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Imagine That aired from January 8th until the 15th , 2002 on NBC.
Television looked to itself for comedy and canceled what it saw almost immediately, in this " insider" sitcom. Josh ( Hank Azaria), was a comedy writer for an unnamed tv show, who was having marital problems with his high-powered lawyer-wife, Wendy ( Jayne Brook), so he reflected them in his skits. His best ideas unfortunately, were promptly stolen by his megalomaniac boss Barb ( Katey Sagal). Others at work were his hyper young writing partner Kenny( Joshua Malina), sarcastic asian Rina ( Suzy Nakamura), and bossy Tabitha( Julia Schultz). Dr. Berman ( Max Baker), was Josh and Wendy's marriage counselor.
An Article from the Washington Post
Hank Azaria's Midseason Journey
Television* Actor takes a wait-and-see attitude as he tries to add his sense of comedy to his new sitcom.
January 04, 2002|MICHAEL E. HILL | WASHINGTON POST
Anyone familiar with Hank Azaria's Emmy-winning work in the earnest and moving TV film "Tuesdays With Morrie" might be surprised to learn that he has a new sitcom debuting next week.
Imagine that, they might say.
But might they watch "Imagine That"?
NBC has tacked that title onto Azaria's show and dropped it into the 8 p.m. Tuesday time period once occupied by the unsuccessful comedy "Emeril."
Azaria's is also the latest comedy to copy a formula that has proved poisonous when it comes to sitcom success--the practice of selecting a star to headline a show and then building the series around him or her. Bette Midler, Geena Davis, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards are among those who have gone this route and failed. Richard Dreyfuss seems to be holding his own in CBS' "The Education of Max Bickford."
"Imagine That" also taps into the main character's fantasies, an idea that has met with limited success in at least one other show--"Inside Schwartz"--this TV season. Adding to counter-indicators is a split earlier this year between Azaria, who is an executive producer of the show, and the producer who was to run the show.
"Right now," Azaria said, "we have five episodes we're going to air. If people like them, we'll go forward." Then he would find a new producer, he said.
Azaria brings his comic sensibility and gift for impersonations to this series centered on Josh Miller, a TV comedy sketch writer. The inspiration for Miller's work often comes from his personal fantasies, inserted into the action, with Azaria playing key roles in those daydreams.
A companion theme to the piece is Miller's reticence, which puts him at a disadvantage in dealing with comic situations at home and in the workplace.
"The pilot is the closest to what my vision of the show was," Azaria said. "It's more about, to me, giving the show more of my sensibility, to make it more real when we're not in the fantasy part of the show."
The charm Azaria displayed when he co-starred with Jack Lemmon in "Tuesdays With Morrie" won him an Emmy. Most recently, he appeared in "Uprising," a story of Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto.
Azaria also has a comic sense that may be less obvious. He had a recurring role as the dog-walking neighbor in "Mad About You." And he has an Emmy for his work on "The Simpsons," in which he provides the voice for a number of characters, including Police Chief Wiggum and Moe the bartender.
In "Imagine That," Azaria's character has to cope with problems on two fronts. At home, he has to deal with his ambitious wife, played by Jayne Brook. She's a lawyer, which should be good for some humorous asides, and their love life--or lack of it--is fodder for much of the first installment of the series.
The supporting cast features Katey Sagal, a veteran of "Married
Joshua Malina, a familiar face from "Sports Night," plays Josh's fellow writer and friend; Suzy Nakamura ("The West Wing") and David Pressman play members of the writing staff; and Julia Schultz is Josh's hot-dressing assistant.
Azaria would like to combine all this with the smarts and multi-character aspect of "The Simpsons": "One of the reasons I wanted to do this show is so I can do a different character every week. This show comes out of how much I enjoy doing that."
A Review from Variety
January 7, 2002 2:43PM PT
By Phil Gallo
Imagine That” takes a funny guy, Hank Azaria, who has a job working as an allegedly funny guy and manages to make one of the unfunniest pilots in some time. It’s startling to think “Imagine That” could be perceived as more comical than the show it’s replacing, the very definition of unfunny, “Emeril.”
For Azaria’s sake, he should make it very clear when this show became “Imagine That” instead of the “Hank Azaria Show,” which the opening credits call it on the review cassette. The further he distances himself from this pilot, the better.
Azaria is one of the best voice actors on “The Simpsons” and has had a strong, likable presence on a host of sitcoms. That his career as a leading comic actor hasn’t taken shape seems less his fault than a matter of waiting for the right vehicle. This doesn’t seem to be it.
NBC’s promos position the show as a nonstop Azaria-thon as he plays a host or characters, all guaranteed yuk generators. Instead, the pilot is a standard-issue office sitcom with a relationship sidebar grafted onto it — “Just Shoot Me” meets “Mad About You.”
