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Man In The Family ran from June until July 1991 on ABC.
A ne're-do-well son reluctantly returned home to fulfill his father's dying wish and run the family's Brooklyn grocery store in this ethnic comedy. Sal ( Ray Sharkey) wanted nothing in life but fast-buck schemes and womanizing, but now found that he had to deal with family: sarcastic mom Angie ( Julie Bovasso), rebellious teenage sister Tina ( Leah Remini), cranky Uncle Benny ( Louis Guss), skeptical divorced sister Annie ( Anne De Salvo), and Annie's young son Robby( Billy L. Sullivan), who unfortunately idolized sleazy Uncle Sal. At least Sal could promote a scam now and then with his pal Cha Cha( Don Stark)-or try to, until the women hauled him in.
A Review from The LA Times
TV Reviews : Ray Sharkey's Talent Wasted in ABC 'Man in the Family' Sitcom
June 19, 1991|CHRIS WILLMAN
Ray Sharkey is so terrific in pent-up, slow- and fast-boiling roles that it's no wonder he gets stuck in supporting character roles. And while it's nice to see him heading a cast in his first TV comedy series, "The Man in the Family" (premiering tonight at 9:30 on ABC Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42), its makers don't seem to know quite what to do with all his bristling energy. So they slow him, flatten him, till we almost get a laid-back Ray Sharkey.
In tonight's episode, while most of the supporting players are quickly set up in their stock Italian-American Bronx parts, Sharkey wanders loose without a compass and seems the least well-defined character on the show--wily and street-smart one minute, a lovable dumb lug the next. He plays erstwhile ne'er-do-well Sal Bavasso, who in the opening scene makes a promise to his dying father that he'll leave his wild ways behind and take over the management of the family deli, and, for that matter, the family.
Having reluctantly moved back to New York from Las Vegas, Sal is reconnecting with his mother and sisters--one a cynical divorcee, one a teen--as well as wild-'n'-crazy old neighborhood pals Vinnie and Cha-Cha, who want to involve Sal in an unlikely business scheme. (Cha-Cha is tired of working at the cleaners: "Life is good when you're putting stains in, not when you're taking 'em out, right?") The fact that crusty Sal has fallen for the lame scheme by episode's end doesn't make us want to tune in next week.
This first half-hour has two things to recommend it: The opening credit sequence, which builds more good will than the show can deliver with Louis Prima's infectious "When You're Smiling," and a little exchange in the deli with the veteran actress Sylvia Sidney, who demands 17 years of interest after Sal big-heartedly admits stealing petty cash as a boy.
"The Man in the Family" is executive produced and written by Ed. Weinberger, of "Taxi" and "Mary Tyler Moore" fame, who really ought to be above some of the dumb gags perpetrated here, starting with the very first one--a respirator salesman who's made his way into the receiving line for the dying dad. Here's to better days.
A Review from The Chicago Tribune
Good News, Bad News
Ray Sharkey, Humor Save `Family` Despite Bad Attitude About Women
June 19, 1991|By Rick Kogan, TV critic.
The notion of selecting Ray Sharkey to star in a family sitcom initially struck me as nuts.
Sharkey is one of the most overwrought actors around: very good when given a decent part, as he was when playing mobster Sonny Steelgrave in one of the earliest and best storylines of the bygone ``Wiseguy,`` but laughable when given a thin role, as he was in last year`s ``The Neon Empire,`` a Showtime movie about the early years of Las Vegas.
As difficult as it always is to judge a series on its initial flight,
``The Man in the Family`` (8:30 p.m. Wednesday, ABC-Ch. 7) displays a number of encouraging qualities, not the least of which is Sharkey`s surprising flair for comedy.
Before the opening credits have finished, Sal Bavasso (Sharkey) has bid goodbye to the glitter of Las Vegas, where we are led to believe he was some hustling lounge lizard, and has taken up residence again above the Brooklyn grocery store that was owned by his late father.
The family of the title consists of his mother, Angie (Julie Bovasso, who, after admitting that she has hated working in the deli, decides to get a job in the same Manhattan department store that employs her divorced daughter Annie (Anne De Salvo); Uncle Bennie (Louis Guss), who seems permanently glued to a lounge chair in the kitchen; and two kids: the youngest Bavasso sibling, teenage Tina (Leah Remini); and Annie`s son, Robby (Billy L. Sullivan).
