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10 Items or Less aired from November 2006 until February 2009 on TBS.
Happy young goofball Leslie ( John Lehr) returned to his hometown in Ohio upon the death of his father Bud to take over the family supermarket, which had been in the family for five generations. Unfortunately Greens & Grain was struggling due to competition from major chains, especially nearby Super Value, whose corporate owners wanted to buy Leslie out and turn the place into a parking lot. Leslie was tempted, but encouraged by his offbeat staff he decided to stick it out. Ingrid ( Kirsten Gronfield) was the quirky customer-service rep, Richard ( Christopher Liam Moore) the sensitive cashier who dreamed of becoming a dancer, Carl ( Bob Clendenin) the balding "stockboy," Yolanda ( Roberta Valderrama) the loud Latin produce manager who was pregnant with Carl's baby, Buck ( Greg Davis, Jr.)the eager young black bagger and Todd ( Chris Payne Gilbert)the scruffy young butcher. In addition to screwups at the store there was the omnipresent threat from Super Value, whose local manager, seemingly sweet but tough-as-nails Amy ( Jennifer Elise Cox), had been the popular girl in school when Leslie was the class nerd. She never let him forget it either.
An Interview with John Lehr from bumpshack
November 16th, 2006
10 Items or Less Q&A with John Lehr
I had the chance to interview John Lehr today about his upcoming TV sitcom on TBS called 10 Items or Less. John is a co-creator, executive producer and actor on the show. Chris Payne Gilbert, Robert Clindenin, and Roberta Valderrama co-star with Lehr. 10 Items or Less premieres November 27th at 11pm EST on TBS.
Did you research grocery stores for 10 Items or Less?
No, I wanted to do a work place comedy. We wanted a place that was wide open with lots of nooks and crannies and that would be evenly lit.
Is 10 Items or Less shot in a real grocery store? If so, what is that like?
Yes. Pretty great, it keeps everyone's ego in check. You see people who are really working. So it is hard to be a prima donna in that atmosphere.
Any unusual experiences?
There was a holdup on the other side of the store. We were unaware. We were so caught up in our own trip. You know a TV show being its own world. I asked the security guard later if he was scared, and he said it happens all the time. He said everybody steals. He had a totally negative take on humanity. It's not who you think would be stealing either. Older couples walking out with Ben Gay stuck in their pocket because they don't want to pay the five bucks for it.
Is the Greens and Grains similar to a Trader Joes or Whole Foods?
It's a straight up grocery store. More like an IGA. The show takes place in Dayton, Ohio. We really want to get into Midwestern element without making fun of it. It is a funny show because of the dialogue, not because it takes place in the Midwest. However, it does provide some great circumstances for humor to take place.
You created and star in 10 Items or Less. Do you prefer producing or acting?
I love them both. The reason I went into producing was because no one would do my show, so I just did it myself. I like both because they sort of feed on themselves. It takes me out of the insecure acting side. The acting side keeps me from trying to be too perfect and over managing. Timewise it is exhausting doing both.
What is the most challenging part of producing?
Being a leader is the most challenging part. Being the boss, being in charge of such a large group of people. Our staff is 150 people. It is hard trying to put people In a position to do their best without being a dick. I try to create a friendly environment.
As an actor is it tougher for you improvising or with a script?
Script. Improv comes very natural to me. My default is to improvise. I go into an improvising mode and that can be a headache for writers.
How much of 10 Items or Less is improvised?
All the show is improvised. We write it similar to Spinal Tap. We write a very detailed script that deals with story but we never show it to the actors. They show up on set and let it fly. If we do it right the script will naturally happen. Funny happens from spontaneity. We are looking for crazy, zany stuff that only comes out of improv.
Is the concept of working in a grocery store similar to being back in high school, where everyone knows everyone's business and rumors abound?
Exactly! Everyone has dreams outside the job. People are working but that is not their dream job or where they see themselves being happy. All the stuff going on around the job is the interesting stuff. Who is sleeping with who, what is the latest gossip, who is mad at who this week .
Why should everyone watch 10 Items or Less?
Because it is funny and the improv is all well and good. We think the show can be funnier because of the improvising. It is funny in a way that is different. It follows the characters and has a good story to it. The characters have a good story. They feel like people you went to high school with or use to make fun of.
A Review from Variety
10 Items or Less
(Series -- TBS, Mon. Nov. 27, 11 P.M.)
By BRIAN LOWRY
Filmed in Los Angeles by Sony Pictures Television. Executive producers, Robert Hickey, Nancy Hower, John Lehr; producer, Barbara Stoll; segment producer, Sam Feirstein; director, Hower; writers, Hickey, Hower, Lehr.
