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The Tracy Morgan Show aired from December 2003 until March 2004 on NBC.
This Innocuous black family sitcom, patterned after My Wife and Kids, starred Saturday Night Live's Tracy Morgan as Tracy Mitchell, a devoted dad and small business owner who had recently moved his family from the projects to a middle-class apartment building. Loud, bumbling but well meaning, Tracy was married to sensible Alicia ( Tamala Jones) and had two kids, shy, studious Derrick( Marc John Jefferies) and little wiseguy Jimmy ( Bobb'e J. Thompson), who spouted smarty-pants lines like "How do I put this?" Older guy Spoon ( John Witherspoon) and hulking young Bernard ( Heavy D) were mechanics who worked at his auto repair business while Freddie ( Katt Williams) was a wiry little hustler who lived in the neighborhood.
The executive producers were Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner.
A Review from Variety
November 30, 2003 5:00AM PT
The Tracy Morgan Show
By Brian Lowry
About halfway through the second episode, I found yourself wishing this undistinguished family comedy carried as many laughs as it does executive producers. Tracy Morgan has proved he can be a funny guy in sketches on “Saturday Night Live,” but playing another dad-who’s-really-just-a-big-kid-himself capitalizes only sparingly on those skills. As much as the modest success of the equally bland “According to Jim,” “My Wife and Kids” and “Still Standing” demonstrates the appetite for “Father Doesn’t Know Best But He Tries Hard” sitcoms, it’s also questionable whether NBC (think “Daddio”) can master the formula.
Ever since “The Cosby Show” signed off almost a dozen years ago, NBC has filled its coffers thanks to yuppie faves such as “Friends,” “Seinfeld” and “Mad About You,” the kind of sophisticated big-city fare with which 20- and 30-something media buyers can identify. In doing so, the network has gravitated toward non-nuclear sitcom families — workplace settings, gay-straight pals, etc. — and had trouble selling the more conventional variety. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Still, with apologies for saying “brandwise,” the Morgan show feels like a better fit for ABC, exhibiting scant edge beyond the occasional reference to race — most of those along the lines of “You know they don’t serve black people” at Denny’s.
Morgan plays yet another blue-collar guy with a model-pretty wife (Tamala Jones) — a sitcom tradition admittedly as old as “The Honeymooners,” though you wonder how the Stepford factory keeps pace with demand.
The couple has two precocious boys, the shy and studious Derrick (Marc John Jefferies) and disturbingly sitcomized Jimmy (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a 7-year-old forced to channel Redd Foxx. As a result, the adorable tyke gets saddled with huge gobs of dialogue, including unfortunate bits in which he lusts after girls and talks to his parents as if he were their age.
Tracy also runs a garage that includes a colorful cast of characters. The initial plots deal with Derrick getting a crush on a girl and Tracy’s fear of doctors. It’s all played quite broadly, but other than a genial ambience and Morgan’s natural rapport with the boys, the show won’t make anyone forget the family comedies on which it’s patterned, despite the Carsey Werner Mandabach-“SNL” pedigree.
Nevertheless, “Tracy Morgan” has the chance to work out for NBC — not only because it inherits a timeslot where the bar is set relatively low, but because by scheduling it there the network can bookend “Frasier” with “Whoopi” and “Happy Family” and ship “Good Morning Miami” elsewhere. Whatever the outcome, on paper that’s a more logical configuration than the lead-off pairing of those latter two series that opened the season.
In that context, even so-so ratings that gave “Whoopi” something to build upon against ABC and UPN sitcoms would represent progress, on a night where NBC would be content to finally start clicking again on one or two cylinders, much less all of them.
The Tracy Morgan Show
NBC, Tue. Dec. 2, 8 p.m.
Production: Taped in L.A. by Carsey-Werner-Mandabach and Broadway Video Television in association with NBC Studios. Executive producers, David M. Israel, Jim O'Doherty, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Caryn Mandabach, Lorne Michaels, Dave Becky, David Miner; co-executive producers, Bob Kushell, Peter Huyck, Alex Gregory, JoAnn Alfano; producers, Tracy Morgan, Steve Joe, Greg Schaffer, Bernadette Luckett, Shawn Wilt; director, Gary Halvorson; writers, Israel, O'Doherty.
