If The Critic had came out 10-15 years, we might be talking about the show in the present tense. The show might have ended up going too long as opposed to being pulled off the air. It ended up being too cynical and mean spirited toward its main character at a time before it was okay to be.
This was a show with a number of inside jokes about Hollywood, everything from the tokenism of African-American actors in movies to product placement and even how bad franchising has become in the studio system. There is also some satire directed at three prominent Hollywood directors: Oliver Stone, Francis Ford Coppola, and Spike Lee. In 2017, people would understand the kinds of jokes written for Jon Lovitz’s Jay Sherman character.
Jokes about how bad Los Angeles traffic is are universal. What might not be understood is that a real film critic once did write a Hollywood script. Roger Ebert wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls all the way back in 1970. Jay Sherman’s purpose was originally to write a great script and bring it to Hollywood to be produced. What ends up happening instead is the main character is asked to write a sequel to a franchise that he didn’t even like in the first place. The film is Ghostchasers III, an obvious homage to Ghostbusters. Funny enough, it did take another 20 years plus a reboot for another Ghostbusters to be made.
It’s one of the more genuinely funny episodes of the entire show’s run because of the satire and because of the cynicism involved with the Hollywood system. There are also some funny jokes about plastic surgery and Jay Sherman even inciting violence by encouraging LA gangs to murder Hollywood executives. What made this episode and all episodes work was the tremendous performance by Jon Lovitz, a fine character actor who was perfectly suited for this schlubby and all too smart film critic.
Despite being 8-years-old, I watched every episode that aired in 1993 on ABC and then continued when the show moved to Fox when it aired after The Simpsons. I certainly didn’t get every joke but appreciated most of the goofiness, such as Jay Sherman’s stomach talking about the prospect of five business lunches. It’s a show I still appreciate to this day and wonder what might have been in the world of streaming with a million shows that never seem to be cancelled.
“LA Jay” was one of the best episodes because it showed Jay Sherman at his best (or worst depending on your point of view), contained some very well written and topical (at the time) jokes but was also unique among network shows because of how cynical and dark it could sometimes be.