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The Fighting Fitzgeralds aired from March until May 2001 on NBC.
Blustery, barrel-chested " Fitz" Fitzgerald ( Brian Dennehy), was a retired fire captain and a widower, but he wasn't enjoying his retirement. The modern world where adult men go to therapy, kids call their teachers by their first names, and political correctness reigns was to much for him. So were his 3 grown sons, who, seemingly, would never leave the house. Jim ( Justin Louis), was the sensible gym teacher, married to tart-tongued Sophie ( Connie Britton), and father to adorable Marie ( played by Dakota Fanning in the pilot and Abigail Mavity in the series). Terry ( Christopher Moynihan), was a goofy layabout bartender, who could hardly say a word without getting slapped upside the head by Fitz. Patrick ( Jon Patrick Walker), the youngest was the biggest disappointment of all, a successful stockbroker who had chucked it all in order to find himself, while returning home to sleep on the family couch. They squabbled and sparred, sometimes hanging out at Gibson's Tavern, but by the end of each episode Fitz was revealed to be, under that gruff exterior, a sentimental pussycat.
Loosely based on the 1995 film, The Brothers McMullen.
A review from variety
March 5, 2001 11:00PM PT
The Fighting Fitzgeralds
By Steven Oxman
In NBC’s “The Fighting Fitzgeralds,” Brian Dennehy stars as an Irish curmudgeon patriarch to a clan of three grown boys, one daughter-in-law and a young granddaughter. With a kinder, gentler Archie Bunker at its center, the show also boasts clear elements of the indie film “The Brothers McMullen,” written and directed by Edward Burns, who is one of the exec producers here. Throw in the young kid and you’ve got three sitcoms in one. None of them are particularly funny, but that doesn’t necessarily make this show bad. It’s exactly the kind of easy-to-take half hour that may, with the right handling, eke along without becoming a break-out performer, just appealing enough to just enough of a broad audience base to survive.
Dennehy plays Mr. Fitz, as he’s called, an Irish Catholic widower and retired firefighter who still has trouble adjusting to a world where adult men go into therapy and kids call their teachers by their first names. With his late wife, whom we learn nothing about in the pilot, he has raised three very different boys. There’s the no-nonsense Jim (Justin Louis), a gym teacher who is married to the lovely Sophie (“Spin City’s” Connie Britton) and father to adorable Marie (Dakota Fanning). Then there’s ne’er-do-well bartender Terry (Chris Moynihan), who can barely open his mouth without getting smacked in the back of his head by his disapproving father. And, finally, there’s Fitzgerald’s pride and joy, his youngest son Patrick (Jon Patrick Walker), who, setting the pilot in motion, announces that he has quit his high-powered job as a stockbroker and wants to move back home.
While “The Fighting Fitzgeralds” does raise memories of “All in the Family,” it has already gone right past that show’s edginess to the forgettable “Archie Bunker’s Place,” where the famous grump had already been revealed as a teddy bear at heart and was busy raising a kid to prove it. Dennehy can scream and shout all he wants, but the bluster belies the soft core underneath. The biggest difference: Carroll O’Connor could make his character’s contempt for all things modern known with the raise of an eyebrow. In this pilot, Dennehy has to say it all, and then say it again: “When I was growing up,” he might say, or some other phrase introducing another quip to mark the generational difference. O’Connor could just spit out a raspberry, and didn’t need to explain. That was a whole lot funnier.
Still, Dennehy, who also co-exec produces, is a real pro with a presence all his own, and if he relaxes into the role, he may find that the comedy comes more easily when he exerts less energy. It’s hard to imagine anyone better suited to this particular role, and there are signs that Dennehy may develop some real chemistry with members of this able cast, particularly Britton and Moynihan.
The show could still go in any number of directions, but with its mushy underbelly already exposed, “The Fighting Fitzgeralds” seems most at home as a family show, one that can survive on slight sentimentality more than biting adult humor. Each week, Fitzgerald can find a way to tell someone he loves them, despite his discomfort at voicing such feelings. The show is inoffensive, even though it pretends to be otherwise with a few strict nun and drinking Irishmen jokes. The network seems to have positioned it properly by placing it in the 8 o’clock Tuesday slot after launching it at 8:30.
The Fighting Fitzgeralds
NBC; Tues. March 6; 8:30 p.m.
Production: Taped in Los Angeles by Artists Television Group in association with NBC Studios. Executive producers, Phoef Sutton, Edward Burns, Brian Burns; co-executive producers, Brian Dennehy, Mark Legan; producer, Faye Oshima Belyeu; director, James Widdoes; writers, Sutton, Edward Burns, Brian Burns.