Crew: Camera, Don Morgan; production design, Garvin Eddy; editor, Sean Lambert; music, John McCullough; casting, Robi Reed, Doran Reed. 30 MIN.
Cast: Tracy Mitchell - Tracy Morgan Alicia Mitchell - Tamala Jones Derrick Mitchell - Marc John Jefferies Jimmy Mitchell - Bobb'e J. Thompson Freddie - Katt Williams Spoon - John Witherspoon Bernard - Heavy D
A Review from The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; An 'S.N.L.' Veteran Samples Life on the Sitcom Side
By ANITA GATES
Published: December 2, 2003
Tracy Mitchell doesn't like hearing that his adolescent son is a little shy. ''To survive out there, you got to be strong, confident and relentless -- like them Jehovah Witnesses,'' Tracy (Tracy Morgan) tells his wife. ''They keep coming back, no matter how much bacon fat you throw at 'em.''
If you've seen Mr. Morgan before, it was probably on ''Saturday Night Live,'' impersonating Mike Tyson, Star Jones, Marion Barry, Maya Angelou or Mr. T. Or as the title character in sketches about ''Brian Fellow's Safari Planet,'' playing a television host who is slightly underschooled on his topic. ''The rain forest?'' Brian remarks to one guest. ''That sounds wet.''
Now Mr. Morgan, like many good comics before him, has been set down in a sitcom. On ''The Tracy Morgan Show,'' which has its premiere tonight at 8 on NBC, he has been assigned a fictional last name, a level-headed wife, two contrasting children, Early American breakfast chairs and an aggressive laugh track. All that can save him now are good writers.
The gentle racial and religious jokes are there (''Black people do not take children,'' Tracy says during a discussion of child abductions. ''We can't afford the ones we got.''), but Mr. Morgan's wonderful sense of the absurd is hard to use in this format. Even when it works, it seems somewhat out of place. Mr. Morgan plays clueless sublimely, but the spell is broken the minute his own natural intelligence comes into his eyes.
Sometimes, in the first two episodes, the humor is forced.
''Phobia -- isn't that the blond girl on 'Friends'?'' asks Freddie (Katt Williams), a friend who complains that Tracy is no longer the same guy he grew up with in the projects. (Tracy went to trade school for two years and now owns his own auto-repair business.)
Later, Tracy suggests that his 7-year-old son, Jimmy, take up the cello, rather than the flute, because ''what's the sense of being cultured if people can't see it?'' Little Jimmy (Bobb'e J. Thompson) says if that's what he's after, ''then why don't you strap me to a grand piano and roll me down the street?''
Jimmy is the boy seen, in television advertisements for the series, showing off his bare chest beneath a suit jacket and pronouncing himself ''dangerous.'' At times the knowing, smart-mouthed persona seems a little creepy. At other times it comes off as a harmless updated version of ''the irrepressible Ricky,'' as Rick Nelson was always introduced in the early years of ''The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.''
The older brother (Marc John Jefferies) and the mom (Tamala Jones) are voices of reason. One garage employee, Bernard, is played by the rapper Heavy D, but it's his co-worker Spoon (John Witherspoon) who adds the more interesting dimension. Spoon is the group's collective superego, expressing concern about the negative influence of video games and ridiculing Freddie for saying ''moneys.''
Tracy Mitchell is no Brian Fellow, a man blessed with almost total self-delusion, unaware that he is bluffing his way through life. Tracy Mitchell is competent, intelligent and cares about other people. Viewers can only hope that he'll get over that.
A Review from USA TODAY
'SNL' player ready for prime time
By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES Taped. From L.A. It's Tuesday night.
It doesn't have the ring of the classic Saturday Night Live introduction, but SNL alum Tracy Morgan believes his new NBC series, The Tracy Morgan Show (Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET/PT), has its own cachet: prime time.
