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Joe Grivasi, Camille Saviola, Michael DeLuise, Alec Mapa and Jessica Lundy (top row, from left); Danny Nucci (left) and Jason Bateman (bottom row)

Some of My Best Friends aired from February until April 2001 on CBS.

Macho young Frankie (Danny Nucci), an aspiring actor, was determined to get out of his parents' home in the Bronx. Sensitive, intellectual Warren ( Jason Bateman) was a homosexual whose boyfriend had just moved out of his Greenwitch Villiage apartment after a fight. Frankie responded to the ad Warren put in the paper seeking a roommate because he thought GWM meant "Guy With Money," not "Gay White Male." It wasn't until after Frankie moved in that they both realized what a mistake they had made but, by that time , they were actually starting to like each other, and decided to give it a try. Warren's twice-divorced sister, Meryl ( Jessica Lundy), managed the building, Pino ( Michael DeLuise) was Frankie's beefy intellectualy challenged buddy, and outlandished Vern ( Alec Mapa) was Warren's overtly gay Japanese best friend. Connie and Joe ( Camille Saviola, Joe Grifasi) were Frankie's parents.

There were loads of gay jokes ("This whole fridge is filled with fairy food!"), but not much of an audience. Low ratings prompted CBS to pull the plug after five of the seven episodes had aired. Adapted from the 1997 film Kiss Me Guido.

An Article from the Hartford Courant

Cbs's `Best Friends' Fits Formula -- For Gay Sitcoms
February 23, 2001|By JAMES ENDRST

The assimilation of gays into mainstream, prime-time television is nearly complete.

How can we be so sure?

Because, as CBS's new mid-season replacement ``Some of My Best Friends'' proves, gay characters have become so accepted and commonplace that there's a recognizable gay-sitcom formula.

Though it has been just a few years since Ellen DeGeneres came out in real life and on ABC's ``Ellen'' (originally named ``These Friends of Mine,'' by the way) and NBC's ``Will & Grace'' became the first homosexual-centric hit, a distinct pattern is emerging. ``Some of My Best Friends,'' which makes its debut Wednesday night at 8 -- on the comparatively staid CBS, no less -- is the latest and tellingly refined example.

Danny Nucci (``Titanic'') plays Frankie Zito, a wanna-be actor from da Bronx, who shares a Greenwich Village apartment with Warren Fairbanks -- played by Jason Bateman -- a writer who has just been dumped by his boyfriend.

They're ``The Odd Couple'' of the 21st century. Or ``Will & Grace'' lite. You decide.

Even the traditionally older-skewing CBS audience won't be rocked by this generally pleasant, if predictable, series. Based on the feature film ``Kiss Me Guido,'' ``Some of My Best Friends'' is no ``Queer as Folk.'' There's no members-only clubbiness. That's a cable affair. Network television is, for business reasons if nothing else, necessarily inclusive. So ``Some of My Best Friends'' suggests they could be friends of yours -- which is a step closer, one supposes, to making gay lead characters a nonissue.

There are, however, obviously some ground rules.

For instance, like Will Truman (Eric McCormack) on ``Will & Grace'' and, for that matter, John Goodman on Fox Broadcasting's failed ``Normal, Ohio,'' Warren, the primary gay character in ``Some of My Best Friends,'' doesn't ``look or act gay.'' But like Will's sidekick Jack (Sean Hayes) on ``Will & Grace,'' ``Some of My Best Friends'' has an eternal flame burning bright in Warren's best friend, Vern, played to the hilt by Alec Mapa.

This way, when gay and straight worlds collide, they do so in a way where nobody really gets hurt.

Frankie, who has been living with his parents, makes an innocent mistake when he responds to an ad in the paper from a GWM -- gay white male -- thinking it means ``guy with money.'' (And it's Frankie's friend Pino, portrayed by Michael DeLuise, who's supposed to be the one who's slow on the uptake.) And, sure, Frankie is ``like whoa'' when he finds out that Warren is batting for the other team. ``Hey, no offense Warren,'' says Frankie when he first lays eyes on a picture of Warren's ex, ``but she must have had one hell of a personality.''

That's when the light goes on and Frankie exclaims, ``Oh my God, you're not Jewish.''

Mistaken sexual identity is a driving device in this half-hour's first two episodes (the second of which will have a one-time-only broadcast March 5 at 9:30 p.m.)

Frankie's parents, Joe and Connie (Joe Grifasi and Camille Saviola), are shocked when they find out their son's own secret -- that he has moved to Greenwich Village to become an actor.

`Couldn't you just be gay?'' asks Mama Zito.