Crew: Director of photography, George Law Fountaine; production designer, Dahl Delu; music, Jonathan Wolff, Rich Ragsdale; casting, Susan Vash, Emily Des Hotel. 30 MIN.
Cast: Fitzgerald - Brian Dennehy Jim - Justin Louis Terry - Chris Moynihan Patrick - Jon Patrick Walker Sophie - Connie Britton Marie - Dakota Fanning
A Review From The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; Dad's Irish Eyes Aren't Exactly Smiling
By RON WERTHEIMER
Published: March 6, 2001
It's a wee bit early for St. Patrick's Day, and it sure isn't time for Father's Day. So forget the calendar and join the celebration tonight as NBC serves up a new sitcom, ''The Fighting Fitzgeralds.''
The sit is familiar. The com is predictable. But with a heart as big as Brian Dennehy, who offers a deft performance as the tough-talking patriarch, this show is a keeper.
Mr. Dennehy, who recently triumphed onstage in ''Death of a Salesman,'' is a long way from Arthur Miller territory. He seems surprisingly comfortable, though, in Edward Burns territory. Mr. Burns and his brother, Brian, sons of a New York City police officer, conceived this family fable of a retired New York firefighter and his three grown sons, reminiscent of Edward Burns's 1995 movie, ''The Brothers McMullen.'' (The Brothers Burns, along with Phoef Sutton, a sitcom veteran, are credited as writers and executive producers.)
Seeming to borrow some of his characterization from that timeless farceur Moe Howard, Mr. Dennehy keeps referring to his sons as morons and slapping them upside the head. But Dad's no dolt. It's just that life hasn't worked out as he expected, and neither have his boys.
A widower who wants to be left alone to pursue his retirement hobby, painting still lifes and landscapes (see, the gruff old boy has a soft underbelly), he tries to hold on to his values while keeping the peace among his sons, who can't seem to leave home for good.
Jim (Justin Louis) is a gym teacher with a wife (Connie Britton) and young daughter (Dakota Fanning); Terry (Chris Moynihan) is a bartender with a smart remark for any occasion. The youngest, Patrick (Jon Patrick Walker), is a successful stockbroker. Make that was. Patrick has quit his job to look for another career, something he can love.
Love? Dad is appalled. ''People who do love for a living are called hookers,'' he snorts.
While Mr. Louis and Mr. Walker are a tad too earnest for this material, Mr. Moynihan makes a fine foil for Mr. Dennehy.
Dad (the script never gives him a first name) is angry that the boys never told him that Patrick had been living with his (now ex-) girlfriend. ''You can keep a secret from me, morons,'' he declares ominously, gesturing heavenward, ''but you can't keep a secret from the Big Guy.'' Terry quickly asks, ''Santa?''
And when Dad suggests that the brothers cheer Patrick up but isn't crazy about Terry's idea of taking him out to get drunk, Terry says: ''He's sad. It's happy hour. We're Irish. Do the math, Dad.''
Offensive? Maybe. Subtle? Hardly. Funny? Yeah.
Here's a funny network pilot with a dusting of charm and no whiff of rancid irony. Even this far from Arthur Miller territory, attention must be paid.
THE FIGHTING FITZGERALDS
NBC, tonight at 8:30
(Channel 4 in New York)
Faye Oshima Belyeu, producer; Phoef Sutton, Edward Burns and Brian Burns, writers and executive producers; James Widdoes, director; Mark Legan and Brian Dennehy, co-executive producers; Will Gluck, supervising producer. Produced by Artists Television Group with NBC Studios.
WITH: Brian Dennehy (Mr. Fitzgerald), Justin Louis (Jim Fitzgerald), Connie Britton (Sophie), Christopher Moynihan (Terry Fitzgerald), Jon Patrick Walker (Patrick Fitzgerald) and Dakota Fanning (Maria Fitzgerald).
A Review from the Washington Post
'Fighting Fitzgeralds': Out-of-Whack Sitcom
By Megan Rosenfeld March 6, 2001
NBC is giving us just what we need -- another half-hour in which family members scream and yell at each other! "The Fighting Fitzgeralds" (Channel 4, 8:30 p.m.), a temporary midseason replacement for "3rd Rock From the Sun," also manages to insult and demean the Irish, and Catholics in general. It's a lot to accomplish in just 22 minutes, but somehow the creators of this sitcom rise to the challenge.