"I wanted to see what prime time was about. I want to do it all. I want to do TV, theater, movies," he says.
The comic, 35, plays New York garage owner and family man Tracy Mitchell, tapping into his own working-class upbringing in Brooklyn and the Bronx. In the show, Tracy has a wife, Alicia (Tamala Jones) and two sons (played by Marc John Jefferies and Bobb'e J. Thompson). In real life, he and wife Sabina have three boys.
"It's not exactly the Morgans, but the family part hits pretty close to home," Morgan says. Many stories come from his childhood ("Bed-Stuy, do or die," he blurts, referring to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn). He credits lead writers David Israel and Jim O'Doherty with translating them into funny episodes. (Related item: Watch a clip from The Tracy Morgan Show)
Morgan, who spent seven years on SNL, has impressive producers on the series, including SNL chief Lorne Michaels and Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, the studio that came up with such family hits as The Cosby Show and Roseanne.
"We're talking about a family show from an authentic point of view," Tom Werner says. He doesn't completely shy from comparisons with Cosby: "If there are parallels, it's that both are talking honestly about parent and child and family stories."
Although Michaels has seen many SNL stars move on to film careers Mike Myers (The Cat in the Hat), Will Ferrell (Elf) and Eddie Murphy (The Haunted Mansion) are competing at the box office this is his first try at producing a scripted series.
Michaels says Morgan, besides his obvious humor, has a likability that's important for an actor seeking to be welcomed into people's homes each week.
"Tracy's really good, but he's also very warm. People like him and respond to him," Michaels says. Such popularity can buy time for a sitcom, which takes a few episodes to gel, he says.
Morgan delves into a topic most sitcoms avoid: race. In Thursday's show, Tracy's colleagues (played by John Witherspoon, Heavy D and Katt Williams) lament the lack of a classic black Christmas carol, despite African-American musical accomplishments.
"This show does talk about race. It does talk about the modern, working-class black experience," Werner says.
Morgan marks an unusual but good turn for NBC comedies, which have primarily featured upscale white characters, often centered in the workplace, Michaels says. The network has been broadening its offerings, with such series as Happy Family and Whoopi, the latter a Carsey-Werner-Mandabach show.
As a father, Morgan is happy that his series, unlike many comedies, will welcome families. But it won't be sitcom-sentimental, he says, and there will be flashes of outrageousness from an actor known for such SNL characters as dim-witted animal expert Brian Fellow and retro Astronaut Jones.
"Tracy Mitchell is outrageous, too. The difference now is he has a wife to bring him back," Morgan says.
Although Morgan is the main attraction, other characters get chances for laughs. Thompson, who plays 7-year-old Jimmy, gets some of the sharpest, funniest lines. Morgan disagrees when asked if they might be too sophisticated for a young child.
"Real kids nowadays say even crazier stuff," he says.
His own real kids are enjoying life in Los Angeles, where the New York native shoots his series.
"Yeah, they're chillin'," he says. "They're happy as long as Papa Bear is happy."
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on December 5, 2003
The Family Guy
Ex-'SNL' wild man TRACY MORGAN as Father Knows Best? It's not as crazy as you'd think.
By Bruce Fretts
Tracy Morgan has just finished taping a scene on the L.A. set of his self-titled NBC sitcom in which his character, Bronx auto-shop owner Tracy Mitchell, has a heart-to-heart talk with one of his sons. Suddenly, his nostrils flare. ''What's that smell?'' Morgan asks the crew. ''Smells like...Emmy!''
Sounds like the ''Saturday Night Live'' vet is ready to be a prime-time player. Aside from ''NewsRadio'''s Phil Hartman and ''Just Shoot Me'''s David Spade, ''SNL hasn't had a ton of success with crossovers to sitcom stars,'' says executive producer David M. Israel (who cocreated ''Tracy'' along with fellow ''3rd Rock From the Sun'' alum Jim O'Doherty). ''But people are going to be surprised by Tracy's warmth and depth.'' NBC entertainment chief Jeff Zucker believes that Morgan can make the transition: ''Tracy was telling jokes and acting on SNL. There's no reason to believe he can't do the same thing in prime time.''