``You know people are born gay,'' says Frankie's browbeaten pop, ``but acting ... that's a choice.''

There's a straight woman on the premises, too, like Debra Messing's Grace. In this case, it's Warren's sister Meryl, played by Jessica Lundy. Meryl, who's completely supportive, just happens to be the building manager.

Yes, Warren comes out to play gay, ready to duke it out like a man with Frankie, but not before he puts some towels down to protect the rug from bloodstains. And he's willing to go along, for a little while, when Frankie's pals stop by to watch the fights. These friends of Frankie's aren't such free thinkers. They obviously haven't seen much in the way of books or the world.

Ultimately, though, and with the help of Vern -- whose lamp won't be left burning under any bushel -- the truth will always out in ``Some of My Best Friends.''

It's a fundamental rule of comedy: Don't deny.

And no one is going to deny ``Some of My Best Friends'' its shot at success.

No one is going to march on Washington or start a protest.

If anything, it's possible no one will even notice the show.

CBS's ``Some of My Best Friends'' will have its debut Wednesday at 8 p.m. The second episode of the series will have a one-time-only Monday-night broadcast on March 5 at 9:30.

A Review from the New York Times

TELEVISION REVIEW; What, Son? He's Got A Picture of Bette Midler?


Let's get the obligatory condemnations out of the way right off the bat: ''Some of My Best Friends,'' a sitcom that arrives tonight on CBS, is shameless in its use of hoary stereotypes. It brazenly reduces gay people, Italian people, Asian people and aging married people to caricatures in the interests of good ratings and corporate profits.

It's often pretty darned funny.

The show (based on the 1997 film ''Kiss Me, Guido'') is the latest effort to put gay characters in prime time. It breaks no new ground in that regard, but there's a spark to it that might not be apparent from the synopsis. The creators use a ''how many stereotypes can we fit into a phone booth'' approach, with the core gimmick being the old oil-and-water mix: take polar opposites and make them live together.

These particular opposites are Warren Fairbanks (Jason Bateman), a gay writer living in Greenwich Village, and Frankie Zito (Danny Nucci), a hunky lunk from the Bronx. How much of a lunk is Frankie? When he answers Warren's advertisement for a roommate, he thinks ''G.W.M.'' means ''guy with money.''

The two end up sharing an apartment, alternately clashing and learning to respect each other. They are surrounded by an assortment of secondary characters even more broadly drawn than they are: Frankie's pushy mother (Camille Saviola), his browbeaten father (Joe Grifasi), his numskull best friend (Michael DeLuise).

There are plenty of jokes about the furnishings in Warren's apartment -- posters for Broadway musicals, an autographed picture of Bette Midler -- but most of the usual gay-character baggage lands not on Warren, but on the upstairs neighbor, Vern (Alec Mapa). Where Warren (who looks like a young Kevin Costner) is the gay-people-are-almost-like-straights representative, Vern is the caricature: effeminate, fashion-conscious and so on. As an added bonus, he's Asian-American. One plot line hinges on his ability to fix a temperamental television.

You'd think that having so many stock characters in the same sitcom would be a recipe for boredom, but a quick pace and smooth performances all around make ''Some of My Best Friends'' work surprisingly well. And the witty writing rises above most midseason fare. For instance, there's a moment in the pilot when Frankie's parents think that sharing an apartment with a gay man means Frankie is gay. He relieves them of that misimpression, but then he announces news that the parents find even more distressing: he has moved to Greenwich Village to become an actor.

Mom: ''An actor? Couldn't you just be gay?''

Dad: ''You know, people are born gay, but acting -- that's a choice.''

In another episode, Frankie tries to explain to Warren the boorish behavior of his friends from the old neighborhood. ''You've got to understand the neighborhood I come from,'' he says. ''They don't get people who are different. They don't get gays. They don't get lesbians. They just got Jews a few years ago.''

No one is likely to learn anything new about gay people from all this, and who knows, someday we may wince at having watched it the way we now recoil at old films of performers in blackface. But those willing to not take the show any more seriously than it takes itself should find laughs here.

The only question is, for how long? In the first episode Frankie pretends to be gay for Warren's benefit; in the second, Warren pretends to be straight for Frankie's benefit. When a show uses up its two ''gimme'' plots in the first two installments, it makes you wonder if there's enough creativity for the long haul.


CBS, tonight at 8

(Channel 2 in New York)

Julie Tsutsui, producer; written by Marc Cherry and Tony Vitale, based on the film ''Kiss Me, Guido''; directed by James Widdoes; Jonathan Axelrod, Judd Pillot, John Peaslee, Mr. Cherry and Mr. Widdoes, executive producers. Produced by Paramount Network Television with Axelrod/Widdoes Entertainment.

