Just as Illinois Sen. Paul Simon is decrying the violent sins of Hollywood, along comes Showtime's "Sex, Shock and Censorship in the '90s," a parody of TV newsmagazines trying to expose the evil that fuels a spate of fictitious programming. Despite a few lulls in the laughter, comedy spec will tickle industry types, if not people in Peoria.
Just as Illinois Sen. Paul Simon is decrying the violent sins of Hollywood, along comes Showtime’s “Sex, Shock and Censorship in the ’90s,” a parody of TV newsmagazines trying to expose the evil that fuels a spate of fictitious programming. Despite a few lulls in the laughter, comedy spec will tickle industry types, if not people in Peoria.Just when you thought Diane from “Cheers” was dead and buried, Shelley Long creates her chirpy, righteous alter ego as Fay Sommerfield, host of “That Time of Month.” Sommerfield storms through Hollywood with camera crew to reveal those responsible for programming like “Love Thy Neighbor,” a gameshow about wife-swapping; “The Last Supper,” a movie that casts a Mafia light on Jesus’ last meal; and rap video “Kill the Teacher,” which is followed by actual teacher murders. Exec producer/director David Jablin and scripters Michael Barrie and Jim Mulholland have crafted a host of satirical skits with a pinch of commentary. The real star here is the ensemble cast. Best of the lot include Peter Jurasik as slime producer F. Buddy Pinkus; Robert Pastorelli as a Mafioso-type Jesus Christ; Martin Mull as the “Love Thy Neighbor” host; Phil LaMarr as Butch Jones, a Spike Lee clone; Elon Gold lending his voice to the characters of “Ratman & Frisky,” a cartoon teaming caricatures of Howard Stern and Richard Simmons; and Julia Duffy and Chris Lemmon as politically correct parents. Paul Benedict puts a familiar critic in his place with his character Malcolm Maltved, an anal-retentive critic who dies of a brain aneurysm after becoming disgusted while reviewing the above-mentioned “The Last Supper.” Special moves easily from the studio setting of the newsmag toclips and trailers of programming, thanks to the sharp camerawork of James Chressanthis, who provides the taped look of the studio as well as the slick filmic feel of the movie previews. Richard Band’s music fills nicely as well. Running time of one hour is tough to pack with punch after punch; there’s usually down time when Long is in the studio. She’s the obvious straight man here but her character doesn’t come across as smoothly and naturally as others who make the most of their cameos.