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Regular Joe aired from March until April 2003 on ABC.

A well-meaning Dad tried to hold his somewhat splintered family together in this bland sitcom set in New York. Since the death of his wife Angela, and the birth of a baby to his unwed daughter Joanie ( Kelly Karbacz), amiable Joe ( Daniel Stern) was both Mom and Dad to his bright and busy daughter, a freshman at Queens College, and his gawky son Grant ( John Francis Daley), who was still in High School. Joe spent a good deal of time taking care of Joanie's baby Zoey, as well as fending off wisecracks from his own cranky father Baxter ( Judd Hirsch), who lived with them. The family business was a neighborhood hardware store, where Joe and Baxter ( and sometimes Grant) worked. Sitvar ( Brian George) was their snide, neurotic employee at the store, a native of India.

A Review from Variety

March 27, 2003 4:00PM PT
Regular Joe

By Michael Speier

Nebbishy Daniel Stern is as likely to run a hardware store as ABC’s “Regular Joe” is to survive. Yet that’s his job in this Alphabet laffer, a stinker of a half-hour that brings all kinds of plot elements to the table without scoring with any one of them. A likable guy who has ridden his “Breaking Away” and “City Slickers” fame to amazing heights, Stern hasn’t had much luck finding a small-screen gig since “The Wonder Years.” Keep looking.

Subscribing to the formula that the more heads under one roof, the funnier it is, “Joe” lines up five people and throws every possible situation against the wall. Stern is Joe Binder, a widower who lives in a cramped apartment with his pissy father, Baxter (Judd Hirsch); bratty son, Grant (John Francis Daley); and daughter, Joanie (Kelly Karbacz), a freshman at Queens College who’s raising a toddler on her own.

Pilot thrusts the family into viewers’ faces with little time for subtle introduction. Joanie just got into Columbia as a transfer, but dad can’t afford the tuition, since all he does is run a hammer-and-nail shop with the help of a sneaky assistant from India named Sitvar (Brian George). Meanwhile, Grant is whining about not making enough money while working there part-time, and Baxter drives everyone crazy.

There’s something very hacky about this whole venture, as if the network needed a quick fix and “Joe” was hanging around. Not only is the narrative stale, but the kickoff episode’s resolution is insane: Joanie gives up an Ivy League education because daddy convinces her it’s not really worth the sacrifices they’ll both have to make. Nice parenting.

Perfwise, the kids are sufficient — Daley has grown quite a bit since his “Freaks and Geeks” days — and Karbacz is rather sweet as the harried gal who juggles an amazing amount of responsibilities. But Stern, whose “Danny” was a bust last year on CBS, and Hirsch phone it in, realizing their respective characters with no edge and even less enthusiasm. Somewhere in the debut’s midsection, the two of them are watching a rerun of “Three’s Company,” and Stern turns to Hirsch while laughing hysterically. Hirsch’s response: “It’s not funny”

Exactly how you’ll feel.

Regular Joe

Series; ABC, Fri. March 28, 9:30 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Touchstone Television. Executive producers, David Litt, Nina Wass, Gene Stein; co-executive producer, Marco Pennette; producers, Linda Nieber, Amy Engelberg, Wendy Engelberg; director, Gary Halvorson; writer, Litt.

Crew: Camera, Jim Roberson; editor, Peter Beyt; production designer, Michael Hynes; music, Jonathan Wolff; casting, Dava Waite. 30 MIN.

Cast: Joe Binder - Daniel Stern Baxter Binder - Judd Hirsch Grant Binder - John Francis Daley Joanie Binder - Kelly Karbacz Sitvar - Brian George

A Review from The Houston Chronicle

Review: New sitcom 'Regular Joe' a waste of time, talent

ANN HODGES, Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle TV Critic Published 5:30 am CST, Thursday, March 27, 2003

Well, let's out with it: ABC's Regular Joe is a regular mess.

This new sitcom stars Daniel Stern, who hasn't had much success with sitcoms since his biggie as the grown-up voice of Kevin in The Wonder Years. Regular Joe joins TV's list of eminently forgettable shows.

Why anyone ever thought this premise would summon up more than a sigh of "Oh, no, not again!" is the question for ABC to answer.

It's a tired, old TV set-up: Can four generations of one family coexist happily in one Queens, N.Y., apartment? Why of course they can; we know that already. Sure, they fight, whine and complain. But every show ends in that sticky sitcom moment of sweet enlightenment, when all squabbles are off and family ties win the day.

Stern plays the regular Joe here -- Joe Binder, that is. His wife died two years ago. In these multigenerational TV households, mothers are frequently missing links, so that's no surprise. Joe divides his time between running the family hardware store and being Mr. Mom to his granddaughter, Zoe, and a good son to his buttinsky father, Baxter Binder. Baxter's played by Judd Hirsch, a veteran of some much better sitcoms, dating to Taxi and Dear John.

