The class of ‘Clipped’: How TBS’ new barbershop sitcom won me over

06.11.15 2 years ago

You already understand “Clipped.” It's a multicamera sitcom set in a Boston barbershop called Buzzy's. There are rowdy characters, thoughtful characters, weird characters. A guy named Buzzy (George Wendt) runs the place. Big accents. Romantic squabbles. Every punctuation mark is a guffaw cue. You get it. 

But when I visited the set of TBS' new sitcom created by “Will & Grace” alums Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, I realized there's actually a lot more going on here. While George Wendt insisted — sheepishly — that his new character is basically a gay version of Norm from “Cheers” (with no added denotational hand gestures of “gayness”; Wendt says Mutchnick put the kibosh on his attempts to seem more effeminate), “Clipped” gives Wendt a chance to play den father to young improv-trained talents, a natural fit for the onetime Second City star. Check out the glitzy set where he gets to show off his comic and tonsorial chops. 

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I've been a big Wendt sympathizer since he played as a contestant on the first celebrity edition of NBC's “The Weakest Link.” He was voted out after not missing a single question the entire episode. That is some celebrity skill. I even remember fellow contestant Aisha Tyler justifying her vote by saying that she was “removing a threat.” Well, Aisha! You've also removed your dignity. Good day.

Let's talk about what I learned on my enlightening visit to the “Clipped” set.

Norm from “Cheers” and Carl from “Family Matters” play a gay couple. Yes. That's right.

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Well! I'm sold. George Wendt and Reginald Veljohnson, who is most known for playing the cop in “Die Hard” and the Urkel-denigrating Uncle Carl on “Family Matters,” are a couple on “Clipped.” They've been together for decades. Wendt said the couple has a strict rule about Buzzy's Grindr usage: “You can swipe, but you can't touch.” That sentence came out of George Wendt's mouth. I'm exhilarated. In fact, I'm changing my Grindr profile name to “NORM ONLY.”

It gets dirty. 

So, how profane is a sitcom allowed to be on TBS? Mutchnick claims the writers are allotted “two sh*ts” and “one assh*le” per episode. “But when you say sh*t, you can't mean doody,” he clarified. “And I don't think you're allowed to show the assh*le.” Yes to multicam sitcoms with a penchant for ass-related cussing. 

It will never be too profane.

“Edgy is only good if it calls for it,” Kohan said. “There's no reason to put anything gratuitous in the show, because that's just bad.”

Hard to disagree there. But then Mutchnick added a comment that I found slightly sinister.

“We're not being dirty just to be dirty. That's for '2 Broke Girls' to do. We're just telling relationship stories.”

Does it seem strange to anybody that Mutchnick criticized “2 Broke Girls” when his “Will & Grace” collaborator Jhoni Marchinko is a consulting producer and writer for that show? Struck me as funny. Unlike “2 Broke Girls.” 

“Clipped” features a queer woman of color playing — wait for it! — a queer woman of color. 

Diona Reasonover plays the supporting role of Charmaine, a young haircutter whose jokes are probably the snidest in the series. While naming a list of dream celebrity guest-stars for Charmaine to date, Reasonover opened up about the joy of playing this particular character. 

“Janelle Monae! MC Lyte! Sean Kingston, Sean Penn! I love the Seans. All about the Seans. Sean 'Puff Daddy' Combs,” she said.

Another reporter asked if she intentionally chose both male and female paramours for Charmaine. 

“Charmaine's a QPOC, a Queer Person of Color,” Reasonover said. “That's also part of me, part of my truth. It's interesting to get to play that on TV. It's not something I thought I would. Whenever I go to lesbian events, everyone's like, 'Are you in the right place, little girl?'”

I can't think of too many sitcoms with bisexual characters at all, let alone bisexual characters of color. I'm excited to see how Reasonover's character develops on “Clipped,” particularly when juxtaposed with Buzzy's own relationship foibles.

George Wendt forgives you for not loving the title of “Clipped.” He's on the fence too.

Do you find the title “Clipped” slightly forgettable? Well, George Wendt understands your pain.

“[This show] is all about the kids. You'll figure this out,” Wendt said. “The show used to be called Buzzy's, and it wasn't a very good title, I thought, for several reasons, one of which is it's not about me. It's about them. 'Clipped' is better — but not that great either.”

That's the kind of honesty I appreciate.

Ashley Tisdale is very engaging, even though she barely commented on her greatest career achievement. 

What struck me about the episodes of “Clipped” I watched is how charismatic and willfully broad Ashley Tisdale is in her role as Danni, one of the show's perkier characters. Though we'll always cherish Tisdale for her work as the ineffably Sharpay in the “High School Musical” series, it's about time she vaulted into the sitcom world. But when I asked her about my single favorite career moment of hers — the time she released an emotional cover of my early '90s dance hero Cathy Dennis' “Too Many Walls” — she just giggled and said, “Heh. I remember that!” Not like I do, Ashley.

“Clipped” premieres on TBS June 16. 

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