Anchor Bay // 2009 // 172 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // April 15th, 2009
He takes the handy out of handyman.
"Hey, this is my show. Not your show. My show."
For several years, Tony King (Adam Paul, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron) has been the host of the low-rated cable television program Hollywood Residential. In each episode of the show, King visits the home of a mildly popular celebrity and gives their home a makeover. In an attempt to boost ratings, the show adds a sexy lady named Lila Mann (Lindsey Stoddart, My Boys) into the mix. King begrudges Mann's presence on the program. He hates that he's no longer the real star of the show, he hates that she has a real agent, and he hates that the celebrities he works with seem to like Lila better than him. Working behind the scenes on the program are the ever-paranoid Pete (Eric Allan Kramer, Grilled) and the level-headed Don (David Ramsey, Dexter). Despite the best efforts of everyone involved on the program, Tony unintentionally does his very best to flush his career down the drain. How much longer can he survive before he inevitably gets the boot from the network?
Okay, it's official: the Starz network is not going to be the next HBO anytime soon. Just a few weeks before writing this review, I reviewed the new Starz show Head Case, a semi-improvisational show about an incompetent psychiatrist who works with B-level celebrities. Now we have Hollywood Residential, a semi-improvisational show about an incompetent reality show host who works with B-level celebrities. If my descriptions make these shows sound rather similar, let me assure you that you couldn't be closer to the truth. The two programs feel like carbon copies of each other at times, employing the exact same sort of humor along with very similar characters and concepts. Not only do the shows feel like knock-offs of each other, they feel like knock-offs of many better programs (chiefly The Office and Extras). I gave Head Case a pass, determining that it offered just enough laughs to excuse the derivative nature of the program. I'm afraid I can't offer the same measure of grace to Hollywood Residential.
The program, frankly, is just plain annoying. It has some merits, it made me laugh a couple of times, but most of it just got on my nerves. The first problem is actually something that bugged me about Head Case: it's more or less impossible to like most of the characters here. That particularly applies to the lead, which Adam Paul plays as the most annoying human being on the face of the earth. While I certainly understand it's part of the character description (think David Brent in the British version of The Office), there's nothing likable for Tony King's antics to bounce off of. The supporting characters are equally grating much of the time, with perhaps the sole exception of Don, the long-suffering director (though he's pretty much relegated to the background of most episodes).
Okay, so we may not like the characters, but do they make us laugh? No, not really. While the improvisational style can lead to some very funny material if the right people are at the helm (which basically narrows it down to the likes of Ricky Gervais & Christopher Guest), there are far too many moments here that wander down a rabbit trail and then suffer a slow and painful death. When desperately seeking some sort of exit from a generally unfunny situation, the show resorts to tiresome methods: crass language, explicit sexual references, and even farts. Hollywood Residential may very well be on a network that permits all kinds of R-rated content, but there is rarely a justifiable venture into ultra-crude territory here. While never quite sinking to the level of mindless stupidity found on many "lowest-common-denominator" programs like Jackass, the show feels much more childish than it should.
Surprisingly, the celebrities also present a pretty big problem. First, most of the celebrities participating in the program...I'll try to put this kindly...don't really have the talent required to successfully satirize themselves. Paula Abdul, Jaime Kennedy, Tom Arnold, and Carmen Electra are very easy targets, but not so much when they're actually being played by Abdul, Kennedy, Arnold, and Electra. The level of Hollywood insider humor gets a bit tedious after a while. While I have no doubt actors, agents, publicists, and filmmakers will find much of the material somewhat amusing, the average viewer living outside the bubble may not be quite so entertained. Sure, the wild excesses and blatant hypocrisies of the industry are poked at mercilessly, but so many other aspects of the lifestyle that seem quite obviously absurd are left untouched. I mean, go too far and you won't be able to get B-level celebrities on your program each week.
All eight episodes of the program have been stuffed onto a single disc, and as such the transfer suffers just a bit. While this isn't exactly a top-drawer program from a visual perspective, it would have been nice if the detail were a little sharper on some of the glamorous Hollywood exteriors. Blacks aren't particularly deep, and the small handful of darker scenes seems rather murky at times. Flesh tones also seem slightly off. The audio is fine, providing an acceptable balance between the dialogue and score. I will note that the theme song that plays over both the opening and closing credits will make you want to pull your hair out after a while. The only extra included on the disc is a brief making-of featurette.
As I admitted earlier, I laughed a few times. For all of the failed gags and poor ideas, there are a few riffs that really work. In addition, the guest turns from John Cho and Executive Producer Cheryl Hines both actually work pretty well. Beyond that, it's challenging to muster up many nice things to say about the show.
Hollywood Residential is a tedious, mostly unfunny affair. If it's ever going to work, some serious re-tooling needs to be done. Personally, I'd just go ahead and let it go.
Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 172 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site