Judge David Johnson did a little coaching himself. He was in charge of his Sunday School's Stratego team. They were 15-2 last year.
Insert funny football pun here.
Craig T. Nelson (The Incredibles) suits up for another season of football-inspired lunacy.
Facts of the Case
This season sees big changes for Minnesota State football coach Hayden Fox (Nelson). He has the top recruit on his football team, and might be looking at a championship season. Plus, he's exploring new emotional depths in his romantic relationship with television reporter Christine Armstrong (Shelley Fabares)—unfortunately, these advances will come at a price, as Hayden and Christine will break up for a spell, but, as is the game plan for this series, Hayden will eventually learn a very important lesson and rectify his shortcomings and grovel and reap the benefits of his humility. In this case, it's an engagement to Christine and a looming attempt at family life.
Meanwhile, the typical misadventures befall Hayden and his pals Luther (Jerry Van Dyke) and Dauber (Bill Fagerbakke), including Dauber's graduation after eight years of academia, Luther's love affair with a low-energy dog and the entire gang's illicit romp through the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas. On the family end, Hayden continues to struggle in his relationship with his spunky daughter Kelly (Clare Carey) and her wheezy, wimpy husband Stuart.
Twenty-episodes of gridiron guffawing on three discs.
So here we go, more Coach. The good news is it wasn't a major chore to run through these episodes. The writing is consistently strong, not groundbreaking in its originality or its gut-laugh inducing efficiency, but effective enough to keep the amusement level firmly in the plus column. The writers use a mix of slapstick humor and sight gags and one-liners, mixing it up enough to keep the shows varied and interesting.
But as far as the writing can take a show, the responsibility lies with the actors to make the words work, and that's the strongest aspect of Coach. The series boasts a stellar lineup of actors, starting with Nelson, who has honed his clueless, self-centered-but-good-hearted big lug shtick to a fine point. The formulaic antics of Hayden screwing up royally, blustering belligerently about his side of things, then eventually coming around to Christine's point of view can grow tiresome after a while, but Nelson is such an ace that the repetitive nature of the plotting can be easily overlooked. The guy has righteous indignation down cold.
Bill Fagerbakke and Jerry Van Dyke are right behind Nelson in the laugh-generating department. They're essentially the two "dumb" characters, so that means you get twice the dumbness and that's a good thing. Both guys are very good at what they do, and when the three of them are onscreen at a given time is when the show is at its funniest. Luckily, this happens frequently.
Finally, we have Clare Carey and Shelley Fabares, who are fine and good for what their purposes are, but they're mainly occupying thankless roles. The storyline of old-fashioned, stubborn Hayden juxtaposed with his hippie-dippy daughter Kelly ran its course last season and even the relationship with his dopey son-in-law Stuart has lost its luster. That leaves Kelly showing up once in a while just to make an appearance that feels forced because she's a main character, with very few stand-alone shows dedicated to her. And as good as Fabares is, I'm just not a fan of Christine. She's not very funny and mainly just chastises Hayden. Their relationship is a driving force of the show, but it's Craig T. Nelson who shoulders the comedy load.
All in all, as far as old-school primetime sitcoms go, Coach is a solid one. This season has some big laughs and big moments and, as is the case with shows of this ilk, a fair share of melodramatic moments. The DVDs are no-frills, full frame and 2.0 stereo that don't look hugely more improved than their original broadcast format. One extra: a 45-minute "one-on-one" with Mary Hart and Hayden Fox, which is essentially prolonged clip show.
I laughed. Not super-hard, but my mouth was open and happy sounds emanated from it.
May not be a full-on comedy touchdown, but Coach is at least a two-point conversion.
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