Sal is what might have become of Vinnie Barbarino of ``Welcome Back Kotter,`` the once popular if simple-minded comedy that expressed the same you-can-go-home-again philosophy as does ``The Man in the Family.``
Fast-talking, womanizing and always looking for angles, Sal has gone home because he made a death-bed promise to his father: ``Everything I ever did wrong, I`m gonna make right.``
If that means taking charge of the family, fine, even if he is ill-equipped for the task. If it means returning the $33 he lifted long ago from a neighbor (Sylvia Sidney), so be it-even if her hand-held calculator determines that, with interest, the debt is now more than $600.
Sure to be gumming up Sal`s do-good intentions are a couple of his old pals, the dopey Cha Cha (Don Stark) and the fast-talking Vinnie (Joe Cortese), who, in this premiere, want him to help them start a yuppie pool hall.
The series is created by Ed. Weinberger and Gina Wendkos; the former was one of the creative forces with ``The Mary Tyler Moore Show.`` Not
surprisingly, he has his sitcom shtick down fairly pat and the premiere snaps and crackles with better than average dialogue and humor.
Not all of it, however, is pleasant. People will cringe at Sal`s attitude toward women, which is best summarized in his response to Tina`s request for $20 for a wig for a class project: ``There was a time in this neighborhood when you could buy a whole woman for $20.``
Also disturbing is some of the Italian-American stereotyping. But Sharkey`s over-the-top, scene-chewing style makes a solid focal point for the family.
His role was once intended for Andrew Dice Clay, the foul-mouthed comic. With only seven episodes to make or break it, ``The Man in the Family`` is a safer and more sensible bet with Sharkey in the saddle.
``THE MAN IN THE FAMILY``
The premiere of a series from Columbia Pictures Television. Executive producer is Ed. Weinberger; co-executive producer is Alan Kirschenbaum; premiere produced by Tracey Ormandy and Dennis Gallegos, directed by John Rich and written by Weinberger from a story by Weinberger and Gina Wendkos. With Ray Sharkey, Anne De Salvo, Leah Remini, Louis Guss, Don Stark, Billy Sullivan and Julie Bovasso. Airing at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on ABC-Ch. 7.
Channel hopping ...
- Beau Bridges, fresh from a sensitive performance as former White House press secretary James Brady in HBO`s ``Without Warning,`` really lets loose in ``Abra Cadaver`` (9 p.m. Wednesday, HBO), the latest installment in the
``Tales From the Crypt`` series.
One of the reasons that this award-winning series is able to attract so many quality guest stars is that it affords them the chance to act with playful abandon. In this one, Bridges is wonderfully strange as a successful surgeon who, as the result of a practical joke gone horribly awry, suffers a heart attack that leaves him partly paralyzed.
Years later, Bridges is a seemingly bitter, boozy researcher. His brother, who played the sick birthday joke that ruined Bridges` surgical career, is a slick and successful doctor.
Practiced in certain voodoo arts, Bridges constructs an elaborate and grisly revenge plot that takes his brother (Tony Goldwyn) on one of the most frightening trips imaginable and one with unintended and fatal consequences.
- Diane Sawyer and her hidden cameras are likely to jolt any number of parents when they give you the results of a 3 1/2-month investigation into day-care centers on ``PrimeTime Live`` (9 p.m. Thursday, ABC-Ch. 7).
A Review from The AP
June, 19, 1991
By SCOTT WILLIAMS AP Television Writer
NEW YORK- Ray Sharkey, a prodigally gifted actor, is the heart, soul and prodigal son of ABC's fun and funny new sitcom, "The Man in the Family," making its debut tonight.
Sharkey, who always brings superior wit and sensitivity to his roles, is still praised for his eight-episode portrayal of Atlantic City mobster Sonny Steelgrave on CBS' "Wiseguy." Tonight he gives us the warm, semi-wonderful Sal Bavasso, a charming, Brooklyn-born wastrel, idler and ladies' man whose tastes run toward suits in primary colors, pinky rings, gold chains and chest hair. Sal, working some quasi-legal lounge act in Las Vegas, returns to his hometown and his father's deathbed. "Hey-hey, Pop!" he boisterously greets the dying man (Al Ruscio). "So howy a doin'?" Ba-da-dap, ba-da-ding, eh, Pop?
Sal decides to come clean with the old man. "No matter how you tried to hide it, you always disapproved of me, didn't you?"