Leslie Pool - John Lehr
Carl - Robert Clendenin
Buck - Greg Davis Jr.
Todd - Chris Payne Gilbert
Ingrid - Kirsten Gronfield
Richard - Christopher Liam Moore
Yolanda - Roberta Valderrama
This partly improved TBS comedy is set in a grocery store, which makes it even more conspicuous that the product is so stale. Coming on the tail end of a slew of improvicoms, "10 Items or Less" labors too hard at being clever and occasionally teeters into shrill mode where a half-dozen characters are all yelling at each other simultaneously. The Turner-backed net is making a concerted push into series, but based on an initial sampling, this is the least appealing new item on its shelves.
Co-creator John Lehr comes from an improv background and brings a sprightly, Ellen DeGeneres-type persona to the role of Leslie Pool, the heir to a local Ohio grocery store, Greens & Grains, which he runs with tone-deaf sincerity. Surrounded by a posse of eccentric employees, he's nearly oblivious to threats in the first hour leveled by a former classmate ("Lovespring International's" Jennifer Elise Cox) who represents Super Value Mart, a Wal-Mart-like chain determined to either acquire or destroy him.
Not surprisingly, the staff harbors various ambitions that all seem plucked out of a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, from the cashier (Christopher Liam Moore) who yearns to be a professional ice dancer to the butcher (Chris Payne Gilbert) with plans to join the stock-car circuit.
Even at its best (translation: "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), improv can be a hit-and-mostly-miss proposition, and the backdrop and characters here aren't distinct enough to prevent a rapid descent into the most banal kind of jokes, among them: Who had sex with whom at a company picnic. Nor does it help that Lehr's dense, eager-to-please doofus is so bland and boring, contributing to an atmosphere that's inoffensive but not particularly interesting.
Every cable net (and a few broadcasters) has seemingly felt compelled to take a whack at its own comedy with some improv element, and inasmuch as "10 Items" kicks off a new latenight block, the risks are relatively low. Nevertheless, after a stroll through this wacky market, there ought to be a race to the checkout line.
A Review from The New York Times
TV Review | '10 Items or Less'
2 Left Feet Pace a Grocery Store's Aisles
By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
Published: December 4, 2006
The show 10 Items or Less, which began Nov. 27 on TBS, would make a great series on the Web. And that's praise. This new sitcom, bless it, doesn't have the shellacked quality that often makes people's eyes slide off typical sitcoms. Instead it looks like one of the handmade Web efforts, like The Burg on theburg.tv, that have heart and point of view and seem to be paid for by bartering stuff on Craigslist.
The game actors in 10 Items John Lehr, Roberta Valderrama, Jennifer Elise Cox and others seem to have dodged their profession's regulation surgical alterations and starvation diets. They look normal. And the set, a slightly grimy grocery store, doesn't look like the usual preschool-colored domestic trap. Absent too are the pretty makeup, the glossy hair and the heavy upholstery.
The bipolar script seems not to have been ratified by committee; neither have the performances. Finally, 10 Items seems to have stinted on the extensive post-production lab work that can turn what's supposed to be a comedy's 30 minutes of fun into 30 minutes of Enjoyment Science.
In other words, if 10 Items, which chronicles the bad times of a daffy loser who inherits his father's foundering grocery store, has taken some cues from Web video, that's a good thing. Much television now plays the way 80s MTV hair-metal acts used to play to young audiences: it looks bloated, artificial, overproduced and just dumb.
This series, like Arrested Development and The Office, is deliberately dirty. Mr. Lehr, who also created the show, wears his hair in a sticky style that suggests shower-free days. As Leslie Pool, the Trekkie and bumbling heir to Greens & Grains, he also has a put-on aura of can-doism that is mostly just irritating.
Mr. Lehr has been a reality-show host and has played some retro roles in movies and on television; he successfully comes across as an unctuous figure from days past, perhaps the heyday of the Dale Carnegie salesman. That 10 Items is set in the Midwest, a place that here makes no bid for urban hipness, helps stabilize its central anachronism, which is Mr. Lehr himself.
The first joke of the series comes on way, way too strong, and Mr. Lehr virtually brays the line. It concerns dandruff, and I can't bear to reproduce it here. You can be forgiven for turning away after you hear it. But what's interesting after that gaffe is the way the show seems to know that the whole enterprise is a square peg, an uncool kid, a maker of hit-or-miss jokes.
