Poster: Mr. Television
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Working aired from October 1997 until January 1999 on NBC.
Matt ( Fred Savage) was a young, eager office worker starting his
first job in a huge, faceless corporation in this raucous , almost
surrealistic burlesque on the modern corporate workplace. His new
employer was Upton/Weber, a massive , international conglomerate,
although exactly what the company did remained a mystery. It's
headquarters was a gleaming skyscraper, complete with circling
vultures. Inside was a beehive of activity, although if you looked
closely nobody was actually doing anything meaningful. Matt's boss was
Tim Deale ( Maurice Godin), a weasely corporate politician whose credo
seemed to be make no commitments, don't work too hard, and never get
caught. Others in his department were Hal ( Sarah Knowlton), the sexy
Yale-educated , wildly over-qualified secretary; Abby ( Arden Myrin),
the perky eager-to-please social organizer; John ( Steve Hytner), the
sarcastic loner (who rebelled by wearing a loose tie); Jimmy ( Dana
Gould), the young worker who ratted on everyone; and Evelyn ( Yvette
Freeman), the brusque demanding office manager (her scowling visage
was seen on computer screen-savers in the background). The second
season saw the arrival of Liz ( Debi Mazar), a saucy , ambitious
worker, and Hal's replacement by the nearly identical Val ( Rebecca
McFarland).(As an in-joke, when Matt first sees Liz and Val he
mistakenly calls them Jimmy and Hal ). Stories revolved around office
projects and politics, the nonsensical decisions of management and
excursions outside the office. Elaborately produced mock commercials
for Upton/Weber were seen between the acts, but they did little to
clarify what the company did ("Upton/Weber....Making the products that
make you buy more of our products since 1892 ").
An Article from the Buffalo News
FRED SAVAGE GROWS FROM 'WONDER YEARS' TO THE 'WORKING' WORLD
By Alan Pergament | Published October 8, 1997
If he hadn't begun "Working" (9:30 tonight, Channel 2), Fred Savage undoubtedly would be strolling the same Stanford University grounds as Chelsea Clinton this fall.
The young boy who charmed a nation as Kevin Arnold in "The Wonder Years" is back playing Matt Peyser, a rather straight-looking and -acting college graduate entering the rat race at a generic monolithic corporation, Upton/Webber.
The boss, Tim Deale (Maurice Godin), is an unethical buffoon and sexual harasser of an overqualified sexy secretary from Yale, Hal (Sarah Knowlton). The operations manager, Evelyn (Yvette Freeman of "ER"), is a no-nonsense type who puts fear in the hearts of her employees. And, of course, there is a squeaky-voiced co-worker, Abby (Arden Myrin), who acts as the company cheerleader.
Well, actually she's a song leader.
When Matt is promoted, Abby leads a chorus of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."
When it appears that Matt is let go, Abby leads a chorus of "So Long, Farewell" from "The Sound of Music."
The script includes one classic line in which someone tries to explain why management officials travel in packs: "It prevents one of them from taking the risk of having his own opinion."
There are some clever bits in this pointed satire of the straight-laced business world and the corporate games people play. If "Working" has a downside, it is that its cast of zanies is so similar to so many other workplace comedies, especially to NBC's own "NewsRadio."
Savage essentially is playing the Dave Foley squeaky-clean part.
In other words, "Working" is the product of the same kind of generic assembly line business -- in this case, network television sitcoms -- that it ridicules.
Savage played "so long, farewell" by postponing his senior year at Stanford, where he is an English major. His favorite authors?
"My concentration at school is 20th century American writers," he explained in an interview in Los Angeles. "So Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Steinbeck are the guys who I just really enjoy."
You have to love a guy who calls the greatest writers of this century "guys."
That word probably best illustrates what kind of guy Savage has grown into.
As you'll see tonight, he isn't as cute a grown-up as he was a child. But undoubtedly he has grown up well. Just getting into Stanford is an achievement that illustrates his intelligence.
Perhaps the smartest thing he learned as a child is how easy it is for child stars to lose perspective and fall into bad habits that result in their becoming adult failures.
"You definitely hear, unfortunately, more about the kids who kind of got into trouble than you did about . . . Jodie Foster or Brooke Shields or Ron Howard or Susan Dey or Dean Stockwell," said Savage. "The list goes on forever of the people who have done well and is longer than the people who haven't. It just is unfortunate that people focus kind of on those."
