomo), high-strung ex-model Nina (Wendie Malick), quasi-slick photographer Elliott (Enrico Colantoni), and snippy assistant Finch (Spade). But Shoot fell victim to real-life office politics when NBC suits, after previewing the first six episodes, disagreed about the show. ''Some episodes, they looked at and said 'Wonderful,' and some, they said 'I'm not sure we get this,' '' says Karey Burke, NBC senior VP of prime-time series. ''But there was no nefarious plot against it.''
Maybe not, but Shoot was left off the fall '96 schedule at the last minute (San Giacomo had already flown to New York for the announcement) in favor of another magazine-set comedy, Suddenly Susan. Levitan didn't get mad; he got busy. With Shoot's order finished, he obliged NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield by agreeing to steer the sputtering Men Behaving Badly through season's end. ''I was hoping to build a little goodwill,'' says Levitan.
It worked, though not immediately. Last spring, Shoot was sentenced to the Seventh Circle of Ratings Hell—otherwise known as Wednesday night. It didn't catch fire but did help snuff out ABC's mucho-plugged Arsenio. After a touch-and-go renewal this past fall, the Peacock shuttled it to Tuesday at 9:30, following Frasier, where ratings began to percolate. Intrigued, NBC gave it a Thursday-at-8:30 test in January. When it retained 98 percent of Friends' audience (Union Square was keeping only 84), Shoot was moved permanently in February with similar results. It was official: Hold that Must See potty break until Veronica's Closet!
Now for the drama. With NBC's impending loss of Seinfeld, which generates an estimated $200 million in ad revenue annually, the Peacock must shuffle a few feathers to keep the green gushing on Thursday. ''This is a highly critical decision,'' says Whitey Chapin, a VP at ad-buying agency TN Media. ''It'll probably determine whether NBC remains the No. 1 network.'' Introducing the contenders:
Not only has this fifth-year series remained a reliable hit (No. 13) against ABC's Home Improvement, Kelsey Grammer—a man the Peacock needs to keep happy—has made it very clear he wants that slot. The drawback: NBC could undermine its only other night of Must See TV (Tuesday) by removing this linchpin.
''The danger of moving Friends is, you don't have a strong show to set the bar high at 8,'' notes Chapin. Nevertheless, Friends may have the inside track: It's got proven ratings clout (No. 4 this season), and besides, ''we'd prefer not to disrupt Tuesday,'' says an NBC insider.
3rd Rock From the Sun
An alien invasion seemed smart until Rock crashed on Wednesdays (No. 43). That's partly because NBC has left this third-year show in weak slots. ''3rd Rock has gone from front-runner to scratched on the agenda,'' claims David Marans, media director at ad agency J. Walter Thompson. An NBC source disagrees: ''3rd Rock did better after the Super Bowl than The X-Files did last year. Don't count it out.''
Just Shoot Me
Do five weeks of savory ratings a franchise make? ''The jury isn't completely in, but it looks very promising,'' says Marans. Counters Chapin: ''It's too risky. [On average], Shoot loses over a million viewers from Friends.''
Suffice it to say, NBC suits will be pulling a lot of latte nights at Cafe Nervosa solving this puzzle (the announcement comes May 18, when NBC reveals its fall schedule). ''I live in fear of too much pressure being put on Shoot,'' says NBC's Burke, while admitting it's indeed ''one of several'' candidates. ''To name it as the heir terrifies me.''
Yeah, you and a few others. Levitan: ''I don't want to be the show that's jammed down America's throat.'' Colantoni: ''No way.'' San Giacomo: ''Can't we stay sort of not too high-profile?'' And here's Spade's impassioned plea: ''Ummm...3rd Rock is a funny show. If you put that in the right place, it could work. We'll stay where we are.''