Azaria plays Josh Miller, a television comedy writer who, in the debut episode, is having bedroom problems with his lawyer wife, Wendy (Jayne Brook). They head to a marriage counselor, which prompts Josh to conjure a skit for his unnamed show that his megalomaniac boss, Barb Thompson (Katey Sagal), steals as her own. Subplot concerns the hiring of a new, attractive assistant for Josh and his partner Kenny (Joshua Malina of “Sports Night”) and how her thong underwear is exposed daily.
Writing feels like warmed-over rehash of already unfunny bits from HBO’s banal “Mind of the Married Man,” and the limp and characterless direction is not too different from that of “Emeril.” Once you get past Azaria, acting is forced and bland.
Press materials say Azaria’s character has a “rich fantasy life” that will provide “a humorous outlet for his frustrations at home and work,” and Josh’s daydreams will be brought to life. That fantasy life had better (a) show up in a hurry or (b) be mighty funny if this clunker has any chance of seeing the end of February.
NBC, Tue. Jan. 8, 8 p.m.
Production: Taped in Los Angeles by Touchstone Television and Columbia TriStar Television. Executive producers, Seth Kurland, Hank Azaria; co-executive producer, Michael Langworthy; producer, Nancy Sanders, Joanne Curley Kerner; director, Barnet Kellman; writer, Kurland.
Crew: Director of photography, Steven V. Silver; production designer, Bernie Vyzga; editor, Dennis Vejar; music, Ricka Marotta; casting, Lisa Mionie, Eileen Stringer. 30 MIN.
Cast: Josh Miller - Hank Azaria
Wendy Miller - Jayne Brook
Kenny Fleck - Joshua Malina
Rina Oh - Suzy Nakamura
Barb Thompson - Katey Sagal
Tabitha Applethorpe - Julia Schultz
A Review From The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; Nice-Guy Comedy Writer With a Lively Imagination
By CARYN JAMES
Published: January 8, 2002
Changing a show's title at the last minute is always a bad sign, especially when the new name is worse than the old. The coyly titled ''Imagine That'' used to be ''The Hank Azaria Show,'' but it is still a sitcom about a nice-guy comedy writer with a rocky marriage whose fantasies materialize onscreen ''Ally McBeal'' style. To compound the bad omens, the show's creator, Seth Kurland (a former producer of ''Friends'') left, his departure cloaked in that weary showbiz cliche ''creative differences,'' the grown-up equivalent of ''the dog ate my homework.'' And NBC has scheduled just five episodes before the series makes way for the Olympics next month.
Considering all these storm clouds, it is a huge surprise that ''Imagine That'' plays so much better than its strained premise and hideous, overdone laugh track make it sound. The first two episodes are a wildly uneven mix of stock situations and fresh comic moments, spotty but full of potential. Mr. Azaria's appealing, understated presence helps the show at its best combine the common-sensical approach of ''Everybody Loves Raymond'' with a touch of the wry sophistication of ''Frasier.''
Mr. Azaria plays Josh, smarter than anyone around him but sometimes too mild-mannered for his own good. Promos make the show seem like a cavalcade of Mr. Azaria playing outlandish sketch characters. In fact, there is one each episode.
In tonight's, when he and his wife go to couples therapy, Josh imagines himself as a corpulent, gold-chain wearing, macho wise guy of a therapist. In next week's he is a 70's singer known as the Married Balladeer, a white man with a huge Afro who sings of married love. This stunt is obviously tailored to Mr. Azaria's versatility: he provides the voices of Moe the bartender and others on ''The Simpsons,'' has mastered drama in ''Tuesdays With Morrie'' and ''Uprising'' and played the frenzied, swishy servant in ''The Birdcage.''
As Josh and all his fantasy characters, he saves ''Imagine That'' from its creaky writing, and there is a lot of it. The jokes never get better than the title of the Married Balladeer's hit, ''Every Time You Go Away (I Watch Porn).''
Jayne Brooke blandly plays his wife, a lawyer who exists as a foil for Josh. ''I feel invalidated when you drink milk from the carton,'' she says, delivering a straight line that lets Mr. Azaria respond with all the befuddlement the therapy-driven comment deserves. Other performances match his in wringing genuinely funny moments out of cliched writing.
As a marriage therapist, Max Baker offers a delicious parody of a cold Englishman who is the living opposite of touchy-feely, yet who relies on psychobabble. Joshua Malina (the nerdy Jeremy on ''Sportsnight'') is Josh's writing partner, who drools over a sexy assistant tonight but next week arrives in the office hilariously tear stained and eating a pint of ice cream because his dream woman has dumped him.
