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Life on a Stick aired from March until April 2005 on Fox.
Frothy teen oriented sitcom centered on two buddies who recently graduated from high school and were working at a restaurant in the food court of a local shopping mall. Slacker Laz ( Zachary Knighton) and dense Fred ( Charlie Finn)worked for the blustery Mr. Hut ( Maz Jobrani) at " Yippee, Hot Dogs" where Laz had fallen in love with fellow counter person Lily ( Rachelle Lefevre). He had worked out a deal with his father, Rick ( Matthew Glave), and stepmom, Michelle ( Amy Yasbeck), that got him free room and board at home if he would watch over his alienated neurotic stepsister, Molly ( Saige Thompson). Laz's half-brother Gus ( Frankie Ryan Manriquez), Rick and Michelle's only child together, was sitcom-typically wise beyound his years. Jasper ( Ryan Belleville) was Molly's earnest boyfriend.
Most episodes focused on the goings-on in the mall. In one Liz, Fred and Lily bartered corndogs for movie tickets, manicures and tanning sessions, in another they competed with the singing counter people from the fish restaurant across from them, and one week they deep-fried Mr. Hut's office.
A Review from variety
March 15, 2005 3:27PM PT
Life on a Stick
By Brian Lowry
Another exercise in slacker chic narrowly orchestrated for the under-30 set, this sprightly comedy from Victor Fresco certainly won’t wow anyone with its premise, focusing as it does on an 18-year-old with minimal ambition, his equally limp goofball friend and a peculiar blended family. Loaded with non sequiturs that prove occasionally amusing, think of it as “Dazed and Confused” minus the pot fumes. Not bad but as rudderless as its protagonists, the show will definitely need to ride “American Idol’s” wake to stay afloat.
Having previously produced Fox’s gone-but-not-forgotten “Andy Richter Controls the Universe,” Fresco enters the way-back machine and turns his attention to Laz (Zachary Knighton), who can’t even control his own room. Lacking direction, he finds his dad (Matt Glave) and hot stepmom (Amy Yasbeck) want to kick him out of the house, which also contains Laz’s socially awkward stepsister, Molly (Saige Thompson), and precocious-as-only-a-sitcom-kid-can-be half-brother, Gus (Frankie Ryan Manriquez), whom the parents shower with affection.
Laz and his pal Fred (Charlie Finn) take a job at the local mall working at Yippee, Hot Dogs, where the indignities of their tyrannical boss, Mr. Hut (Maz Jobrani), are compensated for by the darling Lily (Rachelle Lefevre), who Laz quickly sets about wooing.
Unfortunately, everyone seems to speak with roughly the same detached, wry voice, like Laz telling surly teen Molly that their parents will “regret the day they decided to love you unconditionally,” or Fred musing, “I’m starting to think I might be a coward.” Clever stuff, but there’s no sense of reality behind these characters other than serving as a vessel to deliver the lines.
Granted, it’s hard not to chuckle at a riff that runs through the premiere about gleaning life lessons from “Spartacus,” as Laz tries to lead sleepy co-workers in revolt against Mr. Hut (whose Arab-sounding accent, rather refreshingly, goes unmentioned).
Still, thus far Fresco’s coming-of-age story doesn’t appear to be doing much coming or, for that matter, going. Laz likes Lily. Lily likes Laz. Laz and Fred hang out, and the kids both resent their overmatched parents, who sneak off for sexual trysts in the garage.
Add it all up, and it’s going to be challenging to concoct enough humor about dead-end jobs to prevent “Life on a Stick” (a not particularly illuminating reference to Yippee’s deep-fried ‘dogs) from feeling like a dead-end comedy.
In fact, if Laz and Fred were home eating a pizza and this show came on, they’d probably watch numbly for awhile, maybe chuckle once or twice, then get bored and pop in that DVD of “Spartacus.”
Life on a Stick
Fox, Wed. March 23, 9:30 p.m.
Production: Taped in Los Angeles by Garfield Grove in association with Paramount Network TV. Executive producers, Victor Fresco, Andy Ackerman; co-executive producers, Maggie Bandur, Michael Ross, Michael Teverbaugh, Miriam Trogdon; producer, Marc Solakian; director, Ackerman; writer, Fresco.
Crew: Camera, Nick McLean; production design, Wendell Johnson; editors, Andy Chulack, Peter Beyt; music, Brian Kirk, Jeff Burns, Greg Burns; casting, Julie Mossberg, Jill Anthony. Running Time: 30 MIN.
Cast: Laz - Zachary Knighton Fred - Charlie Finn Rick - Matt Glave Michelle - Amy Yasbeck Molly - Saige Thompson Gus - Frankie Ryan Manriquez Lily - Rachelle Lefevre Mr. Hut - Maz Jobrani Jasper - Ryan Belleville
A Review from The New York Times
TV REVIEW | 'LIFE ON A STICK'
A Slacker Comedy Works Hard to Sell Itself
By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
Published: March 23, 2005
Life on a Stick," which starts tonight on Fox, is a dippy comedy with no rhythm and no good jokes, but it's so servile and eager to please that you may be tricked - for an episode, at least - into giving it a chance.
It's the story of Laz (Zachary Knighton), a recent high school graduate who works at Yippie, Hot Dogs, a fast-food place in a mall in Seattle. A girl Laz likes, Lily (the gorgeous Rachelle Lefevre), works with him, as does his best friend, Fred (Charlie Finn). The three make mischief at Yippie, Hot Dogs. Tonight, for example, they batter-fry things from their boss's office!
It's a disappointing spectacle. You don't even get to see the stuff go into the fryer.
But you'd better like that name, Yippie, Hot Dogs, because when the writing runs thin here, which is often, "Life on a Stick" relies for laughs on what it sees as the intrinsic hilarity of mall culture with its tacky stores and their silly names.
Remember when it actually was funny - and devastating - that Judge Reinhold's character in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" was emasculated by the big pirate's hat he was required to wear as an employee of Captain Hook's Fish and Chips? That was 1982. Now, 23 years later, it's less interesting. Uniforms have already passed from expressions of pride to symbols of humiliation to ironic thrift-store wear and now back to bearable nuisances. The overdesigned uniforms in "Life on a Stick" - striped in primary colors, trimmed with a smiley-face pattern and finished with a hot dog-adorned apron and matching toque - are almost hard to look at, they're simultaneously so garish and so humorless.
But there's more to the hardworking "Life on a Stick" than Yippie, Hot Dogs and the uniforms. There is Laz's home life. He lives with his father, Rick (Matthew Glave, whose voice is unusually soft for a sitcom), and his stepmother, Michelle (Amy Yasbeck, the poor man's Marcia Cross). The self-satisfied couple sell beauty products, like moisturizer, on the Internet. That's a decent concept; maybe something will come of it.
Rick and Michelle have all but given up on Laz and Molly (Saige Thompson), Michelle's daughter from an earlier union, who is supposed to be a dangerously punky rebel; in fact, she's a stock sarcastic daughter. Instead, the parents care only for each other and their mutual son, Gus (Frankie Ryan Manriquez), an irritating 9-year-old.
Laz has a heroic mode, which he exhibits in tonight's episode when he decides that Fred, Lily and he are being taken advantage of by their captious boss, Mr. Hut (Maz Jobrani). He first defies Hut in vain, but then plays a scene from "Spartacus" for Fred - "I am Spartacus" - to put him in the mood for rebellion. A later opportunity presents itself, and everyone bucks the boss, "Spartacus"-style.
This comedy might be funnier if it really confronted Laz's hatred of his half-brother, Gus, or his despair at his father and Michelle's ostentatious sex life. But Laz is too carelessly drawn to have consistent, believable or sustained feelings about his family; he's busy making ingratiating mall jokes. As it is, the most affecting part of tonight's episode of "Life on a Stick" is the clip from "Spartacus."
'Life on a Stick'
Fox, tonight at 9:30 Eastern and Pacific times; 8:30 Central time.
Created and written by Victor Fresco; executive producer, Mr. Fresco; Maggie Bandur, Michael Ross, Michael Teverbaugh and Miriam Trogdon, co-executive producers; Adam Chase, consulting producer. Produced by Paramount Television.
WITH: Zachary Knighton (Laz), Charlie Finn (Fred), Maz Jobrani (Mr. Hut), Rachelle LeFevre (Lily), Matthew Glave (Rick), Amy Yasbeck (Michelle), Saige Thompson (Molly), Ryan Belleville (Jasper), Frankie Ryan Manriquez (Gus).
A Review from USA TODAY
Cast, characters skewer 'Life on a Stick'
By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY
Funny hats and a few good lines do not a sitcom make.