The stories of troubled teen actors dominated the headlines while Savage was making "The Wonder Years."
"I think myself and a lot of the other kids who were on TV at the time were getting really involved in the entertainment industry amidst those stories, and I think we've kind of, as a generation that followed that one, of young people on television, really took those lessons to heart and learned from them.
"If you look at the kids who were on TV at the same time as I was, there's Sara Gilbert ('Roseanne'), who just graduated Yale; a good friend of mine, Scott Winger, who was on 'Full House' for several years, is at Harvard."
Danica McKellar, wonderful Winnie Cooper on "The Wonder Years," is at UCLA, and Josh Saviano (best friend Paul Pfeiffer) is at Yale, added Savage.
"Hopefully as the next generation of young stars are ushered in, they can see that being an actor or a young star or celebrity isn't a curse. It's a wonderful thing, and you can really make a great life based on that foundation."
Besides, being a child star means never having to work retail.
Asked if he has ever had a real job, Arnold looked bemused.
"When I was like 6 or 7, no," said Savage. "There's really never been a need for me to go get a job. I was a young kid. I was in high school. Then I went to college. My friends really have had internships. I don't know if that's a real job. I consider this a real job."
It certainly is a tenuous job. If "Working" doesn't work quickly, NBC could quickly send Savage back to Stanford.
He plans to go back for a visit to Palo Alto if "Working" becomes a hit. And where does he plan to stay?
"I live in a fraternity with a bunch of other guys," said Savage. "There will always be a floor I can crash on."
Yup, Kevin Arnold has grown up to be just a regular guy.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
An Article from the LA Times
Prime-Time Success Hasn't Spoiled the Savages
September 07, 1998|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER
Fred and Ben Savage have grown up before viewers' eyes.
Fred came to fame playing Kevin Arnold in the classic ABC series "The Wonder Years." Now 22 and one term shy of getting a degree in English from Stanford University in Palo Alto, he is entering his second season on NBC's sitcom "Working," playing a young executive who wants to ascend the corporate ladder by virtue of his own hard work.
Ben, who'll turn 18 on Sunday, is about to start his sixth season on ABC's comedy "Boy Meets World." Though his TV character, Cory Matthews, will be attending college in the fall, Ben has deferred his entrance into Stanford for a year.
Over several iced teas at Chin-Chin in Encino, the two brothers are bright and fun. Though they are mostly unrecognized at the restaurant, one young girl shyly walks over for an autograph from them both.
"Ben always sells me out, because all kids recognize him a lot more than they recognize me," Fred says with a laugh.
This summer, the Savage siblings toiled in the theater. Ben received good reviews here for the Israel Horovitz play "Unexpected Tenderness," at the Lee Strasberg Institute, while Fred went to Cape Cod and Connecticut to star with his "Wonder Years" father, Dan Lauria, in the play "Wendell and Ben."
Question: How did you like your life in the theater this summer?
Ben: It was such a nice change from what I'm used to on the show. It was a really nice contrast. A lot of people I work with on the show have been telling me, "You've got to open yourself up." [Fellow "Boy Meets World" actor] Bill Daniels was always one of the people who encouraged me to do theater.
Fred: Mine came about through a play reading. I read it [last year] with Dan Lauria, the guy who played my father on "The Wonder Years." The audience really responded to it. We both said we have some time this summer and let's put it together.
I love being at the theater. The moment I got to the theater, the moment I left--I loved it. I loved performing. I loved preparing.
Q: Do you both discuss each other's performances?
Fred: We see each other's stuff.
Ben: But we really don't talk about each other's work. We do support each other.
Fred: Especially because we are on the same lot, so I always go over and see him. We look out for each other. When I first came to do "Working" on the lot last year, it was my first year doing a sitcom. Ben was, like, a five-year veteran at that point in the sitcom world. He would always come over to our stage and stick his head in and see how I was doing. That was the first time Ben was kind of the pioneer. He was kind of the guy who ventured into this first.
Q: Has it been strange to spend your youth on television?
