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Poster: Mr. Television
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George aired from November 1993 until January 1994 on ABC.
Bald, burly ex-heavyweight champ George Foreman was the unlikely star of this short-lived sitcom, which was otherwise indistinguishable from dozens of others. At least he was cast to type, playing an ex-heavyweight champ who sat on his duff all day eating ice cream and watching tv, living off his earnings from the ring. George's high-energy wife Maggie ( Sheryl Lee Ralph), on the other hand, was constantly in motion as a guidance counselor at inner-city Monroe High School. Intrigued by her stories of troubled kids, George decided to see if he could help by setting up an after-school boxing club called the TKO Club. Discipling these tough youngsters was not as easy as he thought. Tough guy Daniel ( Cleandre Norman), volatile Mauricio( Pablo Irlando), sharp-tongued Shasta ( Doniell Spencer), motormouth Vanessa ( LaCrystal Cooke), and troubled Lathan ( Larry Gilliard, Jr), were a handful for anyone, but George managed to pull it off with a mix of determination and unfailing good humor.
Bubba and Vee ( Tony T. Johnson, Lauren Robinson),were George's kids and Juanita ( Anne Haney), the sour housekeeper. Ex-Boxer Tony Danza ( Who's The Boss), co-produced this series.
An Article from The New York Times
BOXING; A New Television Series Becomes Foreman's Food for Thought
By TOM FRIEND,
Published: October 27, 1993
"Lunch!" says the director, and the entire set is in a footrace for finger food.
"You coming, George?"
"No," George answers.
"An apple and an orange," George answers.
George Foreman, the man who once ate himself into house and home, is starving himself. That is not the camera humming; that is his stomach gurgling. They make sure to bring two things to a Hollywood set -- the script and the doughnuts -- but Big George has got his paws around only one of them: the script. He remembers his lines better than what he ate the night before. He and food have filed for divorce.
His lucky charm used to be cheeseburgers, but this is how retirement, at age 44, has altered Foreman's life. If you thought his boxing career was a situation comedy, get a load of this: He is about to star in a genuine sitcom, "George," starting Nov. 5 on ABC. He practically plays himself.
His character, George Foster, is a retired heavyweight champion who loafs around the house while his wife, Maggie, works diligently as an inner-city Houston school counselor. George drops by one day, sees five children treating her like a rag doll and takes them on as his personal project. Next thing he knows, his home is their home, and he forms a recreation center called the TKO Club. Virtually a True Story
The thing is, it is virtually a true story. The real Foreman returned to boxing, after a long hiatus, to support a Houston youth center. And, just like his TV show, a hoodlum child inspired him. A boy and his mother were sitting in the boxing gym of Foreman's brother Roy one day in the mid-1980's when the mother pleaded for George to train her son. Foreman told her: "Boxing won't help him; he'll become a bigger fool. Bring him to church."
The child went burglarizing instead.
"Two months later I inquired about the boy," Foreman said, "and they told me he'd tried robbing a store. Shot the storekeeper. When I heard that, I almost panicked. I'd had this kid right in front of me."
Which is why Foreman boxed again, to form the youth center.
If nothing else, then, Foreman's new show proves that television can imitate life. The question is whether his show can last longer than Chevy Chase's.
"I just want people at hospitals to laugh," Foreman said. "My brother had a stroke in 1990, and I couldn't move, couldn't train. I had a televison set, and all I looked for was something to make me laugh. And only one show did: Granny on "The Beverly Hillbillies."
"So, I want to be like Granny. I just want to get that 'Ha.' Even if they laugh and say, 'That boy's crazy,' and they switch the channel. Just give me one chuckle."
Granny is so much his role model that his first show ends with him saying, "Y'all come back now, you hear. I always wanted to say that."
He is no actor, but he does have an instinct for humor. His news conferences used to be more entertaining than his fights. And his best props were always hamburgers.
"I'd get a hamburger, sprinkle some salt on it, and I'd have instant energy," Foreman said in between tapings here on Sunset Boulevard last week, wearing a plaid Hollywood cap. "I'd eat two of them, and I could whip anybody.
"Junk food? That wasn't junk food. It's junk food when you're not an athlete anymore. I never used a prescription when I fought. It was nothing but hamburgers, desserts and fruit. Give me another fight, and I'd fix it all up again. That is my medicine. When I'm dead and gone, they'll say, 'How did he do it?' Well, I've given permission for them to dig me up. They'll get my DNA and say, 'Cheeseburgers.' And, 'Ice cream.' They'll ask, 'Low-fat ice cream?' And, no, it won't be. Food got me my victories. Before I fought Holyfield, I'd go 17 miles hiking and running on the road. I'd get back and tell my wife, 'Don't tell me what not to eat.' "
But he will not even sniff at a hamburger anymore.
