Sony // 1998 // 551 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // March 9th, 2009
Jack Gallo: "What's that filthy thing doing here?"
Dennis Finch: "She works here."
Four years after the release of Just Shoot Me: The Complete First and Second Seasons, Sony finally sees fit to revisit this underappreciated show and give us Season Three. So now the question is: What took so long?
Just Shoot Me takes place at the fictional fashion magazine Blush, owned by eccentric New York millionaire Jack Gallo (George Segal, California Split). His daughter, Maya (Laura San Giacomo, Nina Takes a Lover), has been enlisted to work at the magazine but doesn't really fit in; she's too bookish and feminist to approve of the kind of vapid beauty-worship that takes place at Blush. But what the hell? It's a paycheck. Also working at the mag is former model Nina Van Horne (Wendie Malick, The American President), ladies-man photographer Elliot DiMauro (Enrico Colantoni, Veronica Mars, Galaxy Quest) and nerdy, horny assistant Dennis Finch (David Spade, Tommy Boy).
Just Shoot Me!: The Complete Third Season features all 25 episodes of the third season, spread out over three discs. Here they are:
* "What the Teddy Bear Saw"
Finch is asked to spy on Jack's nanny (Ana Gasteyer, Dick), but winds up caught in a compromising position on the nanny cam; Elliott forgets to pick up Maya after a surgery.
Maya is furious when she learns Jack is going to evict the upstairs neighbor to Blush to make himself a steam room.
* "The Mask"
Maya learns that a cherished childhood memory was manufactured by Jack; Elliott and Finch set out to prove whether or not Nina's best friend actually exists.
* "Funny Girl"
Maya sets out to prove she's just as good at practical jokes as everyone else. Guest starring Steve Carrell (The 40-Year Old Virgin).
* "Two Girls for Every Boy"
When a beautiful model expresses interest in Maya, Finch works overtime to realize a lifelong dream; Jack tries to prove he's one of the guys by asking to be made fun of.
* "The Withholder"
Elliott tries to exact revenge on a girl who led Finch on; Jack enlists Nina to help him win a weight loss bet with Donald Trump.
* "Puppet Master"
Maya dates a children's show host (French Stewart, Love Stinks) who uses his puppets to express his true feelings about her; Elliott makes an embarrassing admission after watching Brian's Song.
* "The List"
Jack is incensed when Elliott replaces him on the Power 100 list; Finch is annoyed when guest star Mark Hamill (Star Wars) becomes too clingy.
* "How Nina Got Her Groove Back"
Nina revives a feud with an old rival; Jack becomes determined to get his name on everything; Elliott tries out a new pair of shoes.
* "How the Finch Stole Christmas"
When Finch believes he's getting a crappy gift for Christmas, he sets out to ruin everyone else's holiday. Narrated by Kelsey Grammer.
* "Slow Donnie"
The great David Cross (Mr. Show with Bob and David) guest stars as Elliot's brother, who has been faking a brain injury for decades so people will do things for him; Nina gets herself some pet birds.
* "A Spy in the House of Me"
An ex-boyfriend of Maya's comes back into town to follow his dreams of acting.
* "Lies and Dolls"
Nina pretends to be a southern belle when dating a squeaky-clean politician; Elliott feels remorse about stealing a valuable toy when he was a kid.
* "Nina Sees Red, Part 1"
Finch's dad (Brian Dennehy) returns and starts dating Nina; Elliott tries to go out with Tyra Banks but keeps winding up humiliating himself.
* "Nina Sees Red, Part 2"
Finch's dad, Red, announces his plans to marry Nina, but is hospitalized shortly after; Elliott continues to falter with Tyra Banks.
* "Hostess to Murder"
Maya hosts an elaborate murder mystery dinner part, but things go wrong when a real dead body makes an appearance. Guest starring Fred Willard.
* "Toy Story"
Finch plays a joke and switches the birthday present Maya gets Elliott -- a new video gaming system -- with a big box of sex toys.
* "Miss Pretty"
Finch hires a sleazy friend (Willie Garson) to cover up the fact that he's been writing an advice column for Blush under the moniker of "Miss Pretty."
* "Maya's Nude Photos"
Maya takes a photography class where the instructor makes a potentially inappropriate request; Jack takes a shine to a new office assistant who's good at magic.
* "And the Femmy Goes To..."
The entire staff of Blush winds up nominated for fashion magazine awards, but not everyone is thrilled about the prospect of winning.
The Blush crew participates in the annual softball game against Cosmopolitan, but there's trouble when an ultra-competitive Maya takes over for Jack as team pitcher. Guest starring Steve Garvey, who is actually funny.
* "Shaking Private Trainer"
Jack hires and then tries to avoid a personal trainer (Neil McDonough, Minority Report); Maya and Finch collaborate on a screenplay about a vampire cop.
* "Nina's Choice"
Nina is torn between two potential suitors: an escaped convict and the cop pursuing him; Jack, Finch and Elliott begin betting on everything.