Ben: I think there are certain advantages and disadvantages. I could never try out for the basketball team or participate in some sports teams because I had other commitments. But at the same time, you are forced to grow up really quickly because you are working with adults. That helped me incredibly because you are sort of forced to grow up in a matter of years. Most kids slowly mature.
Q: Is there any sibling rivalry over your career or just normal stuff between brothers?
Ben: I don't think there has been anything except what most brothers fight over--trivial things. .
Fred: Annoying stuff, certainly not professional stuff at all. We haven't competed with each other, but that may change when I'm 34 and Ben's 30 and we're going out for the same roles.
Q: Fred, when Ben started "Boy Meets World," did you offer him advice on what life would be like as star of a series?
Fred: I think the times that we would talk wouldn't be as much professionally as personally--like Ben deferring his freshman year in college. We talked a lot about that because he was going to Stanford and I was at Stanford. We talked a lot about high school and what it was like to go to school on the set and how to handle school, especially during his junior and senior year, when academics became really important and college was an issue.
Ben: I went to a regular high school. I think the difference between "Boy Meets World" and "The Wonder Years" is that "The Wonder Years" would film for months at a time and he would rarely get to go back to school until March or April. With a a sitcom, you do two or three episodes and you get a week off. During that week off I'd be at school for a week. I didn't get the full high school experience, but I got enough.
Q: It sounds like you have great parents.
Ben: Our parents never wanted us to become lost in the limelight of Hollywood. That's why I think they emphasized the importance of school for us.
Fred: They were really careful to make sure we had a life outside the entertainment industry and that we went to a regular school and had friends who weren't involved in the business. I don't identify myself as an actor, or a TV star. I identify myself as "this is what I do." I live with two of my friends. One guy goes to work--he's an assistant at New Line--and the other guy goes to a bank downtown, and I go to the studio. We come back and we're just fine. We do our work. My parents didn't let that become what defined us. We had lives outside of that which were equally fulfilling and rich.
Ben: I think a lot of times parents become fans of their kids instead of their parents.
Q: You guys seem to have avoided the problems plaguing so many child stars, like the kids from "Diff'rent Strokes."
Fred: What upsets me the most is you see all of these cases gone wrong, and it's not a function of being a child actor. It really isn't. If you look at these kids, their home is where everything starts. If these kids played Little League baseball all of their lives, they still would have run into trouble. Maybe they wouldn't have had the money to have bought drugs, but they still would have gotten in trouble. The point is, it's not indicative of being a child actor. It doesn't go hand in hand.
Q: How did acting happen? Was it something your parents wanted for you both?
Fred: When did you get started?
Ben: I don't know. Fred was doing it and then I did it.
Fred: I was doing commercials. We grew up in this little town about 25 miles north of Chicago. I was like 5 years old and there were auditions being held at the local community center for a hot dog commercial. So, my mom and all my friends and their moms, we all went to the community center, just for something fun to do. I don't really remember it that well. I ate a hot dog and I was happy about that. Nothing came of it but this director remembered me and called me back a couple of times. They called us back for a third audition and my mom asked me if I wanted to go [to downtown Chicago] again and I was, like, "What is it for?" It was for Pac Man vitamins. Of course, I was, like, "Of course, of course." I got it and I started getting more and more commercials.
Chicago now is like L.A., but when I was getting started it was a lot smaller, particularly for young actors. The market wasn't flooded, so there was a need for child actors.
Ben: I just started to go out on auditions for commercials. I really don't remember how I got started. I guess I saw Fred doing it and it looked like fun.
Q: Where do you see your careers heading?
Ben: When we are older, he's going to be a famous director.
Fred: And he's going to be a famous writer.
Ben: I don't know. I have this dream that he's going to direct a movie and he's going to be in it. I always thought that he would be the perfect director. One time we did a play reading together. He directed the play reading and I was in it. It wasn't the best script, but it was a really cool for me because I always wanted him to direct.
Fred: You're still kind of into writing though?
Ben: I don't know if I want to write any more. That was a thing when I was 11 because I liked writing poetry.
If acting doesn't work out in television or movies, I would be perfectly happy going to New York or Boston and doing theater.
"Working" begins its new season Sept. 22, airing Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on NBC (Channel 4). "Boy Meets World" launches its new season Sept. 25, airing Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC (Channel 7).
To watch clips from Working go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=working+tv+show
For more on Working go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_(TV_series)
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