"Now that I'm not boxing," he said, "I've got to eat how a doctor would want. Honestly, my only concern is to keep my weight down. I want to live until 144. Gaining weight scares me. If I'm down in the dumps nowadays, it's because I ate that extra helping."
If he had time to work out, he might try a bag of chips. When he boxed, he was either in the gym or the refrigertor, and his weight would hover around 260 pounds. But now, with his membership card to Gold's Gym gathering dust, he is 273 pounds and staying famished.
"It's dangerous because I'm a natural 315, and I'm trying to stay unnatural," he said.
His typical day: He memorizes his lines, comes in the next morning and finds out the entire scene has been re-written. "It's killing me," he said.
In boxing, all he had to memorize was the fight's starting time. "I thought Hollywood was glamorous," he said. "This is a factory, man. I'm on the assembly line. The last job I had was 1964. I took a job as a helper for a moving company. I picked up furniture for $1.25 an hour. I wanted to prove I was strongest man in the world. Well, after one 15-hour day of backbreaking work, that's when I said I've got to do something for my life. I went into boxing to get away from work, and here I am working again." Like a Puppy
Bill Cosby has something to do with this. Smitten with Foreman's personality, the actor-producer Tony Danza, a former boxer himself, came up with a sitcom for the fighter. Two other producers were courting Foreman, too, so Foreman called Cosby. "Cosby said I could trust Tony," Foreman said.
And now Danza and Foreman are a tag-team. "For a while, I didn't think this TV deal was for me," Foreman said. "Actors act like they're something special. I'm a guy if you can't stop and chat with me, then I've lost a great gift. But Tony said, 'People think TV has ruined the family, and, if that's so, let's fix it.' He didn't have to say any more. I followed him like a puppy.
"Tony pushes me. He's as vicious as Archie Moore was to me as a trainer. Tony's the only one not afraid of me. When I was a baby and my parents took me to the doctor's office, other parents would see me and pull their babies back. I got in the ring with Muhammad Ali and he covered up. Joe Frazier, too. To have a life where everyone's afraid of you and then this guy, Tony, comes up and says let's go. I love it. Some would like people to be afraid of them; I like people not to be afraid."
One problem: George isn't sleeping at night, and gulps coffee on the set while everyone else sips European bottled water. He has always been nocturnal and rarely slept before fights -- "That's why I had so many first- and second-round knockouts," he said. "I was too tired to go further" -- but now he's averaging only three hours of sleep in his Los Angeles hotel suite.
"I don't go to bed now," he said. "I stay up all night. The most entertaining thing I do is think. I love being with George."
Danza's response: "Well, nothing like a 30 share to make you sleep better." 30 Million Judges
He is about to have 30 million judges, instead of three at ringside. After the debut of his Nov. 5 pilot, "George" will air every Saturday night at 8 P.M., going head-to-head against a popular series, "Cops." If "George" sails, he becomes a household name; if it fails, he becomes a boxer again.
"If I'd known it'd be this kind of work, I'd go back for four more fights," Foreman said. "Boxing was simple. I had all these guys bluffed by my legendary power. All I had to do was grunt like I was mad, and for the next six minutes, they'd be avoiding my power. Even though I don't have any. I got it down to a science. Like against Tommy Morrison. I'd bluff, bluff. When I needed a rest, I'd grunt, he'd run, and I'd say, 'Thanks, man.'
"But I've got one more fight in me. I'd like to go out a winner. Henry Holmes, my attorney, is trying to negotiate with someone I can beat. Like Pee-wee Herman. I think I can beat him, although he wants me down to his weight. But, no, honestly, I want to box again. I'll be 45 in January, and that'd be almost unheard of. The kids on the set, I tell them, 'I'm almost 50 years old, and the heavyweight champion is afraid of me.' "
"That's right, he's afraid of me," Foreman said. "If Riddick Bowe signs to fight George Foreman, Riddick Bowe can take himself a paycheck of $50 million. Could be a great fight, but his people don't say anything. I've gone to those guys on several occasions, but they want easy touches. Guys like Michael Dokes."
"But, you want to know the real truth? I want to box so I can eat again."
A Review from Variety
George Abc, Fri. Nov. 5, 8:30 p.m.
By TONY SCOTT
Taped at Sunset-Gower Studios by Katie Face Prods., Envy Prods. and Columbia Pictures TV. Exec producers, Tony Danza, Steve Sauer, Norma Safford Vela; producer, Michael Greenspon; co-producer, Roxie Wenk Evans; director, Asaad Kelada; writer-creator, Vela.
