Sunday, August 17, 2008

RIP Bernie Mac 1957-2008

Watching Bernie Mac’s (born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough) wholly successful and mostly riotous stand up act one wouldn’t have thought he could ever creatively translate it to the sit-com medium, yet The Bernie Mac Show, which ran from 2001-2006 for a total 103 episodes, did exactly that. It steadily served a funkier (and a decidedly self-conscious) version of Cosby Show family values, while also nodding heavily in the direction of the surreal precedents of the George Burns and Gary Shandling shows. Bernie Mac, with his linebacker’s gait and comically self-inflated bluster, presided over the familial turmoil and showbiz sprinklings like a defanged despot, huffing and barking his law of the jungle philosophies to a stellar cast, including Kellita Smith as his lovely and put upon wife, and Camille Winbush, Jeremy Suarez, and Dee Dee Davis as his adopted brood. The show coasted along with a lively intelligence, and co-creator Larry Wilmore and Mac never compromised the comedian’s rough hewn sense of street irony and in-yer-face wisdom. Mac achieved the contempo comedian’s trifecta, with solid success as stand-up, in movies (as a star and as a character type), and in fashioning a sit-com that will stand the test of time, a rare example of the genre that had both heart and soul alongside the consistent yucks.

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