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Titus (TV series)

Titus is an Emmy-nominated American dark-comedy sitcom that debuted on FOX in 2000. The series was created by its star, Christopher Titus, Jack Kenny, and Brian Hargrove. This sitcom was based on Christopher's stand-up comedy act, which was based loosely upon his real-life family. Titus plays an outwardly childish adult (based on himself), who owns a custom car shop. The show follows him and his dimwitted stepbrother Dave, his girlfriend Erin with the "heart of gold", his goody-goody friend Tommy, and his arrogantly lewd, bigoted and multiple-divorced father Ken "Papa" Titus.

Series description

The series first aired as a limited-run mid-season replacement in March 2000 and it received rave reviews. It ran for 54 episodes over three seasons until it was cancelled in 2002.

The characters were essentially a dysfunctional family and the situations the show dealt with were often serious and dark and unusual for network sitcom fare, including death, attempted and committed suicide, rape, child molestation, mental illness, road rage, gun violence, drug abuse, domestic abuse, alcoholism, and terrorism -- especially in the third season, which was to be the last (partly due to the controversial nature of the show).

One episode, "Tommy's Not Gay," dealt with the issue that Tommy — who uses stereotypically gay mannerisms and is called gay even though he isn't — lashes out at his homosexual father for lying to his mother about his sexuality. However, Tommy later defends his dad against others' homophobia when Tommy's father ends up getting beaten by Titus's friends. The episode made reference to the real-life killing of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming.

The format of the show always began with Christopher turning on a dangling lightbulb hanging from the ceiling in a black-and-white "neutral space", often breaking the "fourth wall". A crude wooden chair would accompany Christopher and sometimes be used as a prop. He would do a short monologue, then the traditional sitcom story would begin. During the episode, segments would be intercut to this "neutral space" where he would narrate or comment on what was happening. There were also frequent flashbacks or dream/imaginary sequences to relevant events. However, almost all episodes took place in only one location. In the end, Christopher would do another monologue, with the same beginning as in the show's opening, then turn the light off, sometimes smashing the bulb or even turning it off with a remote. Occasionally, an alter-ego type character of Titus would appear with him and gets abused randomly. These altered versions of Titus included Nerd Titus, seventeen year old Titus, Titus as a ten year old, and a five year old Titus.

The show, unusual for a sitcom, used serious points as a "stopping point" at times during episodes. These "stopping points" included Christopher admitting to being beaten by his ex-girlfriend Noelle, admitting that he loves his mother despite her being a violent manic-depressive paranoid schizophrenic, and how Matthew Shepard died because of his sexual preference.

Censorship by the network

More than one episode was censored/banned by FOX, including a two-part episode made in the months after the September 11 attacks that centered on the premise that the U.S. government believes Titus is a terrorist after Titus suffers a nervous breakdown on a plane from his mother's suicide, Tommy complains to a flight attendant about his mispronunciation of chicken a la king (which sounds like "Allah king"), and Dave comes out dressed with a towel turban, robe, & shaving cream on his face which looked like an Islamic beard, speaking unintelligibly.

Another episode, "The Protector," was not aired until the very end of the last season, and it dealt with Erin's niece, Amy, being molested by the man who babysat her while her parents were in prison (who turns out to be the father of a boy who harassed Amy in school). This episode is clearly out of chronological order as the other characters are unaware that Amy is a lesbian, which was revealed to them in the episode "Errrr." Had "The Protector" aired in the sequence originally planned, it may have made more sense out of why Amy was so asocial (outside of the fact that her mom was a drug addict who constantly neglected her, her stepfather was an abusive alcoholic, and both parents always ended up in prison). Also, the episode "The Session" makes reference to Amy's molestation, which makes little sense if one hasn't seen "The Protector." The episode "Insanity Genetic(2)" also made reference to "The Protector" wherein Tommy said "This one time he went after a kid with a bat, he didn't beat him like he planned."

"The Wedding" was aired out of order as well, as the Season 3 premiere "Racing in the Streets" dealt with Titus's recovery from the accident in "The Pit" and continued in "The Pendulum," yet he seems unaffected and the accident is not mentioned in the Season 2 finale. This is also confirmed by these episodes' production codes, which put "The Wedding" in between "Tommy's Girlfriend II" and "Hard Ass".

On a Sirius Radio Interview on Raw Dog 104, Christopher said the show got canceled due to an argument with executives. They wanted to split up Titus and Erin because the show Dharma & Greg had done similar. Upon Christopher's refusal, on-air promotion ceased and the show was soon canceled.