True, in a season in which amusing moments have been few and far between, no opportunity to laugh should be dismissed too lightly, particularly when the laughs come from someone like Victor Fresco, the creator of the much lamented Andy Richter Controls the Universe. Equally lamentable, Life on a Stick finds this major TV talent working in a distinctly minor mode.
On the plus side, Andy fans will find some of the same bursts of absurdist humor and clever dialogue that made Andy so special, from the image of workers trapped in a hot-pretzel booth to this throwaway response to a character's "I'm going out": "How sad for everyone who is already out." Fresco's skills are intact, but he's working here with less interesting characters and a far less adept cast.
Indeed, you almost get the sense that in response to Andy's failure and Fox's mistreatment of the show, he has dumbed things down for the network.
So in place of Andy's innovations you get a by-the-numbers Fox family show: smart kids with dumb parents and strange friends. Half the characters seem to have been directly transferred from That '70s Show, which is hardly a model that bears repeating.
The "stick" in the title refers to the hot-dog-on-a-stick joint that provides employment and big hats for 18-year-old best friends Laz (Zachary Knighton) and Fred (Charlie Finn) at the local mall. They work for Mr. Hut (Maz Jobrani), a tyrant who borders awfully closely on an offensive ethnic stereotype, and with Lily (Rachelle Lefevre), who will become Laz's girlfriend by the time tonight's pilot is over.
Laz's home life is as standard-issue as his work life. His father and stepmother (Matthew Glave and Amy Yasbeck) are generally well-meaning and totally ineffectual. Their dream seems to be to get Laz to mentor his angry stepsister, Molly (Saige Thompson), so they can lavish all their attention on their wise-beyond-his-years youngest, Gus (Frankie Ryan Manriquez). That's unwise, not the least because Thompson is turning in the show's best performance, while Manriquez's character is bound to wear out his welcome quickly.
Life does have its moments, but to find them, you'll have to have a sizable tolerance for nonsensical plots and artificial comedic devices like, for example, the teens' refusal to use contractions. It's possible, of course, to laugh at the idea of deep-fried office equipment, but the whole exercise is just so vapid.
Now watch Fox stick with this one. Because that's how life works.
A Review from The New York Daily News
A FOX SITCOM OF 'STICK' FIGURES
By DAVID BIANCULLI DAILY NEWS TV CRITIC
Wednesday, March 23th 2005, 7:00AM
LIFE ON A STICK Tonight at 9:30, Fox 1.5 Stars
It's easy to imagine Fox executives giving a production order for its sitcom "Life on a Stick." "We want something with the same tone as "That 70's Show," they could have said - only set in modern times, with the characters even more oversexed and underbrained.
"Life on a Stick" (tonight at 9:30 on Ch. 5) is aggressively unfunny, though its laugh track would have you believe otherwise.
The setting is a corn-dog fast-food place at a mall, and the focus is on three unhappy teen employees working under the auspices of a manager named Mr. Hut (Maz Jobrani).
Laz (Zachary Knighton) is the nice young man who's in love with fellow employee Lily (Rachelle Lefevre), but has commitment issues - he wants to commit, she doesn't.
Laz's other co-worker, best friend Fred (Charlie Finn), is as juvenile as Fez on "That 70's Show" - except that Finn plays him as a next-generation carbon copy of Thomas Haden Church.
Other characters include Laz's stepsister Molly (Saige Thompson), who's loud and angry; Laz's stepmother Michelle (Amy Yasbeck), and Laz's dad, Rick (Matthew Glave).
There isn't a credible character, or a believably crafted joke, in any of the three episodes previewed. Jokes in the pilot include references to Hitler, Jesus Christ, and to Yasbeck's Michelle as a "totally hot mom."
Yasbeck, John Ritter's widow, fills that part of the bill, but "Life on a Stick" is an otherwise empty enterprise.
Knighton shows flashes of comic playfulness, and Yasbeck and Lefevre give this series its only arguable reasons for tuning in. But for a comedy, it's no fun at all. Series creator Victor Fresco, whose "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" was a delight, has derailed his own resume with "Life on a Stick."
"Sharp Stick in the Eye" would be more entertaining. And I'm talking about the action, not a show.
To watch some clips from Life on a Stick go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=life+on+a+stick+episodes&aq=f
For the Rachelle Lefevre Photo Gallery go to http://www.fanpix.net/gallery/rachelle-lefevre-pictures.htm
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Keywords: Life on Stick