During his seven seasons on ''SNL,'' Morgan created several recurring characters, including homeless lady-killer Woodrow; the effeminate and combative ''Safari Planet'' host Brian Fellow; and the swinging, singing space explorer Astronaut Jones. Now he's asking audiences to accept him as a much tamer creature: a sitcom dad. ''The Tracy Morgan Show'' (debuting Dec. 2 at 8 p.m.) casts him in the Bernie Mac -- Damon Wayans mold as a crusty-yet-cuddly family guy with a levelheaded wife (''Booty Call'''s Tamala Jones) and two rambunctious boys (Marc John Jefferies and Bobb'e J. Thompson). ''I've played outrageous characters my whole career,'' says Morgan. ''People don't know this part of me.''
The role is hardly out of character for the 35-year-old comedian: Morgan and his wife, high school sweetheart Sabina, have three sons -- Tracy, 17; Malcolm, 16; and Gitrid, 12. ''This character is close to me,'' says Morgan. ''The only difference is in real life, it takes more than 22 minutes to solve problems.'' Morgan's domesticated lifestyle caught his costars off guard. ''It shocked the s -- - out of me,'' says rapper Heavy D (who plays a mechanic at Tracy's garage). ''You can't see Brian Fellow with kids.'' Echoes Jones: ''I thought maybe he'd be wild with the chicks out at the nightclubs, but that's not him.''
Morgan's flava hasn't always been so mild. Born in the Bronx, he grew up in a hard-knock Brooklyn housing project. ''I did some things I'm not proud of,'' admits the comedian. ''I tried my little hand at drug dealing, but that wasn't me.'' Says Israel: ''He could've wound up like a lot of other people -- in jail or dead. Comedy was his saving grace.'' Morgan's father, Jimmy (who died in 1987), was a musician, Vietnam veteran, and master of the put-down contests known as jonesing. Recalls Morgan: ''One day he sat me on his lap and made me jones on somebody, and that was my very first joke. It was something about somebody's mom. Dude's name was Boo-Boo -- God bless the dead.''
In his early 20s, Morgan started jonesing professionally, and later guest shots on ''Def Comedy Jam'' and ''Martin'' brought him to the attention of ''SNL'' guru Lorne Michaels, who's now one of Tracy's executive producers. ''I wouldn't do it without Lorne,'' says Morgan. ''He's my Obi-Wan Kenobi.'' After he joined the ''SNL'' cast in 1996, screen time was scarce (his first on-camera appearance was as a Caribbean magic man in a commercial parody), but Morgan eventually became one of the sketch show's MVPs. ''I learned how to be patient,'' he says. ''And when my shot came, I took full advantage of it.'' Just as Morgan had established himself as a go-to guy, however, he called it quits at the end of last season. ''I didn't want to stay too long,'' he says. ''I wanted to leave on top.''
Now Morgan faces the tough task of shoring up NBC's struggling Tuesday-night lineup, having bumped ''Whoopi'' out of the leadoff spot. With his series, Morgan wants to present a more working-class New York City than ''The Cosby Show'' did. ''We're not quite the Huxtables -- we're a little to the left,'' he says of the Mitchells. ''We're from the streets. There's love and affection in the hood, and we're going to show that.'' While Tracy Mitchell might not boast as much street cred as Woodrow, he's not Ward Cleaver, either. ''We're going to keep our edge,'' he promises. ''Ain't nothing sappy about Tracy Morgan.''
To watch clips of The Tracy Morgan Show go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+tracy+morgan+show+full+episodes
For more on The Tracy Morgan Show go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tracy_Morgan_Show
For a Website dedicated to Tracy Morgan go to http://www.tracymorgan.net/
For a Review on The Tracy Morgan Show go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080726002205/https://www.popmatters.com/tv/reviews/t/tracy-morgan-show.shtml
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YBb2vpllog
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