Like any card-carrying fan of “The Simpsons” (and yes, I do actually have a “Simpsons” card in my wallet), I also enjoy “The Critic.” The animated sitcom was created by “Simpsons” writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss and starred Jon Lovitz as film critic Jay Sherman, whose attitude towards life could be summed up by his catchphrase: “It stinks!” (Also: “hachi machi.”) The show sadly only ran for 23 episodes from 1994-1995, because the show flipped networks (it began on ABC and ended up on FOX) and many viewers didn’t think Sherman was a likable enough character. That’s precisely why I like “The Critic”—that, and the dozens of Hollywood parodies the show provided.
Over the last 15 years, many of those spoofs have come true (or close to true), proving that there really isn’t anything that’s too stupid for Hollywood to make. Below are ten of “The Critic’s” most prophetic parodies.
On “The Critic”: “NBC Sinks to 5th”
In 1994, NBC had the two highest ranking shows on TV (“Seinfeld” and “ER”), as well as five other shows in the top-20, ranging from “Frasier” to “Madman of the People.” It was a bold claim to predict the Peacock Network would finish out of first-place, let alone below upstart FOX.
What a difference 17 years makes. In early 2011, NBC finished as the fifth-rated network in the key 18-49 demographic, below ABC, CBS, FOX, and… Univision. Another sign of how much things have changed — not just for NBC but for TV in general: “The Voice,” which premiered with 12.2 million viewers in April, was considered a ratings bonanza for NBC; in 1994, that number would have finished behind “Seinfeld” by eight million viewers.
On “The Critic”: Seinfeld: The Movie
While there hasn’t been a “Seinfeld” movie (yet), the cast’s reunion on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” received widespread media attention, and there was also a show starring Paul Reiser that attempted to mix the “what’s the deal with?” style of “Seinfeld” with the crassness of “Curb .” It was called “The Paul Reiser Show” and no one liked it. It would be canceled after two episodes due to record-breaking low ratings, and even the show’s star, when asked what show title he would have preferred, quipped, “Seinfeld.”
On “The Critic”: Rubik’s Cube: The Movie
While they’re both running the New York City Marathon, Jay’s actor friend Jeremy Hawke tells his pint-sized buddy that he’s set to star in Rubik’s Cube: The Movie. The film’s plot: “I’m given this puzzle and if I don’t solve it in one hour, a plane-load of supermodels will die. The problem is, I’m colorblind, but my partner isn’t.” And his partner’s a dog!
An idea that stupid couldn’t exist in real life, right? Well… in November 2010, news broke that Creative Arts Agency signed Rubik’s Cube as a client, joining the likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The movie will likely revolve “around some sort of Rubik’s Cube competition,” according to What’s Playing. Two thoughts: 1) there’s no way Rubik’s Cube: The Movie will be worse than the Lord of the Rings-influence Candy Land: The Movie, and 2) there’s also no way it’ll be better than “Rubik, the Amazing Cube.”
On “The Critic”: Home Alone 5 (“Oh no, we left Kevin home again…and he’s only 25!”)
Although Home Alone 5, featuring a chain-smoking, stubbly-chinned Kevin, hasn’t actually been made, “The Critic” was correct in their assumption that the series would live on. And while I wouldn’t refer to Home Alone 3 and Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House as “living,” nor good or funny, they do, indeed, exist. The third film (starring Scarlett Johansson) was released in 1997, with a plot about a North Korean terrorist group, and the fourth in 2002, featuring the abominable French Stewart as Marv.
A few years ago, there were Internet rumors about another film in the series, Home Alone 5: Kevin Takes a Bride, but they turned out to be false. Any possible booby trap featuring a bad guy getting hit in the nuts was taken with the release of Home Alone: The Video Game on PS2, effectively ending the possibility for a fifth and final movie.
