View Smaller Image
Poster: Mr. Television
(see this users gallery)
Brutally Normal aird from January until February 2000 on the WB.
This short-lived comedy focused on the day-to-day lives of a group of sophomores at Wacker H. Normall High School. Russell ( Eddie Kaye Thomas),the hunky aggressive one, was much more concerned with being a celebrity among his peers than with his grades. Pooh ( Mike Damus), Russell's neurotic best friend and gofer, was obsessed with the potential disaster that loomed in any situation. Anna ( Lea Moreno), their studious Russian friend and confifante, was a first generation American whose divorced mother, Gogi( Joanna Pacula), dated a succession of overly amorous suiters. When Anna needed advice, she sought it from her friend Dru ( Tangle Ambrose), a bright cynical, self-sufficiant young woman who didn't take crap from anyone-including Russell.
A Review from Variety
January 23, 2000 11:00PM PT
By Michael Speier
The WB’s “Brutally Normal” comes out swinging and lands all of its punches. This funny and sharp look at everything high school deserves an audience, but whether the Britney Spears/’N Sync set will buy into its odd combination of slapstick and quirkiness should be of great concern to the net’s execs. But stick with this one, folks — any show that looks to “The Graduate” for inspiration is worthy of serious attention.
“Normal’s” most impressive aspect is its solid ensemble. Instead of “Dawson’s Creek”-y hunks and babes lining scene after scene with lust, the kids on “Normal” are, well, normal. Nerds to some degree but confident enough in their own skin to appreciate individuality, this cast has a great sense of humor hidden underneath layers of insecurity. As sweet as “Freaks and Geeks” but without that critical fave’s lesson-teaching undertones, “Normal” succeeds as both a rimshot sitcom and a snapshot of suburbia.
It also taps into the current rage on TV: pop culture referencing fused with wink-wink giggles. Think “Ally McBeal” meets “Square Pegs.”
And the star sophomores are quite a trio. Russell (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a cocky goofball who’s neither a jock nor a loser; Robert “Pooh” Cutler (Mike Damus) is an anxiety-riddled worrier who thinks the PSAT test is out to get him; and Anna (Lea Moreno) is the confused one, an average-looking charmer constantly questioning her sexuality and her existence.
Debut episode finds Russell faced with the opportunity of a lifetime. At an art exhibition, he spies Kate Miller (Cassidy Rae), a blonde beauty enjoying the evening alone. Ready to turn on the charm, Russell approaches the lovely stranger and talks her into one brief kiss after he convinces her they’ll never meet up again.
Wrong. Next day, a substitute teacher arrives, and guess who it is. When Ms. Miller finds out that Russell is one of her students, she lays down the law, but he’s not ready to give up the dream.
And neither is anyone else. Acquaintances demand proof, Lenny (Sean Gunn) wants a photo of them to put on his Web site, and Pooh needs to snap the shot in order to get a yearbook position. The only voice of reason is Anna, who will do anything to save this poor woman’s career.
“Normal” works because it laughs at itself nonstop. Maybe the payoff from the recent teenybopper renaissance is that new programs now tease the teenybopper renaissance. And that can get downright hysterical.
Wackiness aside, there’s also something very assuring about “Normal’s” good-hearted view of today’s youth. Wisely staying away from beyond-their-years brats and good-looking airheads, the spiked framing of adolescent hopes is a refreshing change from the unrealistic treatment offered up by the majority of young-demo programming.
Tech credits are strong, with the one-camera approach helped a bunch by some lively editing.
WB Network; Mon. Jan. 24; 8 p.m.
Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Shephard/Robin and Touchstone Television. Executive producers, Tommy Swerdlow, Michael Goldberg, Greer Shephard and Michael M. Robin; producer, Patrick McKee; director, Marc Buckland; writer, Stephen Chbosky.
Cast: Russell - Eddie Kaye Thomas Pooh - Mike Damus Anna - Lea Moreno Dru - Tangie Ambrose Gogi - Joanna Pacula With: Sean Gunn, Antwon Tanner, Mimi Lieber, Cassidy Rae.Camera, Sharone Meir; production designer, Naomi Shohan; editor, Lisa Bromwell; music, Stewart Copeland, Ryan Beveridge; casting, Robert J. Ulrich, Eric Dawson, Carol Kritzer. Running time: 30 MIN.
A Review from the Chicago Tribune
"Brutally Normal": WB, which has made its living exploring...
January 24, 2000|By Steve Johnson, Tribune Television Critic.
"Brutally Normal": WB, which has made its living exploring the crises of preternaturally clear-skinned teenagers in hour-long dramas, here tries, tries again to launch a sitcom. That this is about high school is no surprise. That the three central kids are fringe characters in high school life -- a little more "Freaks and Geeks" than "Popular" -- is a bit unexpected, and so is its non-traditional format (no laugh track, no stagelike setting).