The episode culminates in Leslie's having to decide whether to sell the store to a grocery chain or commit to running it himself, though he evidently lacks the talent. The staff members, who make up the rest of the cast, seem to be counting on him. And so he gives them this St. Crispin's Day speech, invoking his dead father:
He was not a great businessman. He didn't understand graphs. He didn't understand profit-loss statements. He didn't understand Excel spreadsheets. I, by the way, don't understand them either. But I do understand this. I know how to sign on to the Internet. And that's exactly what I've done. While all of you have been downstairs stacking fruit, or cutting meat, or doing whatever you do, which I don't really know, I've been up here copying and pasting. Select all, open up a Word doc, and paste it. I've compiled it all together and put it in a nice little binder, and I call it Leslie's Lessons for Success.
This is just funny, and it works. Word doc works; the abbreviation is right on. And Mr. Lehr hesitates on profit-loss in a way that suggests he's not sure he has the phrase right. In a series that's about making mistakes, 10 Items seems to have mistakes in its DNA. And for that reason it might just fly.
As television converges with the Internet, the medium seems to be entering its own grunge or post-punk era with pared-down production values. Even as high-definition screens seem to demand seamless images, what people crave is evidence of humanity: irregular lighting, off-key jokes and even imperfect figures and complexions. Only this way will new shows appeal to young viewers, who online at least overwhelmingly prefer spontaneity to spectacle, and accidents to exhibitions.
10 ITEMS OR LESS
TBS, tonight at 11, Eastern and Pacific times; 10, Central time.
John Lehr, creator and executive producer.
WITH: John Lehr (Leslie Pool), Kirsten Gronfield (Ingrid Wakowski), Roberta Valderrama (Yolanda Nelson), Chris Payne Gilbert (Todd Sykes), Robert Clendenin (Carl Dawson), Christopher Liam Moore (Richard Mednick), Greg Davis Jr. (Buchwald Washington) and Jennifer Elise Cox (Amy Anderson).
Correction: December 6, 2006
A television review on Monday about 10 Items or Less, on TBS, misidentified the episode shown that night. In that episode, Leslie tried to attract customers to his grocery with a stain on the wall that resembled Jesus. The episode described in the review, which culminates with Leslie's having to decide whether to sell the store to a chain, was shown on Nov. 27.
The review also misstated the date the series began. It was Nov. 27, not Monday
An Article from The Boston Globe
Less scripted dialogue rings up more laughs on TBS's '10 Items'
By Joanna Weiss
Globe Staff / January 15, 2008
TBS's late-night series "10 Items or Less" appeared under the radar in late 2006, overshadowed by some of the network's better-publicized shows. But like some other low-profile cable fare - notably, Oxygen's "Campus Ladies" - it has a quirky spark that deserves much more attention. Cable is good for risks, and it's good for comedy.
Especially improvisational comedy, it seems. "10 Items," which airs tonight at 11, shares the same structure as "Campus Ladies" and HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm:" Episodes are plotted along a loose outline, but the dialogue is made up on the spot. And like "Curb," this show revolves around a central figure - Leslie Pool, the owner-manager of the underdog supermarket Greens & Grains - to drive the absurd situations.
As played by series co-creator John Lehr, Leslie is far more sympathetic than the ever-prickly Larry David. He's not a curmudgeon, but a well-meaning buffoon, a black sheep who comes back to run the store when his father dies suddenly. Personality-wise, he shares a lot with Michael Scott, the boss in NBC's "The Office." He loves his staff, even if he finds strange ways to show it. And he wants to be loved in return.
As in "The Office," this show is populated with quirky employees, from Richard (Christopher Liam Moore), an aging cashier with figure-skating dreams, to Ingrid (Kirsten Gronfield), a mild-mannered customer service clerk who will lose her virginity this season. ("10 Items" is generally more ribald than "The Office," given its hour and location on the dial.)
In tonight's season premiere, Leslie finds $5,000 in a hole in his office wall, then fashions a "Dollar Day" giveaway: He sets up a booth, powered by a fan, in which customers can grab flying bills. When two robbers arrive on the eve of the promotion, Leslie tries to stop them with reason.
"My man! It's cool! It's all good!" he says. "Listen, you're one day off. If you come back tomorrow, you can walk in here and get money without a gun. Tomorrow's 'Dollar Days!' "
Before the episode ends, one of his employees will experience Stockholm Syndrome and Leslie will engage in a failed rescue attempt, after removing his shirt in slow motion. This season seems to rely more on camera effects than I remember from the past.
But the sight gags and slapstick are less entertaining than the dialogue itself: In improv, it's often the throwaway lines that work best. Tonight, Todd the butcher (Chris Payne Gilbert) discovers that one of the robbers is a fellow butcher (he recognizes his "butcher's tattoo"), and appeals to a butcher's code of ethics. He just finds it hard to recall the wording.
"No butcher," he tries, "shall enter any promissory . . . where another butcher . . . with blood on his hands . . ."