Zoe's mother is Joe's daughter Joanie (Kelly Karbacz), a college freshman. Zoe doesn't have a dad. Having a pre-toddler in the house is the kick up (or down) to jokes about diaper doings and nursing the baby. "Do I have to look at your udders again?" brother Grant demands as Joanie proceeds to feed Zoe at the breakfast table. It's a bit much, even for Grandpa.

Joe's son Grant (John Francis Daley of Freaks and Geeks) is a high school teen with a fear of driving and just about everything else. He works in the hardware store, and tonight he and his father go a couple of rounds about a pay raise.

The store's only other employee is Sitvar (Brian George), who's hardly a poster boy for his TV homeland of India. Sitvar is a lazy, lying troublemaker, and he has some kind of bizarre crush on the store's paint mixer.

In the premiere, the major crisis is Joanie's news that she's been accepted at Columbia University, and she really wants to go. Daddy Joe really wants her to stay at Queens College, and he has a good reason for wanting that. He doesn't have the money to pay for Columbia, since the college fund he'd saved for years became a "my-teenage-daughter-is-having-a-baby fund."

Joanie gets a job to work her way through. But when she runs into overtime at the T-Bone Diner, something's got to give. Good old Dad's doing the heavy duty on Zoe's "quality time." Now you know where this one's going.

Next week, Joe's giving a skitzy Grant a lesson in freeway lane-changing, without one single harsh word. And the whole family's trying to set Joe up for his "first date since Mom died."

Grandpa Baxter's candidate is Joe's top choice, because of her "melons." And that Grandpa, what a guy. He even supplies the condoms.

Regular Joe is an outie coming in.

Regular Joe, 8:30 p.m. March 28, ABC/Channel 13. Grade: D.

A Review from the LA Times

'Regular Joe': The title pretty much sums it up
March 28, 2003|Scott Sandell | Times Staff Writer

Never underestimate the power of likability to compensate for shortcomings. Case in point: the ABC sitcom "Regular Joe," premiering at 9:30 tonight.

As you might expect from the title, there's nothing groundbreaking or particularly distinguished about this series, at least judging from the first two episodes.

The premise, that of the single father, hasn't been a novel TV concept since the 1950s. Nor is it a new vehicle for its star, Daniel Stern, whose previous single-dad sitcom, "Danny," had a short-lived existence on CBS two years ago.

What sets "Regular Joe" apart is not the joke-telling, the camera work or even the family business -- a hardware store, one of those quintessential sitcom settings. Nor is it the plot of tonight's episode, titled "Puppetry of the Pennies," which focuses on the difficulties that the family members face in trying to make ends meet.

Rather, it's the actors and the characters assembled by series creator and executive producer David Litt for his cast, led by Stern as Joe Binder and Judd Hirsch as his father, Baxter. For as beleaguered as Joe can be -- what with being widowed two years ago; raising a teenage son, Grant (John Francis Daley); and supporting his college-age daughter, Joanie (Kelly Karbacz), a mother in her own right -- he never loses his happy-go-lucky spirit.

Obviously, this mind-set must be genetic, because everyone seems to share the same sensibility, right down to Joanie's infant daughter, whose sole bout of crying over the first two episodes is easily silenced by a bit of sweet talk.

The only real malcontent is Sitvar (Brian George), an immigrant from India who has worked at the Binder hardware store for 30 years. Though his scheming is relatively benign, more like mischievous fun than anything truly evil, it's unfortunate that the show's sole minority character is a troublemaker. It's sure to invite criticism from some quarters. But not here. After all, Sitvar is just so darn likable.

An Article from UPI

Cathy's World: 'Regular Joe' Daniel Stern
April 2, 2003 / 7:00 AM

LOS ANGELES, April 1 (UPI) -- A couple of years ago, character actor Daniel Stern (best known for the "Home Alone" and "City Slickers" films) wrote and starred in a short-lived CBS family comedy called "Danny," about a good-hearted guy recently separated from his wife and his everyday travails in raising a couple of kids.

Now Stern has a new family comedy on ABC called "Regular Joe," about a good-hearted, recently widowed guy and his everyday travails raising a couple of kids -- plus his unmarried, teenaged daughter's baby.

So naturally, there were questions at the ABC news conference about why this new Stern vehicle should succeed when the old one so quickly failed.

"Just in defense of Daniel's (old) show, which I don't know why I'm defending ..." began David Litt, creator and executive producer of "Regular Joe."

"Yeah, thank you very much," interrupted Stern genially. "It had a crappy time slot too."

"But this is a different forum," continued Litt, who pointed out that "Danny" used the trendy new single-camera technique -- which produces a more cinematic look -- and "Regular Joe" is shot in good old-fashioned multi-camera style.

