Uncle Buck: The Interrogation/The Block Party (Review)

MIKE EPPS, IMAN BENSON

Uncle Buck continues the double episode scheduling that started a few episodes ago. Last week saw the series pick up in terms of a successful recipe of Buck and kids with less Mom and Pop. These latest two episodes “The Interrogation” and “Block Party” shifted the formula around yet again and regardless of screen time both episodes were funny and enjoyable.

Sadly this change in the series comes to late to save it. The two episodes are the last of Uncle Buck.  This will be discussed below.

In “The Interrogation”  Will and Alexis return home to find a glass door broken into bits. Will is furious. The family are scattered  about the house. Maizy is wearing a bee costume and her lips are surrounded with blue coloring. Tia comes out wearing a towel and Miles appears with a blue snow cone.  Uncle Buck comes out with another snow cone and asks how the movie was as Hector puts out a fire on the patio.

Will and Alexis interrogate the family and not one of the kids or Buck know how the “window” (as Will calls it although it is a glass door) was broken.  Will suggests that they question the group a ‘la Law and Order, “Bing bong,” says Will.

(Sidenote: It was a running gag that between each interrogation segment the “Bloink bloink” noise from the cop show played.)

While the episode’s main comedy focus was the lack of progress from the parents questioning the suspects, the best bit was the way that Tia and Buck see each other.

To Tia, Uncle Buck is a walking example of a 1980s hipster. To Buck, Tia is a dictionary spouting child that uses long words to confuse.

Equally funny is Miles seeing himself as rapper and hip-hop artist Big Sean as shown in his flashback sequence.

Each suspect gives their version of what happened prior to the window breaking. No one  knows what really happened. Although Buck, Miles and Tia agree that the wood chipper was used to make ice chips.

(Sidenote: The recollection of Hector, played by Oscar Nuñez,  has everyone talking like the Mexican bandit from The Treasure of Sierra Madre.)

BIG SEAN, OSCAR NUNEZ, MIKE EPPS

After all is said and done, and all those “bloink, bloink” sound effects from Law and Order have ended,  the truth comes out that Uncle Buck and Miles were making a giant snow cone.  It is also revealed that only one member of the family who knows how the window (glass door) was broken; the family dog.

The show ends with Buck filming the dog stealing food from the rubbish bin and as the two interact Buck breaks the window.

In “Block Party” Tia makes a documentary about Will and Buck’s old neighborhood. The film shows the “hood” to be violent and scary. Uncle Buck tells Tia that his old stomping grounds are nothing like her filmed depiction.

AALYRAH CALDWELL, NIA LONG, JAMES LESURE, MIKE EPPS
“Block Party”

When Alexis and Will come home, Buck announces that the entire family are going back the old neighborhood for the annual block party. Over Will’s protests the entire family go to the hood for the festivities.

Down at the party, Will gets back his bicycle, Uncle Buck gets overprotective with Tia and Alexis learns that she will always be family. The second episode was funny but easily the weaker of the two. Although the end of the episode, where Tia shows her new documentary to the neighborhood, was touchingly funny.

In “Block Party” the focus was on Buck, Tia, Will and Alexis with Miles getting some notice while  Maizy was just along for the ride. The episode was humorous but not nearly as funny as “The Interrogation.”

JAMES LESURE, IMAN BENSON, MIKE EPPS
JAMES LESURE, IMAN BENSON, MIKE EPPS

These last two aired episodes were the season finale for series  and the show will not be back. Variety reported that ABC cancelled the show and one of the stars of the show; James Lesure,  tweeted confirmation that Uncle Buck  would not be back.

It is a shame that the network appeared to have so little faith in the show. Granted, it took a while to find its feet but in eight episodes Uncle Buck overcame a slow start and was gelling nicely. The child actors delivered in each and every episode  and that is unusual in  a series with young characters  as an integral part of the storyline.

The show was uneven as the last two episodes proved but still held promise as the cast and the stories began to click.  Perhaps if the series had a few more episodes, like 13 for instance, it could have really started finding a  firm audience. Although they were pulling in 3.8 million live viewers.

So it is official, Uncle Buck has ridden off into the “manny” sunset, not to return.

CAST:

Uncle Buck – Going to Jail Party/I Got This – Show Finding Its Feet (Review)

AALYRAH CALDWELL, IMAN BENSON, SAYEED SHAHIDI, MIKE EPPS

After despairing at last week’s episodes with their  poor parent/Uncle Buck mix (and slapping two episodes together as well as being  out of order which is still the case this week) the show has turned things around with “Going to Jail Party” and “I Got This.”  Episode four is all about Will and Alexis worrying about Miles’ impulsiveness and where it comes from. It is also about pranking a neighbor and providing a comedic highlight. Perhaps the best in the series thus far.

“Going To Jail Party” focuses on parent teacher meetings for all three children and this shifts the parents to a smaller portion of the storyline. This move does not hurt the characters  but serves to let their humor come out smart and snappy.

Miles is in trouble at school for staging a race between the biology class’s white rat and the first grade class’  hamster Sprinkles.  The race goes badly and Maizy is upset that her brother’s actions  caused the school  pet to be injured.   Alexis learns of the stunt and when his teacher explains that Miles  acts without thinking of consequences, she first blames their Uncle Buck.

At the house, the kids and their uncle party down with loud music and are having fun till “Mr. Creepy Neighbor” calls the police.  They retaliate with a hysterical prank. Without giving too much away, it involves the family dog, a spider suit and a giant web.

(The revenge prank by the neighbor was equally funny since it made Buck scream like a girl.)

This was easily  the best episode in the series so far.

The mix was perfect with less time given to the grown ups and more on the Uncle Buck/children interaction.  It had more of a “John Candy” feel to it. The storyline was focussed more on the kids and Alexis’s realization that Miles gets his impulsiveness from her was also funny.

“I Got This” did run parallel storylines with the parents attempting to “sex up” their relationship and once again featured more of Uncle Buck bonding with the children.  From helping Miles with his first  crush to sorting out Tia’s social life Buck’s hands are full. On top of his “manny” responsibilities he also has to support his team the Chicago  Bulls with his lucky ball.

Uncle Buck is also about the kids’ manny turning over a new leaf. There was, perhaps, a bit too much time spent on the parents with their anniversary celebration but the main storyline was spot on.

Miles’ first crush is a little girl with more piercings in her face than Carter has little pills and Buck is horrified. He can see that this young lady is years ahead of Miles and not a good match at all. He manages to keep it together, interfering only when needed until the pierced girl breaks out the beer.

Tia has issues with her friends after she lies about going out on Twitter.  Maizy watches Uncle Buck’s zombie movie and freaks out. Buck makes Tia’s problem worse and makes Miles angry.

The Bulls lose and Buck ends up ready to quit his manny job.

If the series can continue on this vein, more along the lines of “Going to Jail Party” which was very funny, although “I Got This” was almost as good.  More comedy like the spider gag would not go amiss and would help the “JC” quotient.

This tendency to slap two episodes together does not bode well for Uncle Buck however.  Whether this has been done to facilitate the upcoming holiday or an effort to get things over with in  a hurry is not known.

Uncle Buck  airs Tuesdays on ABC.  Hang in there, the show is getting better. Tune in and see what you think.

CAST:

Uncle Buck: Ride Along/Brothers – Out of Order Confusion (Review)

MIKE EPPS, AALYRAH CALDWELL

Uncle Buck has been a hard sell. It is difficult to not envision the late great John Candy in the role.  This is not to say that Mike Epps is not good in the part, he is just not John Candy. There seems to be some issue with the show as the producers have moved the episodes about fairly freely.   “Ride Along”  and “Brother” are out of sync (Sorry.) and it is a tad confusing.

There can be many reasons to shuffle the episodes around.  According to The Wrap Uncle Buck dropped a massive 33 percent from its debut episode. This may explain the moving around of the segments.

To be fair, “Ride Along” is funny as is “Brother.” Unfortunately the episodes focus more on the adult performers and less on the Uncle Buck/kids relationship.  It is the children who made the cinematic version with John Candy and it should be the same on this re-imagining of the tale.

The show’s pilot followed the film’s formula to a huge degree. Having Buck working hard to get the kids to accept him as well as his brother’s wife.

“L’il Scarface” came next (it was actually episode number three) and focussed once again on the kids. It should be mentioned that the child actors are all amazing. Iman Benson, as Tia, is beyond superb, Aalyrah Caldwell as Maizy is also on top form and Sayeed Shahidi as Miles is consistently  spot on as the male child with attitude. 

“Ride Along” was about mistrust and doing the school run. It was also about Alexis (Nia Long) bonding with Buck. “Brothers” was all about sibling and sorority sister rivalry. The children were part of each episode’s plot but not the focus. 

MIKE EPPS, JAMES LESURE
MIKE EPPS, JAMES LESURE

Herein lies the problem with Uncle Buck, there is too much attention paid to the parents.  The film version was all about the bachelor uncle and the kids, the “grownups” were very much in the background. Changing the format so that Buck is now a “manny” to the kids could still work but the parents, Alexis and Will (James Lesure) need to be on the periphery and  not center stage. 

