The Critic is an American animated series that revolved around the life of movie critic Jay Sherman, voiced by actor Jon Lovitz. It was created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, both of whom had worked as writers on The Simpsons. The Critic was short-lived — a total of only 23 episodes were produced — and was one of the few shows to ever switch major networks mid-series: it was first broadcast on ABC in 1994 and later completed its original run on FOX in 1995. The show was produced by Gracie Films in association with Columbia Pictures Television (now Sony Pictures Television on reruns), and was animated by Film Roman.
Each episode featured at least one or two short movie parodies based on current or recent films. Many of these parodies were featured on Jay's show Coming Attractions. Notable examples include Howard Stern's End (Howard's End), Honey, I Ate the Kids (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids/The Silence of the Lambs), The Cockroach King (The Lion King), Abe Lincoln: Pet Detective (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), and Scent of a Jackass (Scent of a Woman). It also made parodies of old but well known movies such as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and The Godfather, and routinely lampooned director/actor Orson Welles.
The show was canceled after two years, though nine scripts were written for the would be new network UPN and ten brief Internet only "webisodes" were produced later on and were included as a bonus on the DVD box set. The program can currently be seen on ReelzChannel and premiered on Teletoon's Detour (a programming block on the Canadian cartoon network aimed at mature audiences, similar to Cartoon Network's Adult Swim) beginning September 3, 2008.
"New York's third most popular early-morning cable-TV film critic," Jay Prescott Sherman is the host of Phillips Broadcasting's "Coming Attractions." His catch phrases include his exclamation of surprise ("Hotchie motchie!"), his common putdown of sub-par films ("It stinks!") and his distinctive cough ("ach-um!"). He is known for his surly and sarcastic putdowns of the majority of films he reviews - which is the majority of films he sees, as his favorite films are foreign films, such as The Red Balloon - with the exception of Citizen Kane. He often uses the "Shermometer" to measure the films he reviews, or a list of diseases he'd rather have than see a movie. Most of his dislike for films comes from a love for cinema that has been disillusioned by seeing the commercial processes involved in the film industry.
Jay is the adopted son of wealthy couple Franklin and Eleanor Sherman, who originally thought he was a monkey. He was given Acid-laced Kool-Aid in Pre-School by guest speaker Timothy Leary, and was mistakenly sent to Attica Prison instead of summer camp as a child. He has a teenage sister named Margo. He has a young son, Marty, who visits often when not staying with Jay's ex-wife, Ardeth and her "personal trainer," Alberto. He is 36 years old.
Jay appeared in a guest role on the episode of The Simpsons, "A Star Is Burns", in which he presided over a local film festival, much to Homer's envy. Simpsons creator Matt Groening, for his part, detested the act of a current FOX show (which The Critic was at the time) crossing over with another current FOX show, and refused to allow his name to be shown in the credits, or discuss the episode on the later DVD commentary. When Jay enters the Simpson household, Bart is watching a Flintstones-Jetsons crossover show (which was probably the movie The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones), which he criticizes; he then praises Jay and "Coming Attractions"/The Critic, before shuddering and saying to himself "I feel so dirty." At the end of the episode, as he is leaving for New York, Jay offers the Simpsons to appear on "Coming Attractions"/The Critic, but Bart declines, saying, "Nah, we're not going to be doing that." Oddly, The Simpsons also appears on television as a cartoon in The Critic. Jay Sherman also has yellow skin when he appears on The Simpsons but pink skin on The Critic.
Since then, Jay appeared briefly on The Simpsons a few more times. In the episode "Hurricane Neddy", he was in an insane asylum apparently unable to say anything more than his catchphrase (Doctor: "Yes, Mr. Sherman. Everything stinks.") In another episode, he is seen at Moe's Tavern with all the other characters on the show that Lovitz voices or has voiced.
Jay has also held several other jobs in his time, including a truck driver, speech writer for his boss's presidential campaign and a writer for the film Ghostchasers III (renamed Ghostbusters III during the final episode clip show.)
He has won a string of prestigious awards for his career. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes for criticism, in addition to a People's Choice Award, five Golden Globes, an Emmy Award, a PhD in film, and a B'nai B'rith Award. Duke frequently makes patronizing comments to suggest that Jay is gay; Jay maintains that he is straight.
Jay blames his weight problem on the fictional disorder vitilardo, a word-play on the skin pigmentation disorder vitiligo. His weight is suggested to be greater than a tank, as a helicopter that was originally designed to lift tanks was unable to even get him off the ground. He was also shown in a file photo on a news report as "weighing more than the entire band Los Lobos,", in which he is sitting on a see-saw, lifting the entire band into the air. When he exercises, Duke often uses Jay in place of a set of dumbbells when lifting weights. His weight lead to the death of a horse when he was a child, crushing it to death when Jay was forced into sitting on it. Jay's stomach seems to have a mind of its own, often giving him commands that he obeys out of fear, going so far as to call it "Master". Acting on the advice of a quack public-relations expert, Jay once gained so much weight that he had to have several months' worth of liposuction.
He also has an alter-ego in "Ethel". His Ethel persona is an elderly woman, whom he often pretends is his assistant, and therefore assumes her persona when answering the phone. "Ethel" only appeared in the first season, and is phased out in the second to make Jay seem less crazy and more likable.
In the opening sequence for every episode, Jay is awakened by a disquieting phone call or radio news brief. At the end, he is seen sitting in a movie theater, eating popcorn and drinking soda as the closing credits are shown on the screen. When they finish, an usher approaches and says, "Excuse me, sir, the show's over." Jay then delivers one of the following four responses:
- "But I have nowhere to go..."
- "Is the snack bar still open?"
- "Get away, zit-face!"
- "I'm stuck in the chair!"
Jay's 9-year-old son Martin (Marty for short) usually stays with his mother, but visits Jay often. Like Jay, he is overweight, which causes him problems at United Nations International School
. He was elected eighth-grade president thanks to a speech written by his father, dated Fidel Castro
's granddaughter and discovered he has a gift for belly-dancing (he has great muscle control in his belly). In one episode, he lost a lot of weight, but found his new thin body to be more trouble than it was worth and gained it all back before the end of the episode.
Jay's ex-wife, last name unknown, who fell in love with Jay as his nurse, during a period in which he was completely bandaged and gagged. She instantly regretted marrying Jay, admitting so during the wedding ceremony. They spent their wedding night playing The Newlywed Game
, which they won (Jay correctly guessed Ardeth compared his sex appeal to a dead mackerel).
Ardeth spends most of the series insulting Jay or demanding more alimony. At one point, when he greets her at a school athletic competition, she tells him he has to pay her $100 every time he talks to her. Opening his wallet, he replies, "Here's two hundred. Get bent!" She once attempted to place a voodoo hex on Jay's girlfriend Alice, despite the divorce settlement specifically forbidding such actions. Despite her dislike of Jay, she shares Jay's affection for their only son Marty and even goes so far as to admit, "We raised a great kid." She is voiced by Brenda Vaccaro, but in one episode, she was guest-voiced by Rhea Perlman.
The youngest child of the Sherman family, and the only biological child of Franklin and Eleanor. She is 16 years old and is a junior at a finishing school for "untouched girls." Margo is an activist
who often protests her mother's socialite lifestyle. She also cares greatly for Jay, making sure his girlfriends aren't just dating him to get good reviews and having him escort her to the debutante
ball. Briefly dated grunge rock
singer Johnny Wrath (real name: Jonathan Rathberg), after he moved next door to the Shermans.
Jay's adoptive father and Eleanor's husband, Franklin always carries a drink in his hand, wears slippers and speaks with a thick Harvard accent
. His mental health is uncertain, and he often acts quite erratically. His family claims that he had a stroke (to which Eleanor adds "He didn't really. We just say that to explain his personality"). A few of his oddities include burning down the house (this is explained by him forgetting to turn the oven off), becoming stuck to an ice sculpture, glueing the dog to the ceiling, wearing underpants on his head at the dinner table and sticking a banana in his ear which he claimed was to try to lure the monkey out of his head.
