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Over the Top aired from October until November 1997 on ABC.
Hadley ( Annie Potts) was the sensible owner of a small, struggling Manhattan hotel, and Simon ( Tim Curry) her wildly flamboyant ex, in this slapstick sitcom that certainly lived up to its title, but lasted only three weeks on the ABC schedule. Thrice-divorced Hadley was trying to make a go of the genteel Metropolitan Hotel, along with feisty right hand woman Rose ( Liz Torres), overemotional chef Yorgo ( Steve Carell), and her two kids , whiny teenager Gwen ( Marla Sokoloff) and jug-eared , enthusiastic 7-year-old Daniel ( Luke Tarsitano). Then in blew Simon, her first husband ( or " first mistake"-they had been married for twelve days , twenty years earlier). A larger-than-life British soap opera actor who had just been fired from his show , Days to Remember, he was out of cash and needed a new gig. Hadley was understandably suspicious , but could not resist his charms , not to mention the traffic he brought into the dowdy Metropolitan with his grand promotions such as the colorful " theme nights" at the hotel bar. Robert( John O'Hurley) was a silver-haired investor who wasn't sure what to make of him either.
A Review from Variety
Over the Top
(Tues. (23) 8:30-9 P.M., ABC)
By SHERI LINDEN
Filmed at Culver Studios, Culver City, by Katlin/Bernstein. Prods. and Panamort Television in association with Greengrass Prods. and Columbia TriStar Television. Executive producers, Robert Morton, Mitchel Katlin, Nat Bernstein, Rosalind Moore, Daniel Palladino; producers, Tim Curry, Annie Potts; co-producer, David Litt; director, Michael Lembeck; writers, Bernstein, Katlin.
Cast: Tim Curry, Annie Potts, Luke Tarsitano, Marla Sokoloff, Steve Carell, John O"Hurley, Liz Torres, John Putch, Barry Gordon, Mathea Webb.
With at least two performances that live up to its title, "Over the Top" takes a shaky premise and tries to run with it, not getting very far. Despite assured work from leads (and co-producers) Tim Curry and Annie Potts, sitcom's hard-to-buy setup doesn't readily invite return viewings.
Thrice-divorced Hadley (Potts) manages an elegantly run-down midtown Manhattan hotel where she lives with her teenage daughter (Marla Sokoloff) and 7-year-old son (Luke Tarsitano), while being variously assisted and hindered by her feisty right-hand woman (Liz Torres) and overemotional chef (Steve Carell). Into her hotel, and life, walks actor Simon Ferguson (Curry), freshly jobless after his soap opera character is killed in a plane crash. He's Hadley's Mistake No. 1, and she hasn't seen him since their 12-day marriage 20 years earlier.
Hadley gets into hot water with the hotel investors after indulging in a few too many cocktails, at Simon's urging. Apparently she's still susceptible to the "Ferguson charm," which in series opener has not developed much past tactless self-centeredness and verbal abuse, albeit delivered with a certain panache. She throws out the offender but, inexplicably, takes him back when she discovers that in truth he's homeless, and not waiting for his penthouse to be redecorated. We're supposed to believe she's tickled to have someone around who reminds her she's "stark raving mad." Well, maybe.
Curry's elocutionary prowess serves him well here, as the insults flow smoothly from Simon's lips. But there are no big laughs, and as yet no believable chemistry among the characters, all of whom have good timing and well-delivered one-liners, but no real personality. Carell's utterly over-the-top East European chef, with his singular accent and shrieking, impassioned way of expressing himself, feels like a strained addition to the Mork/Balki tradition of lovable, alien sitcom crazies; with time, perhaps, he might mellow into a more modulated, and less contrived, characterization. Torres is, at times, nicely understated, and, as the sprigs, Sokoloff and Tarsitano often get the best lines, which they handle without cutesiness.
Potts has the most thankless role, as the sweetly harried, sometimes tart, ultimately kind and supportive Hadley. There's not yet much room for her to strut her stuff, but she makes the most of whatever opportunities come her way. Overall, the setup comes off as a thinly veiled excuse for Curry to do his delightfully bitchy thang.
The two stars may draw auds back, but the material needs to develop a more individual sense of energy and place. Michael Lembeck's confident direction is somewhat uneven in drawing the best from his strong cast, but the chief problem for "Over the Top" is that, so far, we don't believe the two lead characters shared a past, however brief; viewers will need to buy into that idea if Curry and Potts are going to have a future together.
A Review from The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; Tim Curry Returns, With a Flourish
By WILL JOYNER
Published: October 21, 1997
If ever a situation comedy was appropriately named, it's ABC's ''Over the Top.'' The new show, which has its premiere tonight, stars the ebullient British actor Tim Curry as the ebullient British actor Simon Ferguson, who is down on his luck and tends to spill his emotional baggage straight into the laps of everyone around him.
Mr. Curry, who has never been a regular in a sitcom before, may well prove to have a bit too much flourish for the half-hour format, even in the company of an appealing and experienced co-star like Annie Potts (''Designing Women,'' ''Love and War''). She plays Hadley Martin, a Manhattan hotel owner and single mother who long ago was married to Ferguson for 12 days.
When Simon is dismissed from his starring role in the soap opera ''Days to Remember'' and lands at Hadley's doorstep, she is fast reminded of why she loved him and why she had to retreat from his orbit. Reluctantly, she allows him to stay at her shaky establishment, and all manner of chaos ensues, to the delight of teen-age Gwen (Marla Sokoloff) and 7-year-old Daniel (Luke Tarsitano). ''Oh, you're Mistake No. 1!'' says Daniel.