"Personally, I think he will shine better in multi-camera, but what do I know?" shrugged Litt.

As it happens, "Regular Joe," which premiered Friday, is far better than (and far different from) the leadenly winsome, "Ed"-like "Danny," and I hope ABC gives it a chance.

"Regular Joe" may be neither revolutionary nor brilliant, but it crackles along at a smart comedic clip, whereas "Danny" moped and sighed. Much of this is due to the expert hand of Litt, who co-created another regular guy show, "The King of Queens," a solid hit on CBS.

And Stern can be quite engaging. He's the sort of wryly funny, self-deprecating guy who makes an impression on people -- even when he doesn't always know exactly why.

Several years ago, Stern spoke to his old high school's graduating class -- he's an alum of Bethesda Chevy Chase in Maryland -- and a parent in the audience still remembers him as "the best graduation speaker I ever heard."

But the actor can't remember what he said.

"In any event, I'm sure I was brilliant," he joked, chatting by telephone from the "Regular Joe" set. "My high school career actually was not exactly stellar.

"I loved gym -- I played a lot of basketball -- and the drama department and choir," Stern continued. "But I think I had a reading problem, to tell you the truth. I never learned to read that well until I did 'The Wonder Years' and had to read all that narration."

The actor provided the adult voice of Fred Savage's teen character, nostalgically describing his remembered adolescence.

Stern, 45, grew up in the suburbs of Washington, the son of a social worker father and day care center manager mother. The honorary chairman of the California state PTA, Stern has long been involved in political issues affecting the environment and children.

As a boy, he had a paper route delivering the Washington Post. "I actually had an old baby carriage and pushed that around instead of a bike," he recalled -- and looked forward to reading the latest Woodward and Bernstein stories about Watergate each morning.

"So when it interested me, I COULD read," he admitted.

Stern noticed that his best friend "seemed to be getting all the girls' attention" acting in school plays, so he joined his high school's drama department. His drama teacher encouraged him, but his parents didn't.

"My mom came to see me perform -- this is a famous family story -- and she said, 'God, it was just so sad. What kind of attention do you need that you have to do that in front of people?'" Stern recalled.

But he quickly found professional success, moving to New York after high school graduation and getting steady work as an actor almost immediately. Early breaks included getting cast in "Breaking Away" and "Diner."

Because he knew how to work stage lights, Stern got a summer job at the Washington Shakespeare Festival, which also turned out to be his first professional acting gig. That experience was also Stern's first as an activist.

He and the other apprentice actors got $100 for the summer, but the producers were late in paying them, so Stern called a strike.

"I was 17, and I shut down the play during intermission," he recalled. "They had the accountant drive in -- it ended up being like a 45-minute intermission -- I told the audience what was happening and got a standing ovation. That was a crossroads for me, standing up for myself, and having teenagers now I can see how important that is."

Stern is quite a regular Joe in real life. He's been married for almost 23 years (a rarity in Hollywood), and he and his wife -- who together started a Boys and Girls Club of after-school activities in Malibu -- have three children, aged 20, 17 and 14.

When a couple of years ago the Federal Trade Commission accused Hollywood of targeting minors with R-rated films and other sexual or violent entertainment, Stern began organizing a campaign to educate schoolchildren about media.

One thing the actor constantly had to explain to kids: No, it didn't hurt when he got hit by those bricks in "Home Alone" -- if he'd been really hit that hard, he'd be dead.

Such naivete about fantasy violence convinced Stern of his campaign's importance. He teaches a three-week seminar at Malibu High School, which his younger two children attend.

The actor went to the most recent Democratic and Republican conventions to try to get Washington sponsorship for his program, which is connected with the Center for Media Literacy in Los Angeles and the Creative Coalition in New York. He's visited Capitol Hill to speak to congressmen about education as a better solution than censorship.

"I had a meeting with Sen. Joe Lieberman, who seemed to be on board, and (former Sen.) Fred Thompson was terrifically supportive," Stern says. But after Sept. 11, government interest in the issue waned.

Stern's other current project besides "Regular Joe" is a new Off-Broadway play called "Barbra's Wedding," which Stern wrote (but doesn't act in) after being annoyed by helicopters circling Malibu when Barbra Streisand married James Brolin a few years ago.

The comedy, which opened last month at the Westside Theatre in New York, examines the contrast between mega-celebrity like Streisand's and the has-been celebrity of the main character, an out-of-work minor star of a long-cancelled TV show.

Stern hasn't heard from Streisand yet about the show. They met at a dinner party shortly after "Barbra's Wedding" premiered in Philadelphia last year, but she didn't mention it and he didn't bring it up.

With "Regular Joe," though, Stern is happy to leave the writing to others.

"I'm just glad to be acting," he says. "And it's the sweetest job you could ever have."

For more on Regular Joe go to
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Keywords: Regular Joe Cast


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