WITH: Danny Nucci (Frankie Zito), Jason Bateman (Warren Fairbanks), Jessica Lundy (Meryl Doogan), Michael DeLuise (Pino Palumbo), Alec Mapa (Vern Limoso), Camille Saviola (Connie Zito), Joe Grifasi (Joe Zito), Peter Spears (Terry) and Tim Maculan (a Pretentious Man).

A Review from the LA Times

'Best Friends': Stereotypes Move In to CBS Comedy



First "Will & Grace," now Will & Guido. Just about, anyway.

NBC has a big hit in "Will & Grace," the comedy about a straight woman and gay man who are best friends and neighbors, with Will's platonic gay friend, Jack, swishing in and out of their lives.

Traveling a fast lane that ABC's "Ellen" cleared, "Will & Grace" is now the envy of other networks. So send in the clones, with tonight bringing "Some of My Best Friends," a lowbrow new CBS comedy inspired by the movie "Kiss Me, Guido."

Jason Bateman is Warren, who needs a roommate to help pay the rent on his Greenwich Village apartment now that his boyfriend has split. Answering his ad is Danny Nucci as macho Frankie, a sweet but dumb palooka (I.Q. roughly about 50) and aspiring heterosexual actor from the Bronx who doesn't suspect that Warren is one a'dem, y'know, "homos." Frankie doesn't pick up on the obvious signs: Despite appearing to be a regular sort of guy, Warren is also sensitive, adores Bette Midler and has posters of movie musicals on his walls.

Oh, boy, though, does Frankie get the message when in minces Warren's platonic little buddy, the flaming Vern (Alec Mapa), who makes Jack of "Will & Grace" look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Frankie's own best friend from home, meanwhile, is even more of a log than him, a seeming impossibility. But this is television.

Broadly speaking, the roots of "Some of My Best Friends" go deeper than "Kiss Me, Guido." Familiar stereotypes have always earned easy howls, from minstrel shows and old-time burlesque to political cartoons that deploy exaggeration as parody. The especially obnoxious ones ultimately fail when the multitudes realize their humor is not only hollow but at times twisted and even dangerous.

You could always get a laugh with a bug-eyed African American who was afraid of his own shadow, until enlightenment intervened. You could always get a laugh with a funny drunk, until the epiphany that alcoholism wasn't a joke. And when saner minds don't prevail, you can still please some knee-slappers by putting on the screen a wristy little fellow who talks and acts like a sissy, one like Vern who isn't meant to be accepted for who he is but instead is targeted by gag writers as a freak. Do these folks exist? Of course. But not to the extent that they eclipse the greater mass of less overt gay males.

Cheap stereotypes usually evoke cheap laughs. However, "Some of My Best Friends" doesn't get even many of those from its assembly line of cliches and stock characters, who include Frankie's equally dense Italian American parents.

"Some of My Best Friends" is the lead-in for Bette Midler's relocated comedy, the struggling "Bette," somewhat of an irony in that the Divine One got her start singing in gay bathhouses.

Tonight finds Warren trying to keep Frankie in the fold, and Frankie gamely trying to make the best of this odd coupling when no immediate escape seems possible. Bateman has the skills to give Warren some nuance amid this heavy drooling, but that is not where this series appears to be heading, based on an early sampling. Even lamer is the second episode, when Frankie is desperate to hide his new roommate's sexual orientation after some quasi-humans from "d'neighborhood" drop by for a night of TV boxing and brewskies. And would you believe?

Not so divine.

* "Some of My Best Friends" premieres tonight at 8 on CBS. The network has rated it TV-PG-DL (may be unsuitable for young children, with special advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language).

A Review from Time Magazine

Some Of My Best Friends
Monday, Mar. 05, 2001

At what point can you say that gays have gone mainstream? When Will & Grace hits the top 20? When Ally kisses a girl? When ABC airs a Judy Garland mini-series? For our money, it's when a network airs a gay-straight odd-couple sitcom that's not just bad, but boringly so. Batting for the gays, Jason Bateman is adequate as a poor man's Eric McCormack, but Danny Nucci plays a straight Italian stereotype who's like Joey from Friends' dumber brother. Add predictable storylines (I think my roomie has a crush on me!), and you've got Will & Graceless.

--By James Poniewozik

To watch clips of Some of My Best Friends go to

For more on Some of My Best Friends go to

For Tim's TV Showcase go to

To meet Jason Bateman go to

For an interview with Jason Bateman go to

For a Review of Some of My Best Friends go to
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