For the time being, it's great fun to watch Mr. Curry and Ms. Potts try to achieve some sort of comic balance. Tonight's episode, for example, includes a brief but winning musical number that the two perform in the hotel's bar (''I'm Bonnie/I'm Clyde/ We robbed a lot of banks/Then we died''). But it also includes too many patly insincere exchanges meant to drum in the point that Simon is something of a child-hater. The stop-and-go rhythm of all of this -- especially given that Mr. Curry has such a happily obstrusive presence, more appropriate to the stage -- gets to be disconcerting.
If karma is on the side of ''Over the Top'' and a more workable rhythm is found, then more power to it. Anything that brings to prime time memories of ''The Rocky Horror Picture Show,'' the campy cult-classic play and film that featured Mr. Curry as Dr. Frank N. Furter, is probably worth rooting for.
OVER THE TOP
ABC, tonight at 8:30
(Channel 7 in New York)
Robert Morton, Mitchel Katlin, Nat Bernstein, Rosalind Moore and Daniel Palladino, executive producers. A production of Katlin/Bernstein Productions and Panamort Television in association with Greengrass Productions and Columbia TriStar Television.
WITH: Tim Curry (Simon Ferguson), Annie Potts (Hadley), Marla Sokoloff (Gwen), Luke Tarsitano (Daniel), Steve Carell (Yorgo) and John O'Hurley (Robert McCormick).
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
TIM CURRY JOINS THE RANKS OF THEATER-TRAINED ACTORS, LIKE JASON ALEXANDER, JOHN LITHGOW, AND CHRISTINE BARANSKI, WHO BRING METHOD TO TV'S MADNESS. BUT IN THE END, THE TELEPLAY'S THE THING.
By Ken Tucker
A long, long time ago -- verily, I say unto you, even ere Xena the warrior princess hath appeared on Broadway in Grease! -- trained stage actors were skeptical, if not openly contemptuous, of lending their skills to television. Much of what was gilded about the so-called golden age of TV in the '50s was the live broadcast of plays (some first-rate, but, it always bears remembering, many more as mediocre as an episode of Matlock). Once that era passed, everyone retreated to their corners. Oh, occasionally a classy actor would tackle a TV series in a vain (in both senses) attempt to upgrade the medium -- an early paradigm being George C. Scott in the 1963-64 social-worker flop, East Side/West Side. (Upon its quick cancellation, Scott is said to have thundered, ''Those quivering masses waiting for my return can relax and forget about it!'') But for the most part, any actor who'd so much as brushed up against Stella Adler on the subway tried to keep from being sullied by TV's lucre-loaded lure.
Nowadays, when the general quality of television is at least as high as that of any work being presented on the pale White Way and sitcoms have virtually exterminated the long-run Broadway comedy, you can't keep the thespians off the tube with bug spray. The best of them have a solid grounding in physical comedy and possess the verbal dexterity to give even weak lines a sharp snap. Just think of 3rd Rock From the Sun's John Lithgow (a scream in the 1986 revival of The Front Page), Cybill's Christine Baranski (a two-time Tony taker, for The Real Thing and Rumors), and prime time's two most glowing current examples, Seinfeld's Jason Alexander (Jerome Robbins' Broadway, among many others) and Frasier's David Hyde Pierce (Beyond Therapy, The Heidi Chronicles).
TV dramas benefit as well. Former song-and-dance man Jerry Orbach (everything from Promises, Promises to 42nd Street) knows how to take it down a notch to achieve a somber force on Law & Order. Orbach's police boss, played by S. Epatha Merkerson, got a nod for the best-actress Tony in the August Wilson play The Piano Lesson. And the new season is graced by subtle performances from Off Broadway veteran Kevin Anderson, starring in Nothing Sacred, and Calista Flockhart, who in one year has gone from Chekhov on Broadway to Ally McBeal on Fox.
But the broader appeal of comedy seems to offer the easiest route to TV exposure for theater vets, and this season finds The Rocky Horror Picture Show's Tim Curry going sitcom in Over the Top (ABC, Tuesdays, 8:30-9 p.m.). Curry stars as Simon Ferguson, a washed-up actor leeching off the unaccountable kindness of his ex-wife, Hadley (played by Annie Potts, in a return to her wisecracking Designing Women mode), who runs a small hotel in Manhattan. Simon is a boor, a lout, a tippler, and a buffoon; the occasional times the lazy sot attempts to help around the hotel, disaster ensues. But because Simon has an English accent, he comes off as a charming rogue -- or at least that's what we'd think if the writing on Over the Top were funnier. This is a ringingly hollow little show -- a male-female Odd Couple possessing neither romantic spark nor crisp verbal byplay -- that makes you feel sorry for its plucky stars.
Although Curry is best known for the 1975 movie version of Rocky Horror, on the stage here and in Britain he's starred in everything from The Threepenny Opera to Tom Stoppard's Travesties. His key credit in the context of Top, though, is My Favorite Year, the Broadway version of the 1982 movie about, well, a washed-up, over-the-top British actor (remember Peter O'Toole in the film?). Knowing this, it certainly looks as if Top's creators used Curry's cracking Year role to jump-start a sitcom concept.
Like his greasepaint-spattered colleagues mentioned above, Curry knows how to go over the top in a grand way; unlike them, however, he hasn't found the right showcase for his technique. If Top were a Broadway premiere, it'd probably close after opening night. C-
For a Website dedicated to Tim Curry go to http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/cinema/2636/
For another site dedicated to Tim Curry go to http://www.timcurry.at/
For a Tim Curry Fanlisting go to http://fan.just-like-magic.org/curry/
For a Website dedicated to Marla Sokoloff go to http://www.angelfire.com/stars2/Marla/home.html
For a Site dedicated to Steve Carell go to http://www.stevecarell.net/
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