Cast: George Foreman, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Anne Haney, Tony T. Johnson, Lauren Robinson, Larry Gilliard Jr., Cleandre Norman, Pablo Irlando, Doniell Spencer, LaCrystal Cooke, Belita Moreno.
Heavyweight boxer George Foreman strides manfully through the opening gambit of a new series in which he plays retired heavyweight champ George Foster, married with two kids and no place to go nor any inclination to start.
Foreman and the format are unremarkable, but the program has the pleasing grace of being integrated.
Wife Maggie (Sheryl Lee Ralph), though she doesn't need to, works as a counselor in a rough school. She advises George to get off his duff and do something, and he takes it upon himself to straighten out the school's unruly youngsters.
The conversions are unlikely, but the sitcom-sassy kids end up in the Fosters' kitchen where he's supposed to teach them manners. One boy (Larry Gilliard Jr.) stalks out, but the others stay on at the Fosters' while Maggie looks disturbed and sour housekeeper Juanita (Anne Haney) appears worried.
Writer-creator Norma Safford Vela's script motivations are murky, her characters ciphers and the humor limited. Foreman's stolid, and Ralph's playing is predictable. Tony T. Johnson and Lauren Robinson as their children suffice, Doniell Spencer as the tough girl looks to have reserve strength.
Asaad Kelada directs to little comedic effect, but chalk up points for "George's" mixing blacks and whites in sitcomville, where such a notion is rare and welcome. Opening round may not be Foreman's finest, but it pokes holes in some barriers.
Actual series begins Nov. 6, 8-8:30 p.m.
A Review from USA TODAY
TV PREVIEW/BY MATT ROUSH
' George' out in the first round
Let's hope Michael Jordan's retirement doesn't mean he'll end up like Georgy-Peorgy Foreman in the cutsey George ( * , ABC, tonight at 8:30, Saturday at 8 ET/PT); coasting on sportsicon and snack-food endorsement celebrity to carry a lame sitcom on his broad shoulders.
Twinkly and cuddly as he sits in his easy chair while foxy wife/guidance counselor Sheryl Lee Ralph scrowls, George endures a barrage of fat and bald jokes when he volunteers as role model for some high-school detention regulars.
This speaks down to everyone, especially the audience. While the brats no doubt are redeemable , it won't be with glib sitcom wisdom delivered by a grinning pudgy pugilist.
A Review from the LA Times
TV REVIEW : George Foreman Learns the Sitcom Ropes
November 05, 1993|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC
Remember how funny former heavyweight champ George Foreman was when he used rambling monologues to charm the press and build interest in his comeback fights against a string of pre-comatose opponents?
Those were the good old days, when Foreman relied on his own considerable wit. Now he has "professionals" writing for him, and the result is ABC's "George," a lumbering palooka of a comedy series premiering at 8:30 tonight on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42. It returns in its regular time period at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Tonight we meet Foreman as George Foster, a comfortably retired heavyweight champ being chided by his wife, Maggie (Sheryl Lee Ralph), for spending his days in an easy chair, eating ice cream in front of the TV in an apparent quest to become the Goodyear blimp.
Sparked by this encounter, he shows up at the high school where Maggie works as a guidance counselor and where he takes it upon himself to straighten out and become a role model for her angriest and most rebellious kids. Do they resist? Yes. Does he ultimately win them over? Well, George--Foster or Foreman--is nothing if not lovable.
If not for that quality, "George" would be nearly unwatchable, for most of its humor is as barren as the top of Foreman's head. Under that category are the wisecracks of the African-American Fosters' mouthy white housekeeper (Anne Haney), a sort of reverse stereotype who addresses George's wife as Miss Maggie.
A subsequent episode, in which George attempts to stop one of his charges from dropping out of school to become a prizefighter, is a little funnier, at least somewhat shortening the odds that Foreman will avoid the kind of swift KO that greeted the sitcom efforts of two other former star jocks, quarterback Joe Namath and baseball hurler Jim Bouton.
To read some articles about George go to http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=8tM_AAAAIBAJ&sjid=pOYFAAAAIBAJ&dq=george%20foreman%20tv%20show&pg=6651%2C7976329 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=I-VRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=AoUMAAAAIBAJ&dq=george%20foreman%20tv%20show&pg=1520%2C2439851
To watch some clips of George Foreman go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=george+foreman++&aq=f
For more on George go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_(1993_TV_series)
To go to George Foreman's website go to http://www.georgeforeman.com/
To watch an ABC Promo go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=On28qsX2jIE
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Keywords: George Cast (Links Updated 7/28/18)