"Sal," the old man says. "I never disapproved of you. I disapproved of what you did . . . what you said . . . how you lived . . . the way you earned your money, the way you spent your money . . ."
". . . the kind of friends you had . . . "
"Your shoes! . . . But I never disapproved of you!"
Pop sighs. He's worried. Who's going to take care of your mother when I'm gone? What about your two sisters, your nephew and your Uncle Bennie? Who's going to run the store?
Sal, moved, makes a deathbed vow to take care of the family and to make good on all the transgressions of his wasteful youth.
It's a good premise. Ed. Weinberger, executive producer and series co-creator with Gina Wendkos, wrote tonight's premiere with a fine feeling for Sharkey's strengths as an actor.
Sharkey is backed up by a fine cast including Anne DeSalvo as his divorced sister and Julie Bovasso as his mother. Don Stark and Joe Cortese play the colorful and slightly dumb Cha Cha and Vinnie, Sal's longtime pals.
Sharkey, though, is the motor that makes this show work. He knows how to amplify a laugh line by playing it with deadly seriousness. He brings his character to life with minutely detailed behavior that's punctuated with rich gestural language.
Ba-da-boom-, bada-bing, eh?
Sharkey showed his knack for comedy in his first big film, "Who'll Stop the Rain, as the dim crook who aspires to a career in law enforcement because --as he tells his torture victim--"I like working with the public." As Sonny Steelgrave, he brought a crazy charm and vulnerability to the role of a tough, merciless gangster. When the character died, "Wiseguy" fans felt the loss.
Sharkey fans won't be disappointed by tonight's debut of "The Man in the Family". They will be disappointed though, only seven shows exist and the series no longer is in production. Last year, when ABC announced its four new comedies and two new dramas for the fall season, the network said "Man in the Family" would be slotted as a midseason replacement. But when Connie Sellecca exited the execrable "Baby Talk," ABC decided to let "Head of the Class" pinch-hit and kept "Man in the Family" on the shelf. "We had a lot of midseason shows to get on the air," explained ABC spokesman Jim Brochu, "and we just weren't able to get them all on within the season."
There may have been another factor at work in ABC programmers' reasoning: NBC's "The Fanelli Boys," a series that took the express elevator from a funny, promising pilot episode to stereotyped idiocy and really stupid humor. "The Fanelli Boys," which failed miserably, was about FOUR brothers who move back to Brooklyn to be with the their widowed Mama. It wasn't funny. It was inaccurate. It was inadequate. And it didn't have Sharkey. The only thing missing from "The Man in the Family" is the clear plastic covers on the living room upholstery. But, hey, this is television.
An Article from The Chicago Tribune
Sitcom Not All Laughs For `Family` Man Ray Sharkey
June 30, 1991|By Luaine Lee, Scripps Howard News Service.
HOLLYWOOD — Ray Sharkey thought he had seen all the drama there was. The star almost single-handedly revived the heroic gangster role with his steely mobster Sonny Steelgrave on ``Wiseguy`` a few seasons back.
Then Sharkey machine-gunned his way through ``The Revenge of Al Capone``
and put out a few contracts as Bugsy Siegel in ``Neon Empire.``
But those dramas were nothing compared to the tension he experienced on his first comedy, ``The Man in the Family,`` which airs Wednesday nights at 8:30 on ABC-Ch. 7.
``There was more drama taking place on the set and within everybody`s dressing rooms and upstairs writing the scripts ... that the only time it was funny was when we actually performed it,`` he says.
Searching for laughs is a stressful enterprise, he adds.
``You become anxiety ridden as to whether or not it`s going to work. So you`re relying on every sound, and every second in the rehearsal you`re hearing those beats. Comedy comes from fear.``
Fear is an old companion of Sharkey`s. Four years and eight months ago
(he remembers it to the day) the 38-year-old actor pulled himself out of a seven-year love affair with drugs.
He was a hot-shot actor after he made ``The Idolmaker,`` which earned him a Golden Globe in 1980, but he had grown up on the streets of Brooklyn and easy answers were seductive.
``We live on the wire,`` says Sharkey, who cuts himself no slack when he talks about his drug habit. ``There`s so much anxiety, pain, rejection. And in order to be a great artist you have to walk around sort of like an open wound. Your soul has to be on your skin.``
You lose touch with reality, he says. ``It`s hard to tell the difference between what`s real and what isn`t. A lot of it depends on the information that you had when you were growing up. The information I had was that everybody was getting high or getting loaded and that`s how you dealt with your surroundings.``
Though his father took a powder early in his life, Sharkey had a close-knit, loving family. His mother spoiled him rotten, he says, and when he was overcoming his passion for cocaine and heroin, he felt it was his mother and family that he had betrayed.