Nothing can save the character played by Katey Sagal as the abrasive head writer whose everyday clothes are elaborate costumes. She dresses as a World War I flyer and a cowgirl. Huh?
If Jason Alexander's failed ''Bob Patterson,'' about a self-help guru, was a wonderful premise smothered in stale comedy, ''Imagine That'' is its opposite: a labored premise given wit and liveliness by glittering performances. It deserves to come back and follow its best instincts, but NBC has made no decision about that. It may return in the spring or fall. It may fade into that netherworld of lost series to join the ghost of ''Emeril,'' the hopeless show it is replacing.
A Review from the Washington Post
'Imagine That': What Were They Thinking . . .
By Tom Shales January 8, 2002
A television tradition continues: very good actors being "rewarded" with very bad series of their own. Tonight's example, NBC's "Imagine That," traps the versatile Hank Azaria in a smutty-minded sitcom about a spineless comedy writer who doesn't get enough sex at home.
Azaria, who was hilariously flighty in the motion picture "The Birdcage" and a virile hero in Jon Avnet's miniseries "Uprising" (soon to be available on DVD), goes slumming with this crummy bungle -- at 8 on Channel 4 -- and takes another excellent actor with him, the casually sensual, and sensational, Jayne Brook.
Both painfully overqualified, they play a husband and wife named Josh and Wendy who, in the pilot, consult a marriage counselor because Josh feels he is being slighted in the bedroom. Virtually every scene in the opener is about sex or mentions sex, and some of Seth Kurland's suggestive dialogue seems too dirty for 8 o'clock and too lame for any hour.
While discussing the "dry spell" afflicting their marriage, for example, Wendy complains about Josh's most recent attempt at seduction: "You hugged my boobs from behind and said, 'Where'd you get these?' "
The action alternates between the workplace and the couple's home, with a side trip to a marriage counselor. In the office we find a predictable assortment of hackneyed wackies, including a trim-looking Katey Sagal, also too good for the material, as Barb Thompson, star of the show "Barb Thompson's Laugh Riot," on which our hero works.
Thompson shows up for work one day dressed as an aviatrix and the next day done up like Annie Oakley. No explanation given. Meanwhile writer-producer Kurland tries to protect himself by establishing that "Laugh Riot" is an even drearier comedy show than "Imagine That."
Imagine that. It isn't easy.
Josh also has a sexy new blond assistant who wears low-cut jeans that expose her pink thong underpants. The director zooms in on her derriere lest we miss the point.
In one one of the early scenes, Azaria imagines himself as a psychiatrist who's a combination of Vinnie Barbarino and Tony Soprano, and it looks as if the show will feature frequent fantasies as they occur in Josh's head, the better to demonstrate Azaria's range.
But perhaps keeping in mind the colossal failure of NBC's recent "Inside Schwartz," which had fantasy sequences galore, the producers back away from the gimmick, and thereafter only a hint of it remains. "Imagine That" is just a hint of a sitcom, really -- a mere whisper, a rumor, a will o' the wisp. A fly in its own ointment.
Sadly, the actors all seem to know they're manning a sinking ship. They're pros and they give it their best, but they're perhaps as aware as we are that their best is utterly wasted on a loser like this.
Hank Azaria's considerable talents are wasted in NBC's smutty sitcom "Imagine That."
A Review From The Michigan Daily
by ROHITH THUMATI
NBC"s "Imagine That" is the latest star vehicle to hit the air an ominous portent for this show, seeing as every other sitcom featuring an established star made for this season has already been canceled, (Jason Alexander"s "The Bob Patterson Show," anyone?). Also, "Imagine That" being a midseason replacement, which are usually shows that the network execs deemed were not as good as the shows that debuted (and cancelled) in October, does not bode well. However, unlike other shows, "Imagine" features someone who has actual comedic talent: Hank Azaria, renowned for his work on "The Simpsons" and "Tuesdays With Morrie." Of course, he"s also infamous for his failures ("Godzilla," "Mystery Men," his marriage to Helen Hunt). How does this show rate amongst the rest of Azaria"s body of work as well as the rest of the television landscape?
For a midseason replacement, this show is rather promising. Azaria plays Josh Miller, a writer on a sketch comedy television show, who"s having marital troubles with his super-driven prosecutor wife Wendy (Jayne Brook, "Chicago Hope"). Both Azaria and Brook seem to know their characters well and already seem to have a decent chemistry as a couple.
The only other writer who gets significant time during the first episode is Kenny Fleck, played by Josh Malina, who is like a slightly cooler version of the character Malina played on "Sports Night." Hopefully the other two writers, David Pressman"s Kooshman ("Stargate") and Suzy Nakamura"s Rina Oh ("Timecode") will get flushed out as the season goes on so far they are just there to fill up space.