Brian Dennehy is listed as both co-executive producer and star, so he cannot be held blameless for this dysfunction-fest. Seems like only yesterday he was accepting a Tony Award for playing Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman." Maybe they should rename this show "Death of an Acting Talent." I know actors often do sitcoms to pile up a little well-deserved cash for a rainy retirement day, but it's a shame when they choose loser ideas like this.
Dennehy plays a retired fireman named Fitzgerald (his first name appears to be "Mr.," from the info supplied by NBC) whose favorite word for each of his three sons is "moron" and second favorite word is "shaddup." When he isn't chewing them out -- son Terry (Chris Moynihan) is his favorite target -- he's making fun of modern innovations like psychotherapy, safe toys and expressing love for your family. "Kids should choke on something every now and then. That's how they learn not to put things in their mouth," he says at one point.
In tonight's episode, when son Patrick (Jon Patrick Walker) announces he's quit his high-paying job as a stockbroker and also reveals that he's been seeing a therapist, Fitzgerald is so apoplectic you fear the rotund Dennehy will explode right there. Paying someone to let you "blame your parents for everything" is ridiculous, he screams.
"A priest will let you do that for free," ripostes son Terry.
Later Fitzgerald encourages Terry and oldest son Jim (Justin Louis) to have a talk with the recalcitrant Patrick. "Hey, Patrick, wanna go get drunk?" yells Terry. When Dad objects, Terry says, "He's sad. It's happy hour. We're Irish. Do the math, Dad."
Fitzgerald is such a blowhard SOB that when he shows a little tenderness near the end of the episode it's hard to stomach, let alone believe. This is not just generation gap tussling -- the man is abusive.
But it's not the boorish stereotyping that really sinks this clinker. Producers Phoef Sutton ("Cheers"), Edward Burns ("She's the One") and Brian Burns must have locked the writers in a room and said, "Look, anyone who fails to add a cliche every five minutes will be taken out and shot."
They've got the widowed dad with three sons, the working-class neighborhood, the cute little granddaughter, and the neighborhood bar where everyone knows your name. Even the living-room set with its central couch looks familiar -- was it recycled from "The Cosby Show"? "My Three Sons"? "Sanford and Son"?
It couldn't have been "Titanic," right?
Tony Award winner Brian Dennehy shows little of his formidable acting ability as the grumpy patriarch in NBC's stereotyped "Fighting Fitzgeralds."
A Review from the Chicago Tribune
`The Fighting Fitzgeralds' Goes Down For The Count
March 06, 2001|By Steve Johnson.
In NBC's punch-drunk but punchline-sober sitcom "The Fighting Fitzgeralds," Brian Dennehy plays the kind of bluff father who calls his sons "morons," then whacks one on the back of the head.
Who is really wearing the dunce cap in the launching of this midseason re-placement series is an open question. The show debuts at 7:30 p.m. (WMAQ-Ch. 5) before moving next Tuesday to its regular time period of 7 p.m.
The morons might, indeed, be the boys, three grown men still living with pops and behaving as if overt sibling rivalry gets even cuter when it comes with whiskers.
They bicker, they booze and they battle over such predictable issues as who ma liked more and who will hold pa's attention. And, yes, sadly, there is even a fight, which would seem to be the last thing you'd want to include in a show bearing this tired and ethnically offensive title.
The series is set into motion Tuesday when the yuppie brother, the one who "made good," quits his job to move back in and find himself, a notion Dennehy's father figure finds outrageously soft.
"Burnout?" he bellows, like a steam boiler in the moments before it explodes. "You're 28 years old. You work behind a desk."
The moron might also be Dennehy's ex-fireman character, determined to always be the center of attention as he plays the role of overly macho celebrant of the way things used to be.
The moron might be Dennehy himself, who really was, not long ago, doing a heartbreaking turn as Willy Loman in the Goodman Theatre production of "Death of a Salesman."
Dennehy milks what he can from "Fitzgeralds"' somewhat less timeless material. He turns a predictable riff on toys being too safe these days into a winner simply by selling it so hard. And he manages to suggest something that isn't necessarily in the writing, that this character is aware he is playing a role.
But he's also got to deliver rote stuff about priests and nuns and, in the first scene, an execrable line about dog excrement.
There might have been something here, in the tensions of an unusual family situation. But almost every time it is faced with a choice of doing something real or something sitcommy, "The Fighting Fitzgeralds" goes for the familiar. Any brief spell of wisdom gets broken, soon enough, by the laugh-track audience guffawing at something that only people who exist on tape would find funny.