During his drug days, which Sharkey calls his ``black period,`` he continued to work. He co-starred in ``Who`ll Stop the Rain,`` ``Willie and Phil,`` ``Heart Beat`` and ``No Mercy.``
Finally his habit began to interfere with his work. ``I ended up weighing 137 pounds. I made Howard Hughes look like a TV hunk. I was so spiritually bankrupt I didn`t care about anyone. And I smelled death on me. It was knocking at my door. I knew it wasn`t going to be long. I didn`t want to end up one of those statistics on the cover of the New York Post.``
Sharkey was still in the clinic where he had committed himself when television producer-writer Stephen J. Cannell (``Rockford Files,`` ``Hunter``) sent a car for him. Cannell had written the part of Sonny Steelgrave for Sharkey. Was he up to it? Cannell took one look at Sharkey and said, ``Let`s go.``
It was more than a featured role on a gritty police drama for Sharkey. He wore Steelgrave like a $5,000 suit. He still receives boxes of letters in response to that character-Sharkey was so good, in fact, that he had to leave. ``Wiseguy`` starred Ken Wahl and the featured players-actors like Jerry Lewis and Kevin Spacey-always had to move on.
After ``Wiseguy`` his regeneration began. He got married three years ago and has a 27-month-old daughter. This marriage (it is his second) and fatherhood have taught him a new perspective.
``It changed my attitude about women in general. Watching the childbirth, that was an incredible experience. To watch a human being, someone you`ve been intimate with, go through that. That gives you a new-found respect.``
Learning to handle the fame that often goes along with acting is another skill that Sharkey is mastering.
``If you suddenly realize the amount of power you have, the ego takes over and you`re in trouble. That`s why you gradually-as you grow up-learn what you have and, at a certain point in your life, you have to make a decision how to use it. That puts you on the second wave of your life.``
It`s how you use it that`s important, he says. ``It`s like the heraldic spear, like the Holy Grail. How will you use this power, for good or evil? And every man has to make that decision in his life.``
Here is Ray Sharkey's Obituary from The New York Times
Ray Sharkey, 40; Actor Often Played Role of Tough Guy
By THOMAS J. LUECK
Published: June 13, 1993
Ray Sharkey, a television and film actor whose portrayals of rough-hewn and emotionally vulnerable tough guys won wide acclaim, but whose personal life descended into a nightmare of drug and alcohol abuse, died on Friday at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn. He was 40 years old.
He died of AIDS, according to Herb Nanas, his manager since 1975.
Mr. Nanas said he believed Mr. Sharkey contracted the AIDS from a contaminated needle during a five years of heroin addiction in the mid-1980's.
Mr. Sharkey's biggest film achievement came in 1980, shortly after his arrival in Southern California from New York City, when he was cast as a rock music promoter -- a character drawn from the life of a producer, Bob Marcucci -- in "The Idolmaker." His performance won him a Golden Globe award.
But he may be best remembered for his 1987 performances in "Wiseguy," a crime series in which he played the role of Sonny Steelgrave, an Atlantic City mob boss. So popular was his character that fans of the program formed what they called the "Sonny Steelgrave Memorial Society" after the character was killed off.
"He played a Godfather, a killer, and actually got America to love him," said Mr. Nanas, in an interview yesterday from his home in Los Angeles, where Mr. Sharkey had lived for 13 years.
Mr. Sharkey was born in 1953 in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. In interviews, he described a turbulent childhood and said his inspiration to become an actor came from Jack Lemmon's portrayal of an alcoholic in "Days of Wine and Roses."
Mr. Sharkey appeared in several films in the 1980s, including "Trackdown" and "Who'll Stop the Rain." "Scenes from a Class Struggle in Beverly Hills," and "Wired."
He married Carol Goodman of Los Angeles in 1988. The marriage ended in divorce in September.
He is survived by a Cecilia Sharkey of Los Angeles, and his mother, Cecilia Sharkey of Brooklyn.
For a biography of Ray Sharkey go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Sharkey
For The Official Site of Leah Remini go to http://leahremini.com/
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Keywords: Man In The Family: Ray Sharkey, Anne De Salvo, Julie Bovasso