Receiving more time during the premiere is Barb Thompson, the show"s neurotic producer who detests her own mother, played by Katey Sagal ("Married With Children"). One of the plot lines of the first show is how Barb steals an idea (hopefully not a recurring theme bosses who take credit for their employee"s ideas isn"t exactly a new idea) of Josh"s about a doing a sketch featuring an Italian "wiseguy" therapist. The idea for this, which probably explains the title of the show, comes to Josh when he and his wife go to see a marriage counselor, and Josh imagines his therapist as a stereotypical Italian mobster.
In the form of eye-candy, there"s former Playboy Playmate Julia Shultz ("Rush Hour 2"), playing another stereotype as Tabitha Applethorpe, Kenny and Josh"s attractive but not too bright assistant. It is unlikely that her character will progress much beyond that of "office hottie," though.
The premiere is fairly well written, although the laughs are considerably forced in the beginning (if only real people laughed when the canned laughter does those in TV business would be so happy). It remains to be seen, however, if they"ll take one-note characters like Tabitha and Barb and make them multi-dimensional. A show with plotlines based on a few stereotypes and marital problems sounds too much like every other sitcom that gets cancelled with less than a season on the air.
A Review from The New York Daily News
HANK AZARIA'S READY FOR HIS CLOSEUP NOW Takes the lead in new show
By RUTH BASHINSKY DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Friday, January 4th 2002, 2:24AM
Hank Azaria knows he's taking a big gamble starring in the new NBC sitcom "Imagine That."
But after years of working in big-screen films ("America's Sweethearts," "The Birdcage") and doing Emmy-winning voice work on "The Simpsons," Azaria is ready to carry his own series.
If the past is any indication, he'll be blamed if it fails and he'll get more offers if it succeeds.
"There's a thing called the '15-minute rule' in Hollywood, where everyone is sort of aware of what goes on with you for about 15 minutes and then they get sort of too involved in their own problems," Azaria said. "You are usually only as good as your last job. Hopefully, ["Imagine That"] won't kill the possibility of my last job."
In the half-hour series, which begins Tuesday at 8 p.m., Azaria transforms himself into several characters, including comedy writer Josh Miller, who works for a sketch show called "Laugh Riot." Katey Sagal ("Married … With Children") plays his self-absorbed boss and Jayne Brook ("Chicago Hope") plays his wife.
Each week, Azaria introduces a new character. In the first episode, he plays a macho therapist with a thick New York accent. "I enjoyed it, because it was easy to do," he said. "I grew up in New York and there were a lot of characters I grew up watching."
Azaria, who starred in the critically acclaimed TV movie "Tuesdays With Morrie" alongside the late Jack Lemmon, and in the NBC miniseries "Uprising," plans to keep his gig on "The Simpsons," no matter how busy his schedule gets.
"We keep going," he said. "It is busy, but it is easy. … The hours are flexible on that."
Because NBC is devoting 17 days of February airtime to the Winter Olympics, the network has ordered only five episodes of "Imagine That."
"If we do well, we will do more," Azaria said. "And if we don't, we won't."
An Article from People Magazine
Azaria Gets Boot, Barker Gets Crowds
By Stephen M. Silverman
Tuesday January 22, 2002 12:00 PM EST
After only two weeks, NBC has dumped Hank Azaria's new comedy series, "Imagine That," from its lineup, blaming poor ratings, the network announced. The sitcom's Tuesday night time slot will be filled with reruns for the time being, and Azaria, 37, can still be heard on the Fox series "The Simpsons." The cancellation reinforces the ongoing troubles established stars often have launching their own shows. Two "Seinfeld" alums, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander, both quickly flopped when they launched their own sitcoms, as did celebrated chef Emeril Lagasse. Last season, Geena Davis struggled on her sitcom before ABC ultimately pulled the plug, while CBS bailed out of Bette Midler's sitcom before the season ended. Part of the problem, media buyer Sharianne Brill told the New York Post, is that often networks hire stars before anybody even has a concept for a show. "That's very misguided," she said. (On "Imagine That," Azaria played a TV comedy writer who often assumed the persona of his creations.) Meanwhile, in other TV news, reaction to the 30th anniversary celebration of CBS' s daytime game show "The Price Is Right" took its producer and host Bob Barker, 78, by surprise late last week, reports the Los Angeles Times. Though only 900 seats were available for the taping at Las Vegas's Rio Hotel and Casino, says the paper, some 5,000 people showed up. According to Vincent Cannito, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department: "They ran out of tickets and people started yelling . . . These weren't bad people, by any stretch -- just tired, agitated people who stood in line. The show obviously has quite a following."
For more on Imagine That go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagine_That_(TV_series)
For a Website dedicated to Suzy Nakamura go to http://suzynakamura.com/
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Keywords: Imagine That Cast