On “The Critic”: Forrest Gump 2: Gump Harder
Forrest Gump’s revisionist view of history is embarrassing and lazy because the emotion it appeals to is, “Hey, I remember the Vietnam War and boy howdy, did it suck.” And if you weren’t alive in 1970: well, here’s some Three Dog Night! What I’m trying to say is: Forrest Gump is an awful film, one that’s constantly winking at you (glad Lt. Dan bought those shares of Apple!) with an even worse ending. All that, and Tom Hanks’ uncharacteristically scene-chewing performance, is why I’m glad Forrest Gump 2: Gotta Take a Gump: The Film was never made—but boy did they try.
The sequel would have been based on the second Gump novel, Gump & Co., in which Forrest plays football for the New Orleans Saints and crashes the Exxon Valdez (ha?). Screenwriter Eric Roth, who wrote the original as well as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (of course he did), turned in a screenplay to director Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks, with the film starting “literally two minutes after the end of the last one,” according to an interview with Slash Film. Then: “I turned in the script the night before 9/11. And we sat down, Tom and Bob and I, looked at each other and said, we don’t think this is relevant anymore. The world had changed. Now time has obviously passed, but maybe some things should just be one thing and left as they are.” Hey, if Al-Qaeda hates Forrest Gump that much, maybe they’re not all bad?
On “The Critic”: “Conan Replaced by Dancing Chicken”
On “The Critic”: Ghostchasers III
Even a parody on an animated TV show from the 1990s makes the inevitability of a third Ghostbusters film depressing. It’s not even that I’m a huge fan of the series or believe in the sacredness of Hollywood, or some crap like that; it’s just that there’s no reason for the film to exist. Is there any stone left unturned, marshmallow left unpuffed in the franchise? Does anyone really want to see young Ghostbusters, coached by Dan Aykroyd? Jay Sherman writes an impressive script, one that’s so good the studios in Hollywood don’t want to make it. So instead, they give him the reigns to Ghostchasers III, which turns out to be a slimy pile of sh*t. Take a lesson from Jay Sherman, Mr. Aykroyd.
On “The Critic”: True Lies 2
One of “The Critic’s” favorite targets was anything starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, putting the former Governator in such films as Rabbi PI and a version of Pinocchio with the Genie from Aladdin as the Beige Fairy. The best of the parodies, however, is a sequel to James Cameron’s True Lies, with Tony Curtis taking over his daughter Jamie Lee’s role, including the famous striptease scene.
In 2010, Deadline reported that Cameron, fresh off of making $7 kajillion for Avatar and can now pretty much do whatever the hell he wants, will revisit the action comedy, turning the film into a TV series, his first since “Jessica Alba In Leather,” er, “Dark Angel.” (When True Lies was released in 1994, it was one of the most expensive movies ever made.) Good thing, too: what the world needs now more than ever is a starring vehicle for Tom Arnold.
On “The Critic”: Phillipsvision
People who treasure the sanctity of sitcoms starring Doogie Howser recently went crazy when a writer for the Consumerist noticed a digitally-inserted ad for the 2011 film, Paul Blart: Zookeeper in a syndicated 2007 episode of “How I Met Your Mother.”
Psh, Duke Phillips, head of Phillips Broadcasting (formerly Duke Phillips’ House of Chicken and Waffles), has been doing this for years. In an attempt to liven up moldy classics like Casablanca and One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest, Phillips creates Phillipsvision, giving happier endings to sad films to boost ratings. In the case of Cuckoo’s Nest, he also manipulates the footage so that Randle McMurphy and the Chief hawk Phillips Detergent (“You have to be cuckoo not to use it”).
On “The Critic”: Jurassic Park 2: Revenge of the Raptors
“The Critic” actually got two things right here: (1) there would be a sequel to Jurassic Park, which anyone could have guessed considering the original made $915 million, and (2) more impressively, that it would be about intelligent key-turning, newspaper-reading velociraptors. Michael Crichton’s novel came out after “The Critic” episode aired, followed by the disappointing Vince Vaughn-starring sequel two years later. Talking, pipe-smoking dinosaurs would have been an improvement over the film’s actual plot—I’m still bitter and confused about the inclusion of Dr. Ian Malcolm’s whiny teenage daughter.
And just because: