Friday, 14 November 2008

Television Review: Holy Smokes

A recurring theme throughout many modern sitcoms is that they are driven by the personality or character of a single person. In most cases, this person is an established comedian or actor, like Ray Romano, Gerry Seinfeld or Ray Romano’s brother with the deep voice. Occasionally though, a television network will take a risk with an unproven personality, just as NBC have done with their latest sitcom, Holy Smokes.

Holy Smokes stars Jasper Haines as Joe Patrickson, a priest living with his wife and two children in California. Haines’s biggest role to date has been on the popular TV show Lost, in which he has starred for the past four seasons as the Smoke Monster, a large, swirling mass of black fog that consumes people and appears to be able to penetrate their memories. Before this breakthrough role, Haines had numerous bit parts, such as his appearance in Rescue Me as the ‘Smoke from Fire in Apartment B’ and in Without a Trace as ‘Smoke Coming from Kidnapper’s Cigarette’. This is his first starring role.

Jasper Haines, star of Holy Smokes

And boy, does he relish his time in front of the camera! Given that Haines is a giant pillar of acrid black fumes, people could be forgiven for having some doubt as to his acting ability, but he is definitely the man for the job. One of Holy Smokes’ senior writers has been quoted as saying that this is the role that Jasper Haines was born to play, and I agree with him. Well, I would, but I’m not sure that he was actually born as such. He looks like he fell out of a chimney.

Despite having no facial features to speak of, no voice except for a general ominous rumbling, and all the other drawbacks associated with being a big pile of wispy smog, Jasper does account for himself rather well. Indeed, when Joe’s attempts to put on his new priestly dog collar are thwarted by his lack of a physical neck, the actor is funnier than Jim Belushi in any episode of According to Jim, despite Belushi’s obvious advantage in the facial expression and voice area.

Content-wise, Holy Smokes does run the risk of being a little too samey for my liking. Most of the jokes revolve around the difficulties that Joe faces in his daily life as a priest who also happens to be a giant ball of smoke. The aforementioned inability to wear a dog collar, his misfortune when people switch on extractor fans, his unfortunate tendency to consume his parishioners, Lost-style: these are recurring jokes throughout the series. While they are certainly funny the first time, they do tend to grate as time goes on.

Joe’s relationship with his wife is a welcome element to the series, providing much relief from the obligatory “oh no, I just accidentally consumed old Mrs Gratt and her dog” jokes. Jenny Patrickson, played by Daphne Zuniga, provides a very good foil for Joe, and the running joke in which she repeatedly complains of her husband’s ineffectiveness in the bedroom is great. The accompanying uncertainty of the Patricksons’ children’s paternity gives the show a slightly tragicomic feel at times. Everyone knows that Joe couldn’t have got his wife pregnant; he’s a big ball of smoke with no genitalia!

In all, Holy Smoke is a fresh and funny new show, and Jasper Haines should go on to be a big star in the future. There are already rumours that he will be co-starring with Tom Cruise in a film set in WW2 Germany, and I think it will be nice to see him in a strongly characterised, serious role. But as a comedian, Haines still shines with a murky, foggy glory that really is unique, and Holy Smokes could well prove to be this year’s Everybody Loves Raymond’s Brother.

Holy Smokes, NBC, Thursdays at 9.30. Enjoy it while you can, it'll probably be cancelled after ten minutes.

17 comments:

Falwless said...

Totally remember Daphne Zuniga! Melrose Place, dawg!

Also, for the record, I live in constant awe of your creativity and imagination.

Dr Zibbs said...

Pretty good.

Red said...

I think you just gave away a Lost detail I haven't learned yet. The smoke monster penetrates people's memories? Damn you, TIR!!!

The IR's Critically Acclaimed Womb Follower said...

You must have been wiggling your nose pretty hard sir, for you have bewitched me with your humour.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Falwless: To me, she will always be the Princess Leia ripoff in Spaceballs. I thank you.

Dr Zibbs: You're not bad yourself...

Red: You haven't seen the 3rd series? Actually, I don't know if that fact is official, it could be speculation on my part.

T IR's CAWF: I've been practicing my nose wriggling for several weeks now. Glad to see it's paying off...

Clippy Mat said...

he also had a bit part in 'backdraft' and he was shite.
big puff.
:-)

Some Guy said...

You're really going out on a limb comparing him to the comic genius of Jim Belushi, but I'll take your word for it.

Distributorcap said...

one day i have to let you in on some of the sitcome cancellation secrets......

BeckEye said...

Oh, Daphne Zuniga. I even remember you from that awful movie "Modern Girls," with the guy from "Just One of the Guys," whom I hate because of his mispronunciation of "Cyndi Lauper." The cloud of smoke is definitely a better actor than that guy.

Okay, I was going to pretend like I hated him so much that I couldn't remember his name, but tragically I do. Clayton Rohner. So there you go.

Westcoast Walker said...

I love the episode where Joe and his wife finally get a babysitter and go out on a date, not realizing that they had reservations for a restaurant that was exclusively non smoking.

When an irate patron complains Joe gives that eloquent speech about his rights as an entity made up exclusively of airborne particulates, citing how the nation's founding fathers envisioned the constitution to include gaseous life forms - and when the patron tells him he is just "blowing smoke" he says "no I'm not, but I can if you want me to" and he proceed to stream himself up the man's nostrils causing him to cough violently.

His embarrassed wife later tells him that as a man of the cloth he should have turned the other cheek, to which he replies "sure if I had a cheek".

katrocket said...

I'm really happy to read that Daphne is working again

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Didn't he have a whole bunch of scenes in the X-Files too? I'm pretty sure I saw him acting opposite Cigarette Smoking Man.

Chris said...

Isn't Jasper Haines the son of Casper Haines, the cloud of smoke that performed in Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams and Up in Smoke?

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Clippy: Punny stuff, punny stuff!

Some Guy: I knew that may have put some people's noses out of joint, but that was a risk I was willing to take.

DCap: Please do!

Beck: See reply to Falwless.

Westcoast Walker: That was the best comment ever.

Kat: And you thought she was now a cashier in Walmart.

Barbara: That could have been his father...

Chris: ...that too.

Gwen said...

They say it was the long-time love affair between he and The Marlboro Man that caused MM's death.

Sharon, The Queen Blogger said...

A priest with a wife? Impossible. Check your sources!

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