* "The Odd Couple, Part 1"
Finch begins dating a supermodel (Rebecca Romijn, Femme Fatale); Jack buys an inappropriate painting for his office. Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show with Bob and David) also appears.
* "The Odd Couple, Part 2"
Maya tries to put a stop to Finch's impending wedding, while Finch tries to avoid his bride-to-be's angry ex-boyfriend.
Just Shoot Me wasn't the funniest sitcom of the 1990s. It wasn't the funniest sitcom on NBC in the '90s. It wasn't even the funniest workplace sitcom on NBC in the '90s -- that title belongs to NewsRadio. But as workplace sitcoms go, Just Shoot Me is certainly a worthy runner up. It lacks the sharpness of writing, the breakneck pace and insanely talented comedic ensemble of NewsRadio, but it's incredibly watchable and more often funny than not. As sitcoms go, you could do a whole lot worse.
The thing about Just Shoot Me is that it didn't change a whole lot over its seven-season run (can anyone else believe this show was on for seven seasons?). The characters were pretty well developed by midway through the first season, and though some new details were eventually introduced (like the fact that Finch was an original cast member on Eight is Enough) the tone and the writing quality were pretty consistent from the beginning. That means that if you were a fan of any season of the show, you'll probably enjoy Season Three. Not every episode is a home run, but there are a handful of episodes that stand out -- they're not just classics of the season, but classics of the series overall. David Cross as Slow Donnie is here; as is French Stewart's children's show host, who all but redefines what it means to be passive aggressive through the use of puppets (the inspired episode is my favorite of the season).
Though the cast is tremendously appealing, I would be lying if I said they're all gifted comedians. Wendie Malick, essentially playing former model Janice Dickinson, gets a lot of the more obvious punchlines, so we're typically able to see a joke coming before she has a chance to get it out. It doesn't help that none of her jokes are particularly soft; they all come in for hard, clumsy landings. Still, her back story gets darker and dirtier with just about every episode, which at least leads to some amusement (if not outright laughs). George Segal is just as obvious as Malick, but without being given much to say that's funny; compared to, say, Stephen Root's Jimmy James on NewsRadio, Segal's character is a missed opportunity of eccentric lunacy. Enrico Colantoni is a better actor than he is a comedian, but it's exactly those tendencies that make for some big laughs -- he has an unusual sense of pacing and delivery and an offbeat way of approaching the comedy that makes him stand out.
I'm on record as being a big fan of Laura San Giacomo, but she's not the best thing about Just Shoot Me. She's saddled with the "straight" role in a sea of comic characters, and in that capacity she performs admirably. But unlike Courtney Cox on Friends, San Giacomo's Maya never develops into anything more; she never really finds a comic voice. They're are some attempts at giving her dimension -- she's a "square," a bookworm, a nerd (which can work and be appealing when done right, like in "Hostess to Murder") -- but for the most part she's just there as a straight-arrow foil to everyone else. San Giacomo is soft and earthy in the role, but somewhat neutered; her performance lacks the spunk and fire she showed in some of her early film work like sex, lies and videotape and Pretty Woman.
That leaves David Spade as office assistant Dennis Finch. I recognize that Spade isn't for everyone. He's not really even an acquired taste; people seem to make up their minds about him almost immediately. I don't necessarily love his film work (Joe Dirt, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star), but his performance as Dennis Finch alone is reason enough to recommend Just Shoot Me. I don't think he's stretching much as an actor -- he seems to be playing a variation on himself -- but his character is the funniest on the show. Unlike the way ex-model Nina is written, Spade-as-Finch finds small ways to surprise us to get laughs even when we think we know exactly how he's going to respond in any given situation. He's mostly used as what Patton Oswalt refers to as the "jetpack" character -- he flies in, drops a joke and flies back out -- but even in episodes where Finch takes center stage, Spade manages to carry those bigger story lines admirably. What can I say? I find him funny.
I guess fans of Just Shoot Me (myself included) are supposed to be so happy that season three is being released at all that we won't mind that the DVDs are lacking. The 25 episodes are spread out over three discs, presented in their original full frame broadcast aspect ratio. Though certainly watchable, the image is soft and somewhat grainy; it's not the best presentation of a sitcom I've seen on DVD. The 2.0 surround audio track is serviceable as well, with most of the dialogue being handled by the front and center channels and the rear speakers being relegated to the laugh track. Save for a few very lame bonus trailers (on the third disc), there are no extras. It's too bad Just Shoot Me couldn't get the same DVD treatment as NewsRadio, which had a bunch of cast commentaries and blooper reels. I guess we'll have to take what we can get.
I'll predict it won't be five more years before we get the next season of Just Shoot Me; either we'll get season four sooner than that, or we won't get it at all. I really hope Sony sees fit to release the rest of the series (Are you reading this, Sony people?). After all, we live in a world in which every season of Alf can be purchased. So why not something funny and smart like Just Shoot Me? If only every sitcom could be this good, maybe the genre wouldn't be on its last legs.
Bring on seasons four through seven, please.
Review content copyright © 2009 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 551 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated