Television Review: Frank TV, "Franksgiving"
by R.J. Carter
Published: November 20, 2007
Frank Caliendo is a comic with a talent for impressions. In and of itself, good vocal impressions are a novelty -- a gimmick that Rich Little took to the apex of the artform, and to which no other comedian has achieved. Caliendo comes close with his takes on politicians and some actors.
However, is that enough to build a half-hour sketch comedy show around? That's the question that will be answered after tonight's premiere of TBS's Frank TV, which gives Caliendo a spotlight few comedians are given for the make-or-break run for fame. In places it works... and in places, it doesn't.
Nobody has ever done a better or funnier John Madden than Caliendo. In the opening pilot, "Franksgiving," Caliendo's Madden appears in bridge segments where he is backstage preparing a turducken for Thanksgiving dinner. (No vegetable, of course.) We also treated to not one, but two presidential visits: Bill Clinton takes us on a tour of the Clinton Library, complete with all the salacious ribbing that was old four years ago, while George W. Bush relies on Dick Cheney to give the pre-wedding father/daughter talk to Jenna.
The downside of Caliendo's act is that, being a visual medium, Caliendo's impressions are bolstered with costuming and makeup -- which, with Caliendo's build, ends up making everyone look like Caliendo more than it makes Caliendo look like the person being imitated. In the opening skit, a lampooning of a Seinfeld reunion set in 2027, split screen technology is used to allow Caliendo appear on the set as both Jerry, George and Kramer -- all of whom appear at the same height. (And bringing in Elaine as a fourth later just goes over the top.) Later, Caliendo and two other actors appear as "the movie trailer guys" -- including Don LaFontaine -- on tour, voicing a lengthy movie trailer that covers all the genres. The difficulty here is that even people who don't do impressions for a living have their own LaFontaine "In a world..." impression.
My overall take on Frank TV is that it has its funny moments, but not enough to last a full season. Look for Frank TV to last until mid-season.
Frank TV debuts November 20, 2007, on TBS.