DVD releases

Anchor Bay Entertainment released the entire series on DVD in Region 1 in two packages.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date Additional Information
Seasons 1 & 2 33 July 12, 2005

  • Audio Commentaries
  • Hard Laughs
  • Rehearsal Footage
  • Promos for Titus
  • Cross-Promo Trailers: Doogie Howser M.D. & Profit

Season 3 21 January 17, 2006

  • Audio Commentary with Creator/Star Christopher Titus and Creators Brian Hargrove and Jack Kenny
  • "Brotherly Love": An Interview with Zach Ward
  • "His Better Half": An Interview with Cynthia Watros
  • "Honor Thy Father": An Interview with Stacey Keach
  • Gag Reel

Format

Part of the show's success was its unique format; a few exceptions aside, the show stuck to what worked. The "neutral space" was where Titus opened and ended the show. This lead-in and lead-out allowed for one liners and a monologue, before heading to (what the producers called) the Main Narrative, or "Live Story." The live story was the bulk of the action, and was the basis for the theme of the episode, and the other gags. The live story was unique in that it was extensively rehearsed throughout a production week, and shot in one day, in as few takes as possible. The result allowed the actors to keep their comedic timing, and kept the studio audience engaged to the point that they didn't have to use a laugh track on the show. Also of note was that the Live Story was (for an overwhelming majority of shows) shot on just one set.

Most episodes also took place over a short course of time: usually only a few hours; very rarely would a plot carry over till "the next day." The main narrative was frequently intercut with the Neutral Space, sometimes just for a quick one-liner from Titus, sometimes for some informative exposition, and often for a quick flashback or a sparingly used fantasy scene. The Live Show would also usually take place in one place, either a recurring location like Ken's house, or the garage, or a one-time location, like the bus station, or a houseboat.

Neutral Space

The neutral space (always in black and white) would always start and end the show, usually with the same sentence. Titus was the neutral space's only occupant, (except in two episodes, when he was replaced by Ken and Erin respectively) and would appear always wearing similar clothes, with a wooden chair, a lightbulb, and the bland walls. Frequently, props appeared for one-shot gags in the neutral space. Very rarely would anything from the live story appear there, and vice versa (one notable exception was Dave's suicide note in "Private Dave"). There are many allusions to the neutral space being Titus' mind, though it is never said outright. On a few occasions, the Neutral Space is used to demonstrate the passing of time, or Christopher will do something "in" the neutral space when he is really just thinking about it while doing it - we only see his thought process. Also, as in "The Trial," sometimes he'll say something in the neutral space, and also be saying it in reality, and not realize it, like when he calls the prosecutor an idiot, thinking he just thought it.

Flashbacks

Flashbacks - always introduced from the Neutral Space - were frequently used for character development and background. Flashbacks generally went back to one of three time periods - when Titus was five, ten, or seventeen. Two different child actors played the five and ten year old versions of Titus, the latter sometimes joined by five year old and ten year old versions of Dave and Tommy. Flashbacks to high school with the 17 year old Titus had all of the current actors playing the younger versions of themselves. To compensate for being too old to believably play the roles, the actors have humorously exaggerated costumes and mannerisms. Except for a few flashbacks in "Grandma Titus" that featured Ken as a child, Stacy Keach is the only one to appear in all of his character's flashbacks; only his hair and clothes change with the times. The flashbacks themselves had no specific format, other than being quick, one laugh gags. They frequently showcased Ken Titus' unique approach to parenting, relationships, and drinking. The women that Ken is shown dating (or even married to) in these flashbacks are frequently not given a name, and their faces are rarely shown. Episodes with guest characters who had any connection with the main characters (Like Tommy or Erin's families) frequently appeared in flashbacks as well. Ultimately, flashbacks were free-for-alls, doing whatever was necessary for a laugh.

Occasionally, instead of a flashback, a far-fetched scenario will be presented. These would either be a future scenario, a what if...? scenario, or just a gag. These exaggerations (relative to the rest of the show) usually represent Christopher's fears. One such future scenario would be Erin still bossing Christopher around in their old age. A what-if scenario had Christopher getting everything in his life and becoming perfect - resulting in his suicide (he has nothing left to work towards). And finally, a gag would use just for laughs like Christopher, Ken, and Dave were just heads sitting on the couch with Dave eating spaghetti.

Characters

Role Performer Character Summary
Christopher Titus Christopher Titus The protagonist and center of the dysfunctional chaos of the show
Erin Fitzpatrick Cynthia Watros Christopher's girlfriend , with a dysfunctional family of her own.
Dave Titus aka. Dave Scovill Zack Ward Christopher's stepbrother
Ken Titus Stacy Keach Christopher's father
Tommy Shafter David Shatraw Christopher's buddy since childhood
Amy Ferrer Rachel Roth Erin's rebellious teenage niece who lives with Erin and Christopher during the third season.

Episode list

(Episodes listed as they were ordered on the DVD release)

Season Ep # First Airdate Last Airdate
_2000 9 March 20 2000 May 22 2000
_2000-2001 24 October 3 2000 May 22 2001
_2001-2002 21 November 14 2001 August 12 2002

References

External links

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