TV Review: Billy Crystal’s ‘700 Sundays’

Billy crystal 700 sundays

HBO’s latest front-row seat to a theatrical one-man play shifts from Mike Tyson to Billy Crystal, translating the latter’s comic memoir “700 Sundays” into a TV special. Nostalgic and deeply personal — at a full two hours, there’s no escaping that the show amounts to a whole lot of Crystal — it’s heavily skewed toward an audience old enough to appreciate references to Mickey Mantle, Billie Holiday, and a mock Yiddish rant where the only English word is “retail.” Ultimately, Crystal’s joy in performing, and appreciation for how he got from there to here, shines through, but the special is still best consumed in pieces.

Crystal derived the title from the precious weekend days he got to spend with his hard-working father, a record-store owner and jazz producer who dropped dead when Crystal was just 15.

Crystal’s father and uncle brought him into contact early with showbiz and music (he recalls seeing the movie “Shane” with Holiday as a child), but the material careens all over the place, from puberty (and inevitably, masturbation) to family foibles to his undersized experiences playing high-school basketball.

Those who have been exposed to Crystal’s shtick through the years — back to his routine about earning the nickname “Face” on “Saturday Night Live” — will find a lot that’s familiar. Others will be able to admire his energy and verbal and physical dexterity (such as when he replicates old home movies), provided they don’t mind a fair amount of saccharine and schmaltz sprinkled over the laughs.

Directed by Des McAnuff, the TV version does a fine job of keeping the presentation interesting and varied, including the way videoclips are woven in to the editing. It is also, clearly, a performance, not standup, although Crystal, jazz aficionado that he is, can’t resist occasionally riffing with the audience.

Ultimately, the underlying message of “700 Sundays” is one about life’s fleeting and unpredictable nature — how you never really know how long you’ll have with someone, so savor those precious moments while they last.

At its best, Crystal’s autobiographical trip makes one appreciate such things, as well as his own undeniably triumphant journey. Yet while it amounts to a quibble, perhaps, it’s still fair to say that when faced with the concept of making every moment count, it’s easy to wish “700 Sundays” was a bit more judicious about how many moments it occupies.

TV Review: Billy Crystal's '700 Sundays'

(Special; HBO, Sat. April 19, 9 p.m.)


Taped in New York by Jennilind Prods.


Executive producers, Larry Magid, David Steinberg, Billy Crystal, Janice Crystal; co-executive producers, Des McAnuff, Alan Zweibel; director, McAnuff; writer, Billy Crystal; additional material, Zweibel; supervising producer, Benn Fleishman; editor, Kent Beyda; scenic designer, David F. Weiner. 119 MIN.


With: Billy Crystal

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 26

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. John Ulrich says:

    I don’t understand how you recommend that the special be consumed in pieces. I accidentally, channel surfing, happened upon the special. It was about 5 minutes into the show. I thought I was just checking it out. I never, thought once about continuing my channel surfing. It was riveting for me. Don’t consume this work of art in pieces. Watch it from start to finish.
    Hopefully your comment “it’s heavily skewed toward an audience old enough to appreciate references to…” was meant to be factual and not critical. It was skewed to that era, because that is when Billy grew up and this whole story took place.
    You have heard of “a must read book.” This is a “must see special.”

  2. Berta Roseberry says:

    We just watched his 700 Sundays Show and it was the most emotional, funny, talented, unbelievable show that I have ever seen. I laughed and cried and I just want to thank him so much for doing that. No one is better then him in my opinion! I can’t get over on how really, really good that was!

    • Never really thought Billy was that funny I liked him in SOAP and funny is not rated by how many times you introduce an award show.. but this was a brilliant funny caring show even managed to make it through the baseball thing which is really rounders for men

  3. jackie says:

    I throughly enjoyed 700 Sundays. I laughed a LOT. And I sat silent. That good kind of silent though. So much talent. Billy Crystal as only Billy Crystal can be.

  4. Gillian Harris says:

    Watched it last night, on TV recording, we had to turn it of at one point because we were laughing so much our tummies were aching,Best thing we have seen for ages,BRILLIANT

  5. Sarah Carruthers says:

    How can you be so lukewarm about this shining example of humanity? You seem to be suffering from a frontal lobotomy. Billy Crystal had me crying with laughter and sobbing with emotion. It was wonderful, simply wonderful.