If Just Shoot Me has become this year's underdog hit, David Spade, 33, stands as its unlikely hero. With the possible exception of a swingin'-single Beverly Hills pad, the 5-foot-7 man-boy—a curious cross between preppie smug and cool burnout—doesn't play by the conventional rules of celebrity. He'd rather be grilled about his sexual exploits on Howard Stern's radio show than be coddled on ET. He's the kind of guy who'll personally dial a reporter well past midnight: "How ya doin'? David Spade here! Didn't I meet ya at a Gallagher Tent-'n'-Awning Convention?" Fun includes calling teenage girls who've written him letters inviting him to the prom ("Can't go. I have a bum leg that I cover up on TV with camera tricks"), or (true story) sneaking back into his Scottsdale, Ariz., high school to commandeer the loudspeaker; when the principal tried to cut him off, Spade mock-protested, for all the school to hear, "Let go of me! You shouldn't be drinking....Put your shirt back on!"
All of which is in keeping with his trademark adolescent snarkiness. What might surprise you is his reputation among his peers; Spade is a comic who commands reverence. "We all do Spade," says SNL pal Chris Rock. "We steal little moves. I'd go to him with a joke I'd been working on for hours, and he'd always come up with a better one in seconds." Notes Segal: "He's so quick—a genius wit with boxer responses." Praises Malick: "He's one of the fastest minds I've been around. You feel honored being the focus of his sarcasm."
Perhaps that gift of sneer is rooted in his rough beginnings. Spade grew up in the small town of Casa Grande ("House Big, Trailer Wide," quips Spade), a bleak copper-mining outpost in Arizona. He was bullied at Little League; one of his two older brothers ran with gangs. At 12, he moved to Scottsdale with his mother and his stepfather, a doctor who committed suicide a few years later. (He's still in touch with his father, an eccentric sales rep whom Spade describes as "a freelance creative type.") "I know Spade is this cutesy little white guy, but he [had] the life of a rapper," chuckles Rock. "I mean, I grew up in Bed-Stuy, and I had it better than him."
Typically, Spade makes light of the hard times, preferring material which skewers his own geekdom. "Once I had a girl in my room, and I pulled out my coin collection," he says. "She's like, 'Aren't you going to f--- me?' and I'm like, 'Lemme just show you this 1916-D Mercury dime.' "
Things started looking shinier after he left Arizona State University in 1985 to pursue stand-up. Although his first forays into TV (The Facts of Life, ALF) and movies (Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol) proved unmemorable, he landed Saturday Night Live in 1990, stealing yuks with the "Buh-Bye" airline guy and the scathing Hollywood Minute. (He was also approached to host a late-night talk show but decided that the format wouldn't suit his talents.) Spade's first big-screen hit was 1995's dumb-buddy comedy Tommy Boy, costarring Chris Farley. They appeared together again in 1996's Black Sheep, and were planning to team up a third time when Farley overdosed last December. "My manager called during rehearsal," Spade remembers. "I hung up the phone and couldn't talk. Air was coming out, but my throat was closed up. I just fell apart and walked off the set. I called my house and had 33 messages. The first was from a paper in Chicago and I thought, 'Oh, no....' So I dodged it all. I dodged the funeral. My mom was saying 'You have to go,' and I was like, 'Don't make this harder than it is. I know what I'm supposed to do, and I can't do it.' "
Spade has since bounced back, if only out of habit. "I don't like throwing myself in a place that's going to rack my world," he says. "You can either look at things in a brutal, truthful way that's depressing, or you can screw around and have fun."
Of course, Spade's always done things a little differently. When he quit SNL in '96 because of "burnout," he nixed offers to star in his own show. "I would have hired a cast with a guy like me to come in, score laughs, and leave," he reasons, "so why not just be that guy?" His management, Brillstein-Grey, suggested a role on Shoot, which was willing to reshoot its pilot. "David was hesitant," recalls Levitan, "but it was never an issue of 'I want tons of screen time.' It was about 'I wanna be funny.' "
"I'd rather have no swing than a swing and a miss," explains Spade, who, in addition to an HBO stand-up special debuting April 17, will star in the feature film Lost and Found, a romantic comedy he cowrote. "If we disagree about a joke on [Shoot Me], I'll say, 'Don't feel you have to get me in the scene. Write me out.' "
When Spade is written in, brace for jet-black zingers: "Hey, wait--I just remembered...you're boring and my legs work!" was a recent quip. ("He's tailor-made for 10-second promos," notes Burke.) "David considers us the actors, but he's the best of all of us," says Segal. "He underplays everyone perfectly."