He is a former governor of New York State, as well as a former ambassador, Cabinet member, a Rhodes scholar and a heavy contributor to the Republican Party. He was also U.S. Secretary of Balloon Doggies, claiming, "I didn't ask to be Secretary of Balloon Doggies, the balloon doggies demanded it." He was Duke Phillips' running mate when he ran for president, though Duke tried to remove him when he claimed to be the first black female head of the Ku Klux Klan. His preference of rum is mentioned in the episode "Frankie and Ellie Get Lost" when he lines up and sets fire to logs arranged to say "NEED RUM." It was revealed at one point that he was completely sane and dry before drinking a "spiked" punch.
It is perhaps intentional that Jay's parents share their first names with President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Eleanor Sherman (née Wigglesworth)
Jay's adoptive mother and Franklin's wife, Eleanor is very prim and proper. She can be very nasty and underhanded when it suits her purposes, willing to shoot her daughter's horse to force her to go to a debutante ball. She is often embarrassed by her family and its eccentricities. She seeks to have all poor people shot into space, and when she wrote a children's book about Jay called "The Fat Little Pig", she promised to put all the profits toward that goal. She is a little too concerned with her outward appearance, despite her lack of tear ducts. This is brought to light when she is asked how her skin is so smooth, and she replied that she scrubs her face rigorously with steel wool, and then soaks her face in boiling hot water for two minutes exactly. Eleanor's voice, and many of her mannerisms, were inspired by Katharine Hepburn
Duke is Jay's boss, and head of Philips Broadcasting (formerly Duke Phillips' House of Chicken and Waffles
). He somewhat resembles Ted Turner
and has a virtually superhuman constitution (he's able to lift Jay with relative ease and walk through concrete walls). He runs the network that shows Coming Attractions
, and is always trying to change things to increase ratings and maximize profits. He owns an amusement park called Phillips Land, dubbed "The Happiest Place In Jersey", founded his own preschool ("Built on a dare"), runs PNN (Philips News Network), and a hospital/medical research center (with a giant statue of himself on it chanting "all hail duke, duke is life) and also tried to run for president with Franklin Sherman as his running mate. He possesses a hypnotic power called the "Evil eye" which he used to avoid reporters questions during that campaign. Contracted a fatal disease, later dubbed "Duke Phillips" disease; the treatment for which includes an 8 ounce injection of a medication discovered by Jay entitled "Jay Sherman's Oil" (a parody of Lorenzo's Oil
) into his eyeball every 4 hours. He believes Jay is gay and in love with him, and wastes no opportunity to belittle him in public about this. Towards the end of the series, he marries Alice Tompkins' sister Miranda. When asked about religion, Duke commented that he, along with the rest of America's cultural elite
, worships Pan
, the goat god. Also, pigeons love the sound of his voice. He has a secret love of cats, and in the episode "All the Duke's Men" a videotape of him tearfully singing to his cat is used by Bob Dole to discourage Duke from running as a Republican. Duke loves America, but for tax purposes is a citizen of the Dutch Antilles
Jeremy is an Australian
actor, and is Jay's best friend since Jay gave his first film its only positive review. Best known as the star of the "illogical, blasphemous, and ultra-violent" Crocodile Gandhi
series, he has starred in multiple action movies and played former president James Monroe
(as a spoof of James Bond
eg. "Monroe, James Monroe"). He has a twin sister, Olivia, who tries to win Jay's affection. He is a combination spoof of Australians Paul Hogan
in terms of the exaggerated accent, and Mel Gibson
with his luck with the ladies as well as his action film roles. His hidden shames: he's 43, uses elevator shoes to give the illusion of height, had allegedly fired a caterer for bringing the wrong kind of biscuit and has had extensive plastic surgery. He can also imitate the voice of Bullwinkle J. Moose
Doris is Jay's make-up artist, a chain smoker
and possibly Jay's biological mother (tests were negative but there are many similarities between his circumstances and her own son whom she gave up for adoption). She also tries to be attractive to Duke, by purring and sending him nude photos of herself. She only has one lung and anytime a cigarette is removed from her mouth a new one appears. Doris lives in a very spacious and luxurious apartment, affordable to her since it has been "rent controlled since 1946
." Her rent is $120 per month. She says that one of her talents is making shapes out of cigarette smoke, but when she tried to make a bunny she created one with a demonic face which told her "Doris... tick! Tock!" She was once a Commercial actress for Phleghm Fatale Cigarettes, but her career in acting ended after she "got knocked up by the Fruit of the Loom banana". Doris was even married to horror-movie actor Lon Chaney
as evidenced on her arm tattoo. Voiced by Doris Grau who also played a character named Lunchlady Doris
in The Simpsons
Alice and Penny Tompkins
Introduced in the second season, Alice Tompkins becomes Jay's girlfriend. She is named for Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners
and she is once married to a country singer, Cyrus Tompkins, but she leaves him when she begins to suspect he is cheating on her (she reaches this conclusion after seeing Cyrus' album, entitled "I'm Being Unfaithful to My Wife, Alice Tompkins. You Heard Me, Alice Tompkins.") As a consequence, Alice moves to New York from Knoxville, Tennessee
, to show her daughter Penny that a woman can make it without a man.