"Maybe what you're saying is armed robbery is just bad," Richard suggests.
"Yeah, that's it," Todd says. "You don't rob fellow butchers, bro."
It's hard to do this justice in print; the humor is in the straight delivery. And in general, those deadpan moments provide for better comedy than the over-the-top ranting from Jennifer Elise Cox, who plays the manager of the big supermarket across the street. Still, her character is good comedy fodder. In an upcoming episode, she comes to work at Greens & Grains, and the employees quickly compare her to Darth Vader. Or maybe it's the Emperor; in one sequence, they debate precisely how the Star Wars analogy fits.
It's funny, and more impressively so for being made up on the spot. Thanks to the writers' strike, nearly everyone is working without a script on late-night TV these days. But these "10 Items" guys are professionals.
An Article from Pegusus News
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
TV show review and talent interviews: 10 Items or Less
"It's emergency acting," says Jennifer Elise Cox, describing the cast's improvisational approach to the series.
By John P. Meyer
10 Items or Less, a quirky, character-driven improvisational comedy set in a grocery store, made its premiere on TBS last season with a five-episode run. With eight episodes lined up for 2008, the "very funny" network is counting on the show to attract a wider audience - perhaps anticipating some help from the writer's strike to send a few script-deprived Daily Show viewers their way (it airs in the same time slot).
We had an advance look at the 2008 season opener called "Dollar Day Afternoon," which premieres Tuesday night (Jan. 15) at 10 p.m. North Texas time. Our DVD screener also included another episode - slated to air later in the season - called "Amy Strikes Back." Both shows were fun to watch: the characters are accessible without being rote, and the humor often originates from far left field as opposed to straight from a writer's personal joke repertoire. In other words, the comedic produce is pleasingly fresh - as one would expect given the unscripted nature of the material.
That's right: the dialog is completely spontaneous, in that the actors are provided with only a "loose script" - meaning that just the central episode theme and story game-plan have been pre-established, allowing the character interactions to occur off-the-cuff.
John Lehr (who's also a writer on the show) stars as Leslie, the good-hearted if somewhat naive inheritor of his dad's retail grocery business, who must come up to speed in the world of competitive food sales before his competitor and former high school love interest, Amy (played by Jennifer Elise Cox), has a chance to knock the props out from under his customer base.
The ensemble cast includes goofy-looking Bob Clendenin as Assistant Store Manager Carl; saucy Roberta Valderrama as produce manager (and Carl's erstwhile love interest) Yolanda; Chris Payne Gilbert as Todd, the hunky butcher; virginal Kirsten Gronfield as customer service chief Ingrid; Greg Davis Jr. as bagger (and part-time student) Buck; and Christopher Liam Moore as cashier extraordinaire Richard, who secretly harbors hopes of one day becoming a professional ice dancer, even though he appears to be past his ice-dancing prime.
With its perky score, dysfunctional characters and often racy subject matter (one of the episodes I previewed finds SuperValueMart manager Amy the unwilling star of a leaked-to-the-internet security-cam porno), I found 10 Items... to have an Always Sunny in Philadelphia vibe going for it - and stars Jennifer Elise Cox and Chris Payne Gilbert agree.
I had a chance to talk with Jennifer and Chris when they stopped by Old Town's Central Market on a promotional tour for the show. As I waited for the two to work their way through evening rush hour traffic, I noticed that Central Market employees were sporting "10 Items" shirts, in conjunction with the public appearance the actors would be making in the upstairs cooking class area later that evening.
As we pick up the conversation, Chris is cozying up to Jennifer for purposes of my photography request; Jennifer notes that they arrived in town to attend Comic Con the previous day (Sunday, Jan. 13), and then we segue right into that bit about Condoms to Go.
During our conversation, Jennifer explains that "the second you worry about trying to be funny, it's just not funny;" we discover that Patrick Stewart is indeed the show's Director of Photography (but not THAT Patrick Stewart); we talk favorite TV shows and speculate about the effect the ongoing writers' strike might have on them; and we invite the pair to sit in on one of our weekly PegNewsers poker matches next time they're in town. (NOTE to blackjack dealers: Jennifer always draws on 16 and doesn't know when to quit.)
To watch some clips of 10 Items or Less go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=10+items+or+less+tv+show
For the Official Website of 10 Items or Less go to https://web.archive.org/web/20121116131457/http://www.tbs.com/shows/10items/
For the Archive.org of Greens 'n' Grains grocery store site go to https://web.archive.org/web/20120206000124/http://www.greensngrains.com/
For a Review of 10 Items or Less go to http://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-reviews/10-Items-Less.html
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Keywords: 10 Items or Less: Cast Photo