But despite a strong core cast, the show (debuting with two episodes in the 8 p.m. hour, WGN-Ch. 9) quickly divests you of any hope that it will be extraordinary, as the cliched characters and situations pile up. Want a comically overwrought assistant principal? You got him. Want a Matt Drudge-like yearbook/newspaper/gossip Web site editor? Present. And what about the really attractive substitute teacher? She, too, is in the house.
Any freshness the series derives from its format is undermined by the hokey use of music as "comic" punctuation and such fantasy devices as a student's conversation with Thomas Jefferson, in which the founder reveals his fondness for the Beastie Boys. Lea Moreno, Mike Damus and, especially, Eddie Kaye Thomas give nicely understated performances as kids dealing with their teen angst by pretending it all doesn't matter so much. Unfortunately, this talented trio seems to be stuck in yet another iteration of "Saved by the Bell."
A Review From LA Weekly
By Robert Lloyd
The WB's new Brutally Normal -- starring Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie), Mike Damus (ABC's Teen Angel, a couple of seasons back) and Lea Moreno as three inseparable friends -- offers similar satisfactions. (Tangie Ambrose gets her name in the opening credits, but she has so far served only as an African-American accessory.) As usual, the cast is introduced as "sophomores," which gives the producers a good three years before graduation day. And if you feel that the traffic can't bear any more high school series, think of Brutally Normal as just moving into the space vacated by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, whose fearless vampire killers have gone collegiate, and Zoe . . . (formerly Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane), which has suddenly moved forward three years in time in order to bring its characters closer to the age of the people who play them.
I am more fond of Brutally Normal than I think I have reason to be, but I don't know why I think that. Like Malcolm in the Middle, it's a one-camera show, visually exuberant and aired without a laugh track, thank you, and as in Malcolm its heroes are socially marginal. Where once the literature of teendom extolled football heroes and student-body presidents, the jock and politician in contemporary high school mythology are more often than not the bad guys, the bane of the hero-geek, the cool misfit, the ugly duckling that does not necessarily bloom into a swan but is finally esteemed for its ducklingness -- though it remains a law of show business that swans are cast as ugly ducklings, then dressed down. (Alyson Hannigan, Buffy's Willow, for shining example.) Of course, more of us were geeks than were jocks, series creators Tommy Swerdlow and Michael Goldberg (Cool Runnings) perhaps included, and thus the appeal of series like Brutally Normal and Freaks & Geeks -- made more appealing, of course, by the physical grace of the actors who stand in for us. Brutally Normal's bunch gets into the usual comical scrapes involving bullies and crushes and money-raising schemes, but the real subject of the show is the dynamics of friendship and the hormonal distentions of adolescence as realized by the careening camera work and by the bodily rhythms of the principals, and the contracting and expanding space and tension between them; it's the sitcom as modern dance, and an inviting one
A Review from The SF Chronicle
WB finally has a funny sitcom about teens
TIM GOODMAN, EXAMINER TELEVISION CRITIC
Monday, January 24, 2000
WB has been woeful in creating successful half-hour comedies, failin g in broad-based sitcoms, in animation and even in a show about hip teens, the network's own area of expertise. And while the critical sharks are circling its latest effort, "Brutally Normal," that may just be a continuation of the anti-anything-teen trend of late.
How else to explain what's not to like about "Brutally Normal," a surprisingly quirky, funny and original half-hour that has shades of Nickelodeon's brilliant "Adventures of Pete and Pete" in it, and also a dose of the newly minted fun found on "Malcolm in the Middle."
Perhaps the best quality of "Brutally Normal" (9 p.m. Monday, Channel 20), is that it doesn't stick to The WB's penchant for showing beautiful, articulate teens agonizing over Big Issues like they were thirtysomething. It doesn't have high gloss or much pretension to it.
"Brutally Normal" comes out of the gate over-the-top and idiosyncratic and stays that way throughout. It succeeds in portraying true, petty, teen angst from the perspective of four high school sophomores without making you think for one second about "Beverly Hills, 90210" or "Dawson's Creek."
Already that's a great achievement.
"Brutally Normal" focuses on the day-to-day life of Russell (Eddie Kaye Thomas, "American Pie") and his best friends, Pooh (Mike Damus) and Anna (Lea Moreno). And yes, Pooh is a nickname. There isn't much of that cloying WB teen style crowding out the authenticity here.
They all attend Wicker Normal High and have the same acute sense of awkwardness and curiosity and self-esteem issues that plague most teens in high school. The show is not as dead-on in re-creating era and attitude as "Freaks and Geeks," but it takes
the same inherent issues of being a teenager and runs them through a highly stylized comedic blender, ultimately getting the same effect.
