Just shoot Judge Patrick Bromley.
Jack Gallo: "What's that filthy thing doing 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?
Facts of the Case
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"
• "The Mask"
• "Funny Girl"
• "Two Girls for Every Boy"
• "The Withholder"
• "Puppet Master"
• "The List"
• "How Nina Got Her Groove Back"
• "How the Finch Stole Christmas"
• "Slow Donnie"
• "A Spy in the House of Me"
• "Lies and Dolls"
• "Nina Sees Red, Part 1"
• "Nina Sees Red, Part 2"
• "Hostess to Murder"
• "Toy Story"
• "Miss Pretty"
• "Maya's Nude Photos"
• "And the Femmy Goes To…"
• "Shaking Private Trainer"
• "Nina's Choice"
• "The Odd Couple, Part 1"
• "The Odd Couple, Part 2"
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.
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