You can understand Dennehy taking a crack at sitcom stardom. The money and fame can be very good, indeed. And this one had some credibility going in, coming from filmmaker Edward Burns, his brother Brian, and ex-"Friends" writer Phoef Sutton.
Burns wrote, directed and starred in the decent but overpraised independent film "The Brothers McMullen," which told a very similar story. Usually when TV turns to an indie filmmaker for a series, it wants something unusual and edgy, which it then cancels after audiences don't take to it immediately and executives find it too unsettling to earn their forbearance.
What's really odd about "The Fighting Fitzgeralds" is that it arrives having gone through a fine filter for anything the least bit subversive. This looks, start to finish, like a TV show.
So perhaps the true morons are somewhere in the halls of NBC, snickering into their French cuffs as they convince themselves the American public is moronic enough to swallow this overly familiar formula.
Or, it must be said, the moron might be me for devoting so much space to so inconsequential a television series. I can feel Dennehy's hand on the back of my head now.
A Review From The Seattle Post
'Fitzgeralds' serves plenty of spirit and stereotypes
Tuesday, March 6, 2001
By JOHN LEVESQUE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER TELEVISION CRITIC
I have this idea for a sitcom about a Franco-Canadian-American family. It really ought to fly someday, because how many comedies can you remember about people named Levesque? Or Cournoyer? Or Robitaille? I'm thinking of calling it "The Fighting Canucks." The networks are always looking for fresh new material about feisty people who shout a lot.
True, the French-Catholic families in the neighborhood where I grew up were about as feisty as creme brulee, but seething beneath those pale Gallic exteriors were emotionally repressed souls just aching to burst into fits of unchecked moderate behavior.
Alas, I've been aced out again this midseason by a similar idea from the actor Edward Burns ("The Brothers McMullen") and his brother, Brian. The Burnses' show is about an Irish American family, which hasn't been tried on TV since "Madigan Men" went off the air 20 minutes ago. It's called "The Fighting Fitzgeralds" and features Brian Dennehy (also an executive producer) as a cranky widower whose three grown sons can't seem to leave the house. One actually lives there with his wife and daughter, another doesn't live there but spends most of his time there mooching, and a third recently quit his job as a stockbroker and is staying over until he gets back on his feet.
The Fitzgeralds: Brian Dennehy as the patriarch, surrounded, from left, by sons Jim (Justin Louis), Patrick (Jon Patrick Walker) and Terry (Chris Moynihan). The show premieres tonight on NBC.
Hilarity ensues as Dennehy, aka Mr. Fitzgerald, cuffs his boys in the back of the head, talks about the good old days of corporal punishment and cracks wise when he finds out the youngest son is seeing a therapist. The outward Mr. Fitzgerald is a clueless lout who fits all the negative Irish stereotypes, but we're given to understand he's a knowing, sensitive dad who can't show his true colors because, one, he's a macho Irishman who can't show his true colors and, two, NBC wouldn't have a comedy if he were something else, now, would it?
At least it wouldn't have a fresh, original, never-been-tried-before comedy. In "The Fighting Fitzgeralds," NBC has an ordinary, safe TV show about an Irish family with familiar names (the sons are James, Terry and Patrick), familiar jobs (Dad is a retired fireman, one of the sons is a teacher, another a bartender) and familiar habits (drinking and arguing).
"The Fighting Fitzgeralds" premieres tonight at 8:30 on KING/5, bracketed by episodes of "Frasier," but its actual time slot will be Tuesdays at 8 p.m. for the next several weeks while "3rd Rock From the Sun" takes a breather.
Presumably, if audiences take to "The Fighting Fitzgeralds," it could return next fall. And NBC could certainly do worse. Dennehy is a fine actor with a good sense of comedic timing. After one episode, the sons (Justin Louis, Christopher Moynihan and Jon Patrick Walker) are largely indistinguishable, but solid. And Connie Britton, who shone as Nikki Faber for five seasons on "Spin City," brings her wise-woman presence to the role of Sophie Fitzgerald, wife of Jim the gym teacher and mother of 6-year-old daughter Marie (Abigail Mavity).
So, for those who don't mind leftover Irish stew, "The Fighting Fitzgeralds" may be the perfect dish. Those waiting for creme brulee will have to wait a little longer.
To read an article about The Fighting Fitzgeralds go to http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=tcdWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=vkENAAAAIBAJ&dq=the%20fighting%20fitzgeralds&pg=5056%2C3337976
To watch clips from The Fighting Fitzgeralds go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+fighting+fitzgeralds+tv+show
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130406165836/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/ff.html
For a website dedicated to Dakota Fanning go to http://dakota-fanning.org/
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