Understandably this is a vehicle for Mike Epps and that is fine. (Epps is a favorite at Mike’s Film Talk and we were gutted to miss his Vegas show.) But in all honesty, without the show centering on Epps interacting comedically with the children it might as well be called “The Mike Epps Show.”

Uncle Buck is funny, not sidesplittingly so but funny nonetheless, but the move away from the kids is quite probably the reason viewing figures have dropped.  The character of Buck is also very different from the original version. Less a buffoon and more a  womanizing party animal who no one would leave in charge of their kids.

That there are problems with the show is evidenced by the episodic shuffling.  It appears that the producers are trying to up the comedy quotient without adhering to the show’s theme, “Uncle Buck” and the kids.

Nia Long and James Lesure are great performers. They bring much to the table…too much.  There needs to be less “mom and pop” and more Buck, Tia, Maizy and Miles.

Uncle Buck airs Tuesdays on ABC.  Keep an eye on the schedule, last Tuesday there were two episode, out of sequence, and slapped together.  See what you think. Is Mike Epps Uncle Buck or should the title be changed to The Mike Epps Show.

Uncle Buck: ABC Lets Mike Epps be a “Manny”

In 1989 John Candy and Macaulay Culkin teamed up, a little, for the John Hughes comedy Uncle Buck. Now ABC have opted to let Mike Epps become a small screen “manny” as the new version of Candy’s oddball uncle for the new millennium.

MIKE EPPS, AALYRAH CALDWELL, SAYEED SHAHIDI

In 1989 John Candy and Macaulay Culkin teamed up, a little, for the John Hughes comedy Uncle Buck.  Now ABC have opted to let Mike Epps become a small screen “manny” as the new version of Candy’s oddball uncle for the new millennium.  The pilot, which will premiere in 2016, basically crams most of the Hughes film’s plot into the 22 minute run time. 

Fans of Epps will enjoy his take on this tale of  the bachelor older brother who steps in to help look after his troublesome kids. Uncle Buck has an impressive cast list. Nia Long, plays the mother Cindy Russell and Long has a “long” career playing a multitude of different roles.  The actress played love interest to Will Smith’s “Fresh Prince” way back in 1995 after getting her start on daytime soap The Guiding Light, a few short years previously.

James Lesure plays husband to Cindy and father to Tia (Iman Benson), Maizy (Aalyrah Caldwell) and Miles (Sayeed Shahidi), Will Russell is the voice of “reason” in this family where the  professional parents are struggling to cope with looking after their kids.  Lesure is another long term actor with a varied career. 

After wife Cindy claims that Tia is turning into a “black Amanda Bynes” Will responds that his wife is exaggerating:

“Come on, she’s barely black Selena Gomez…”

 

The dialogue in the pilot is clever, topical and funny.  While the pilot, and the show, is obviously a vehicle for Epps, each player in the series looks to bring something to the ensemble table.   There are some good gags in the pilot:  Spanks, “No more CNN for you,” and other jokes that are chuckle worthy.

The move to change the characters from the late Hughes’  cult favorite comedy to a different ethnicity appears to be motivated mainly to allow Mike Epps to step into the late Candy’s shoes. There are jokes that hinge around the characters ethnicity.  At one point, Will states that they need to find more “black friends” after learning that their non-black ones are out on a  “juice cleanse.”

Since the new Uncle Buck series is part of “ABC Black” this seems to be an alternative offering to Anthony Anderson’s “black-ish” another ethnically focussed ABC comedy.  While this may be the case, the show has more in common with Dr Ken, a show about a Korean doctor whose family is made up of Korean and Japanese ethnicity.

Like the Ken Jeong comedy offering, Uncle Buck and Mike Epps are presenting a show where the ethnic “color” is less important than the fact that the couple Will and Cindy, are two highly successful professionals who need help looking after their children.   Uncle Buck would be funny regardless of the ethnicity involved.

Mike Epps may not have been the best fit for an Uncle Buck replacement, but the performer has a delivery and style that accentuates the character he is portraying. Comedically Epps is good and the pilot allows the comic to do what he does best.

The child actors all do pretty well, newcomer Iman is especially impressive, and if the quality of the jokes are maintained this ABC comedic offering should continue to amuse.  Now that the source film’s plot has been used up for the pilot, it will be investing to see where the series heads next.

Mike Epps

Uncle Buck airs in 2016 on ABC, tune in and see if Mike Epps is a good replacement for John Candy’s version of the bachelor uncle who wins over his brother’s kids.