For those who never saw the genius of "Pete and Pete," there was a surreal nature to it, a kind of hyper-reality where it was clear that the producers were going to make everything from neighbors and products cartoonish to portray the exaggerated, over-the-top concerns of the main characters.
It's clear that those behind "Brutally Normal" are trying the same approach. There are plenty of "Ally McBeal" fantasy sequences here as Russell, Pooh and Anna negotiate their mundane lives. Although the characters don't talk directly to the camera a la "Malcolm" (and about 100 other shows this year), the fantasy sequences make it clear that "Brutally Normal" is not trying to be a normal, canned-laughter sitcom.
For instance, in the second episode, Russell inadvertently barricades himself in the principal's office and finds himself the unwitting leader of a student movement for freedom of expression. While inside the office, Thomas Jefferson appears to him, and the two discuss what it means to be revolutionary (including a moment when they compare Marilyn Manson and the Beastie Boys). In a typical teen sitcom, that would be a recipe for ugliness and embarrassment, but here it works.
In fact, the first two episodes prove difficult to describe because you really have to see how the writers and actors pull off the style. Thomas is particularly good in the lead, but Moreno and Damus as the grounded girl and the neurotic boy best friends are wonderful as well.
The writing is much more subtle than you'd imagine for a teen comedy (which is welcome relief after one of The WB's other sitcoms, "Zoe, Duncan, Jack and
Jane" from last year proved painful to watch). In one scene, the principal says he won't fire the trio's favorite teacher because, "Anyone who can get you impassioned about anything other than nookie is teacher of the year."
With over-exaggerated quick cuts, loopy music, fantasy sequences and weird side characters surrounding the laid-back, true-to-life performances of the main kids, "Brutally Normal" offers a kind of stylized dichotomy that makes it stand out from the pack.
And what makes "Brutally Normal" more unique is that it's actually a funny half-hour on WB.
A Review from The Post Gazette
TV Review: 'Brutally Normal' is just an average show
Monday, January 24, 2000
By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor
Time to be brutally honest.
In another TV environment, "Brutally Normal" might be a unique series about the semi-surreal lives of teens at a suburban high school. But with so many other youth shows on the air, it comes across as just another teen show.
Granted, it's a comedy as opposed to The WB's slew of teen dramas, but with its tangents into imagination and film and pop culture parody, "Brutally Normal" is a latter day "Parker Lewis Can't Lose." Nothing more, nothing less.
"Normal" premieres at 9 tonight with two back-to-back episodes before settling into the 9 p.m. time slot next week, where it will be followed by the returning "Zoe" (formerly "Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane").
Tonight's "Normal" premiere is not the show's pilot, which was supposedly much darker in tone. The show's producers say "Brutally Normal" was conceived as a half-hour single-camera show - no studio audience, no laugh track - but ABC wanted it to be an hour-long drama. When ABC passed, The WB got on board and allowed the show to return to the original half-hour premise, but they wanted the show a little sunnier (i.e. one of the characters' sexual identity confusion is absent in early episodes).
"Brutally Normal" is about three outcasts: Russell (Eddie Kaye Thomas of "American Pie") is the romantic, Pooh (Mike Damus of "Teen Angel") is a wise guy and Anna (Lea Moreno of UPN's "Legacy") is the tomboy with a fun-loving friend, Dru (Tangie Ambrose).
In the first episode Russell falls for an older woman at an art gallery (cue parody scene from "The Graduate"), Anna tries to prevent an awful picture from being published in the Normal High yearbook and Pooh wants desperately to be in a candid shot in the yearbook.
The most interesting character may be Lenny (guest star Sean Gunn), the school's yearbook editor and Matt Drudge wannabe. He blackmails Anna into a date in exchange for the negative of her poor picture.
In the second episode, Russell inadvertently barricades himself inside the school principal's office.
Both episodes dabble in scenes from the characters' imaginations, which brings to mind The WB's superior one-hour comedy "Popular." In the first episode, Anna imagines herself in a catsuit - a la Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Entrapment" - as she tries to recapture her photo. In the second, Russell has visions of talking to Thomas Jefferson.
Damus, who was the best thing about the short-lived "Teen Angel," remains a star waiting to happen, but this won't be the show to catapult him to higher fame.
"Brutally Normal" tries to rise above the norm - and it's not an awful show - but there's nothing special about it either.
For more on Brutally Normal go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brutally_Normal
� Date: Sat April 23, 2016 � Filesize: 55.0kb, 111.9kb � Dimensions: 734 x 950 �
Keywords: Brutally Normal Cast