It's very pointedly not all Dave's World, though. "The appeal of Shoot is the ensemble," notes Marans. "You say, 'Oh, my favorite is Finch.' I say, 'I can't wait for Nina,' and my sister says, 'It's Jack.' The ratings potential for successful ensembles is gigantic. Look at Seinfeld and ER."
Which brings us back to the $200 million question: Is Shoot ready to master the ultimate domain? "Seinfeld is light-years ahead of us," says Spade almost dismissively. "They have an aura and legend about them that you have to compete with on top of being funny. That's not even in my thought process yet. A couple years down the line, though, I'll be cockier. I'll have a cot not further than six feet from the set, but not closer than three. I'll have a karate instructor on the set and everyone has to call me Hong Kong Finchy." He snickers. "Yeah, I'm going to be a huge f---in' psychopath."
>>REPLACING SEINFELD "IS A HIGHLY CRITICAL DECISION," SAYS ONE ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE. "IT'LL PROBABLY DETERMINE WHETHER NBC REMAINS THE NO. 1 NETWORK.">>
>>"WE ALL DO SPADE," SAYS SNL PAL ROCK. "WE STEAL LITTLE MOVES OF HIS.">>
>>"DAVID CONSIDERS US THE ACTORS," SAYS SEGAL, "BUT HE'S THE BEST OF ALL OF US">>
An Article from USA TODAY
NBC grants 'Just Shoot Me' its wish
By Gary Levin, USA TODAY
Published on August 13, 2003
Five years ago, Just Shoot Me was one of NBC's biggest comedies. With a breakout role for David Spade and an audience that peaked at nearly 25 million viewers, the show was seriously considered as a replacement for Seinfeld.
Instead, the plum 9 p.m. ET/PT Thursday time slot went to Frasier. And after a confusing series of time and night changes and unplanned breaks, the sitcom will whimper out of its seventh and final season Saturday — in the dead of August reruns.
"If NBC had set out to kill Just Shoot Me, which I'm sure they didn't, they couldn't have done a better job," says the sitcom's creator, Steven Levitan. "I don't think we ever had a fighting chance this year."
The finale (8:30 p.m. ET/PT), which follows another unaired episode, centers on the abrupt decision by Blush magazine editor Jack Gallo (George Segal) to retire, prompting tributes and teary-eyed reminiscences from daughter Maya (Laura San Giacomo), fashion editor Nina Van Horn (Wendie Malick), photographer Elliott DiMauro (Enrico Colantoni) and Jack's scheming assistant Dennis Finch (Spade).
Levitan, who wrote the finale, blames NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker for Shoot Me's humiliating finish in mid-summer, on TV's least-watched night, where last week the show averaged a measly 2.2 million viewers.
"Jeff had his shows that he wanted to push, and we weren't one of them," says Levitan. "Creatively, the show (had) dipped, but we really made a strong push to bring it back up."
Last fall, the show was scheduled on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT, for years one of NBC's most difficult time slots, where it flip-flopped twice with quick failure The In-Laws. At the March taping of what was surely its final episode, Levitan says Zucker promised the cast that the show, then on hiatus, would return to the schedule and run the final 12 of the 147 episodes produced. But after one low-rated week, the show was yanked again, replaced by Outrageous Game Show Moments.
Zucker didn't return calls.
Shoot Me isn't the only long-running comedy to see its final days in summer, typically home only to mistakes that networks wouldn't take a chance on during the regular season. (CBS briefly aired Nathan Lane's Charlie Lawrence and talking-infant comedy Baby Bob.)
The Drew Carey Show, once ABC's top comedy, finished its eighth season last month, after being pulled from the lineup in January. With one-third the audience of its peak, Carey still outdrew The Real Roseanne Show, which replaced it.
But thanks to an expensive three-year renewal — ABC agreed to pay $3.3 million an episode — Carey is producing 26 more episodes for a ninth and final season. Fans might have to wait until next summer to see it, though: ABC has no plans to air Carey next season.
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