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Fall '01: "Inside Schwartz"

If you had the misfortune to see the Saturday Night Live episode that was hosted by Joe Montana and Walter Payton, you already know how good athletes are at comedy. The correct answer, for those of you who haven't seen it, is "not very good at all." Now replace Montana and Payton, who are considered fairly articulate in the world of professional athletics, with the likes of Judge Mills Lane, and you've put your finger on the basic problem with Inside Schwartz.

Adam Schwartz, played by Breckin Meyer, is supposedly an aspiring sportscaster, although he really works for his father's meat company. Or possibly sandwich company. I wasn't sure. The important thing is that his father is played by Richard Kline, who played Larry, the archetypal Wacky Neighbor on Three's Company. And he's the funniest thing on this show. Someone who used to regularly get out-funnied by Joyce DeWitt and Norman Fell is this show's one shining comic star. I guess all that talk about the decline of culture is true.

The "action" is interrupted by two sportscasters, Kevin Frazier and Van Earl Wright, the hosts of an imaginary sports show called Inside Schwartz. See, like "Inside Sports". Because "Schwartz" rhymes with "Sports". It's bad enough that he's named "Adam" for a feeble one-time joke, but they had to make his last name a joke, too? Er, sorry. Got distracted. My point is that these are real sportscasters, who can be seen in a very slightly more professional context on the National Sports Report. I would cast aspersions on their journalistic integrity, but I note that at least one of them has already appeared several times on Arli$$. And not only that, he seems to be proud of it.

Let's ignore the random sports figures for the moment. Inside Schwartz appears to basically be about Breckin trying to get back together with his ex-girlfriend Eve. Get it? Adam and Eve? Whoo. I realize that you're now crying with laughter, so I'll try to write so it'll make sense through your tear-filled eyes. Wait, that won't work; this show won't make sense no matter what you have in your eyes.

Whenever Breckin's life as a single guy starts to get dull (which is every second he's on the screen), that's when the sports figures get trotted out. One of the basic problems here is that Bill Buckner is only funny as a reference, not as an actual human being. Also, nobody knows what he looks like (which probably saves him a fortune in cleaning cow blood off his car), so Breckin is obliged to say something to the effect of "My golly! It's Bill Buckner! Whose fielding error is widely blamed for the Red Sox World Series loss in 1986! Although Calvin Schiraldi is not without fault!"

My fanciful dialogue no doubt sounds stilted and unlikely. But no more so than the real dialogue as read by Breckin Meyer. I can only assume that the producers wanted to make sure that they didn't overshadow the likes of Dick Butkus. Unfortunately, they did the job too well, so that when the occasional athlete who actually has charisma (like, for example, Magic Johnson), Breckin might as well not even be on screen. Which I'm not saying would be a bad thing.

Breckin (which is a fun name to type) is supported by some people other than Richard Kline. Their purpose is basically to stand around and get told about the plot. His friend Julie, for example, rarely even has a subplot to her name. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that she's there to look wistfully at him and wish that just once, he'd look her way. There's also a married couple who have plot-convenience parties to introduce Breckin to unlikely people. Instead of having a clever pair of names like "Adam and Eve" (personally, I would have named them "Noah and, um, Noah's wife"), they're named David and Emily.

David and Emily seem to think the show is about them; David's dialogue is pretty much all one-liners, while Emily keeps up the pretense that she's a driven career lady. But because it's all about Breckin, I'm not even sure what her career is. I know it has something to do with striding up and down while yelling into one of those cellular-phone-headset things. No, wait. I remember now: the joke with her is that she doesn't hold a job anymore (because they have one of those imaginary television children that never appears on screen), but she still strides up and down and is still, well, driven. Also, it might be twins instead of just one baby. I admit freely that I may not have been paying as much attention as I might have. But come on, this show premiered two months ago; if you were going to watch it, you would have already, wouldn't you?

Oh, one more thing. Breckin has a pet bird. Named "Larry Bird". Get it? Get it? Huh?


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