  6. Lesley says:

    LOVE 700 SUNDAYS!!

  7. Susan Hervey says:

    I love, love, love Billy Crystal. I was sorry there was so much profanity. Also did not enjoy the scene where his grandfather was in his shorts. It leaves out many that I would have recommended it to.

  8. Blaster says:

    Absolutely wonderful; sad but very poignant. I cried and I laughed. An amazingly factual account of a very loving family. Well done, and highly recommended. Bring tissue—-you’ll need it!

    • Rick Brazick says:

      It was a self serving heartfelt confession. Very disturbing show if you lost parents under the same circumstances.

      • John Ulrich says:

        I have lost parents under same circumstance. Just lost my Mom, 91 on Labor Day 2015. I did not ever feel this was self serving and was not even remotely close to being disturbed.
        I hope you watched this special to the end. Billy Crystal looks into the camera as if he is playing cards with you. He tells you what he has in his hand. They are not all good cards. He stays with the cards he’s been dealt. He ask’s you “are you in?”
        Well, did you stay with your hand or did you fold?

  9. Elizabeth Carrube says:

    I loved every minute of his performance: Wonderful!

  10. Jim says:

    Loved his story and the way he tells it. When he told the story how the 57 Plymouth wouldn’t start the morning after his dad died, the identical thing happened to me when my 14 year old son died except it was both of our cars. Never happened before and it never happened again in all the time we owned those vehicles. Life can be a strange and bittersweet journey.

  11. Gary says:

    I have never seen Billy Crystal funnier and sad all in the same show. If I wasn’t LMAO I was close to crying. He was marvelous. I hope he comes to my area.

  12. JuneBug says:

    That man was never funny. He always felt forced.

  13. Nancy Masse says:

    Incredibly entertaining!! I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Crystal’s work, but this play/movie was at the top! I felt like I was there, apart of his family and his journey. Beautifully written, and executed by a master. Everything was well played, including sound, lights, and staging. Amazing. Mr. Crystal you made me see my life and family in a differant way and I can see you lost alot of Sundays with your Dad, but I’m sure he’s proud! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Randy Dickey says:

    This is Billy Crystal at his finest. Pure from the heart entertainment, delivered with joy and expression that no one else can bring. Miss this man. He used to be everywhere and now he is kind of semi retired? So glad to see him new again. I smell awards.

  15. Gary says:

    Wow, Brian, might want to work on you attention span issues. For the rest of us, it was completely brilliant!

  16. Carol says:

    Brian Lowry … did you and I watch the same HBO special: Billy Crystal 500 Sundays? The writing and performance by Billy Crystal was outstanding.

  17. alan Jay says:

    It is quite obvious that this review by Lowry of 700 Sundays….leaves us with the distinct feeling that it was written by a person of shallow depth…..Crystal’s performance was quite touching and poignant…..
    If the generation gap here is too much of a leap for said reviewer ….it is to his lack of intellectual ability to span that gap…..and find some sadness and even joy on the other side…….Alan Jay.

  18. Renee Blankstein says:

    I found the skit about his disabled uncle extremely offensive. All of my friends agreed. Why is someones
    affliction a source of humor? The Americans With Disabilities should get after him. It turned me off him forever.

    • Randy Dickey says:

      I had a friend that had no legs from the Knees down and he would not let you open the door for him because he was like everyone else. What is it that you want? Do you want to be human? Then find humor in everything, including your self. Life is to short to hide behind the ada the what ever governs everyones life. Lets just get on with it, or not

      • Gern Blanston says:

        You’re right, life is “too short”…. like your friend with no legs. Ba dump ba!

  19. Angela Rivera de Texidor says:

    “You get so mad that you want you want storm into GODS office!” ….. Awesome! What a roller coaster ride of emotional laugher! Billy is, as Billy can only be! SIMPLY MAAAHVALOUS!

  20. mr says:

    Play much tennis? I ask ’cause you’ve got a HELLUVA backhand!!! Do let us know when YOUR next Broadway performance is, won’t you?

More TV News from Variety