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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

'The Class' CS DVD: 'Friends' With Benefits

The Class: The Complete Series
The 2006-07 CBS Monday night sitcom "The Class" is a perfect addition to the Warner Archive DVD library. This lesser-known very funny show, which won a People's Choice Award for Favorite New TV Comedy, about the comic misadventures of the 20-something characters and their former third-grade classmates has many elements of a classic sitcom.

David Crane, who was a producer of "Friends" and other '90s sitcom, get "Class" off to a great start with a pilot that has curable romantic Philadelphia pediatrician Ethan Haas (Chandler) covertly gathering the members of his third-grade class as a surprise for his fiancee. This grand gesture relates to Ethan and said fiancee meeting in that class 20 years before. (There are no indications whether they played doctor at that tender age.)

The party triggers a breaking of the engagement and a beginning of assorted friendships and other relationships among Ethan and seven of his classmates.

Ethan, wonderfully played by John Ritter's son Jason, starts hanging out with tough-on-the-outside-tender on the inside Kat Warbler (Phoebe.) Much of their terrifically playful interaction has her trying to get him to stop being such a wouse/patsy.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a terrific interview with Jason from the "Class" era provides a good sense of his charm and that of the series.

The Ethan/Kat duo is the center of the best of the 19 "Class" episodes. An innocent trip to a frozen yogurt shop leads to Kat challenging Ethan to get free samples of every flavor and not buy anything. Stating that hilarity ensues is not an exaggeration, and no one who sees this episode will ever be able to ask for more than one such sample without feeling tremendous guilt.

Other great Kat/Ethan moments involve him getting her in a prolonged wrestling hold and her getting stranded in his condominium while his very frisky girlfriend is visiting. Another "Three's Company" moment has Kat and Ethan fantasizing about a menage-a-trois that does not appeal so much to one potential participant.

Another pairing has Kat's sweet and naive twin Lina (sweet and dopey Phoebe) starting a romance with dorky Richie (Ross), played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson of "Modern Family." With the exception of a hilariously awful dinner party in a must-see episode, much of the humor related to this story line involves Richie's horrible driving.

Television reporter Holly Ellenbogen (quasi-Monica) also has some great moments; a scene in which she and Kyle (quasi-Ross) discuss the graphic manner in which she discovers the night that he is gay is one of the best of the series. The fact that Holly has married a comically flamboyant interior decorator indicates that her instincts regarding men have not improved; the Thanksgiving episode provides some insight regarding this.

"Class" mines wonderful humor in having the appealing Kyle and his uber-hunky live-in Chilean boyfriend derive great pleasure from watching Holly get tortured on the air; a broadcast from a petting zoo is very memorable, and an episode that has Holly reporting on a hurricane has one of the best moments from the show.

Duncan, who may as well be Joey's brother, spends much of his screen-time with former high school girlfriend Nicole (Rachel.) Nicole being married to former professional football player Yonk Allen complicates the rekindled feelings that she and Duncan share.

The most comical Nicole/Duncan moment involves hilariously eroticizing a cheese steak that will make every viewer want to immediately drive to Philadelphia for one. Their most memorable tender one comes during a very special dinner.

As indicated above, the good news is that Crane and his team bring us an entertaining crew and do equally well with both sits and coms. The less good news is that the premise that this group of "friends" who have not seen each other for at least 10 years and mostly were not very close during their school years become so intimate with each other in one form or another after a single party.

The final report card for "Class" is that it earns a solid B-plus. It has a great cast and is always highly amusing with hilarious moments thrown in. It simply does not live up the full potential that it possesses. Not even sending the gang to summer school in the form of additional off-season episodes is a failure of the network system.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Class" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.