Originally an artist (and capable of replicating art masterworks on the walls of her apartment), she now works as Jay's personal assistant. She has an older sister, Miranda, who has usurped her popularity many times over the years, and a younger brother named Bisquick.
Penny quickly takes a liking to Jay, first calling him "funny man" due to the comical mishaps that repeatedly befall him when he is around her. Later in the season, she begins to call him "Uncle Jay." When he and Alice are unable to get her admitted into any of the top preschools in New York, Duke Phillips creates one exclusively for her, staffed by Jimmy Breslin, Sean Young, and Prince Charles.
A fifth tagline for the closing credits was created to go with the original four (see above). Here, Jay and Alice are seen kissing in the theater seats as the credits roll. At the end, they are interrupted by an usher who says, "Excuse me, the show's over." Alice responds, "Get away, pipsqueak," and Jay says to the camera, "That's why I love her!"
In the first Critic webisode Jay's makeup artist Jennifer asks him what happened to his self-esteem to which Jay replies that he lost it in the second divorce settlement leading many fans to believe that Jay had married Alice which eventually ended up in a bitter divorce. However, in one episode of the original show (Marty's First Date; Episode 2, Season 1) he marries a Mexican woman so he can become a Mexican citizen and go to Cuba to retrieve his son. The woman admitted to only be using him so it could very well have been her he divorced.
Vlada, who is an Eastern European immigrant, runs a restaurant called L'ane Riche
(French for "The Wealthy Jackass"), which Jay and Jeremy both frequent. He hates Jay, but loves his money (stated by his son Zoltan that "thanks to his appetite, they bought a yacht"), frequently belittling him quietly or in a foreign language to the staff. Best known for his greeting to Jay, "Meeester Sherman", he has a keen understanding of who is hot and who is not in New York and a posse built for schmoozing. He has an equally effeminate and disturbing son, Zoltan, who attends the same UN School as Jay's son Marty and sings unintentionally hilarious songs about his homeland. The headmaster of the UN School once described Zoltan as "The boy who used to be a girl. Oops, that used
to be a secret!..." On a side note the restaurant is also a parody of Sardi's
of New York, which is frequented by Broadway stars and New York socialites alike.
The Shermans' butler, Shackleford is an older Englishman with a dour, sarcastic attitude. He is not particularly loyal to the family, but he stays with them for the money and fringe benefits. Shackleford is particularly contemptuous toward Jay, referring to him as Adopted
Master Jay, with a tone that suggest that he does not consider Jay to be a true member of the family. He is also a fan of grunge rock
and has worked for a number of famous musical groups. Shackleford was inspired by John Gielgud
as the Butler Hobson in the movie Arthur.
In the early 2000s, show creators Al Jean and Mike Reiss ran a series of ten internet episodes of The Critic
, still with Jon Lovitz as the starring role. While still making fun of movies and Hollywood in general, its story focused on Jay lusting after the lovely Jennifer, his new makeup lady. Alice does not appear in any of the episodes and is not mentioned by name, though Jay does briefly refer to a "second divorce" in the first episode--presumably from her or the mexican woman he married in order to get to Cuba. Besides Jay, Vlada is the only other character from the show to make an appearance. All ten of the "webisodes" were included on the complete series DVD (but not iTunes). Parodies include gaffs on The Patriot
, Harry Potter
, Mission: Impossible 2
, X-Men, Pearl Harbor
and Cast Away