Sometimes movies can be so bad they're good. Sometimes TV shows can embrace formula so strongly that it winds up working in their favor. "According to Jim" is certainly a prime example of that. The series is really nothing beyond the ordinary family sitcom at its core - father is immature and frequently screws up or says something ridiculously insensitive, wife is smart and looks at husband like he's a lovable idiot (but more often just an idiot) every time he does something wrong. Somehow, some way, the kids actually get raised. The series has no real angle or additional level (such as "Home Improvement"'s frequent focus on "Tool Time"), it simply is...simple.
Yet, here is a series that - in an era where some shows don't last an episode - ran for 8 years (and was even brought back after looking as if it was going to be canceled completely.) The series succeeded in part because it offered the comfort of the familiar, but it's remarkable that, even as the ratings for the series started to slide, it somehow managed to continue under the radar like an ace "Survivor" player for a few more years after.
The series stars Jim Belushi as Jim, the head of a family living in the Chicago suburbs. He lives with his wife, Cheryl (Courtney Thorne-Smith, who seemed like the last person on Earth who would make a good pairing with Belushi, but works really well) and children (initially a few, but 5 by the time the series was coming to a close.)
The two adults have their own sidekicks in the form of Cheryl's brother, Andy (Larry Joe Campbell) and sister Dana (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). If the series hit the same note again and again (see above: Jim does something wrong, Cheryl makes her - understandably - upset face), it at least hit those same notes well enough more often than not. Adding Cheryl's two relatives in the mix only enhanced the series. Campbell and Belushi make a reasonably good Laurel and Hardy-style (or, better yet, Hardy-and-Hardy-style) pairing.
Additionally, Williams and Belushi energetically throw one-liners at each other, and Williams seems to take a particular delight in riffing on her co-star. Thorne-Smith often plays it straight, but while she frowns on her husband's actions, she's at least not a Debbie Downer. Campbell, while never really getting that many stories of his own on the series, often manages to get bigger laughs than his co-stars, with a loopy delivery that works well.
Seasons one and two of "According to Jim" occasionally felt a small step above generic, feeling at times like sitcom 101. However, by season three, it seems that the writers and actors started to find their stride and really develop the characters and situations in more humorous ways. And while Cheryl continued to be the voice of reason, her character does start to have moments where she, along with sister Dana, start to try and one up Jim and Andy.
Season three has lots of memorable episodes and great guest stars. Dan Aykroyd and Laraine Newman return as Jim's cop friends in "Best Man" and the Devlin's (Tim Bagley and Cynthia Stevenson) return in season three in "House For Sale." The season starts off well with "The Errand," in which Jim and Cheryl try and outlast the other in a round of who's going to fess up first. In "The Packer Ball," Jim Belushi's real-life son Robert Belushi plays the older version of son Kyle in a dream, after Jim starts to worry that his son might not be a Chicago Bears fan. In "Lemonade Stand," Jim and Cheryl help their daughters set up a lemonade stand, only to find themselves in a all-out competition with their neighbors. Jane Lynch ("Glee") guest stars as their neighbor Janice. Mary Gross guest stars in another enjoyable episode called "Paintball" where Jim, Cheryl, Andy and Dana play paintball after Jim complains about having to take a cooking class with Cheryl. And in "The Toilet" Jim and Andy go on the hunt for the ultimate toilet (equipped with the voice of James Earl Jones), only to get stuck in a working display shower when Cheryl and Dana show up. And in "The Swimming Pool," when the neighbors are out of town during the hot summer, everyone (with the exception of Cheryl) go over to use their pool, but in the end it's Cheryl who ends up enjoying the pool most of all.
With 29 episodes, there are bound to be a few misses, but overall season three of "According To Jim" stands out as one of its most memorable. With a great collection of guest stars, enjoyable performances and memorable writing, season three is worth a look.
51 3-01 23/Sep/03 The Errand
52 3-02 30/Sep/03 The Packer Ball
53 3-03 07/Oct/03 We Have a Bingo
54 3-04 14/Oct/03 Getting to Know You
55 3-05 21/Oct/03 The Lemonade Stand
56 3-06 21/Oct/03 ABC's and 123's
57 3-07 28/Oct/03 Dana Dates Jim
58 3-08 04/Nov/03 Scary Movie
59 3-09 11/Nov/03 The Imaginary Friend
60 3-10 18/Nov/03 Paintball
61 3-11 25/Nov/03 The Empty Gesture
62 3-12 02/Dec/03 Rules of Engagement
63 3-13 09/Dec/03 Secret Santa
64 3-14 06/Jan/04 House for Sale
65 3-15 27/Jan/04 Dana Dates the Reverend
66 3-16 10/Feb/04 The Best Man
67 3-17 17/Feb/04 Cheryl Sings
68 3-18 24/Feb/04 When You Wish to Be a Star (1)
69 3-19 02/Mar/04 When You Wish to Be a Star (2)
70 3-20 09/Mar/04 No Crime, But Punishment
71 3-21 16/Mar/04 The Baby
72 3-22 30/Mar/04 Who's The Boss?
73 3-23 06/Apr/04 The Truck
74 3-24 27/Apr/04 The Toilet
75 3-25 04/May/04 Trashed
76 3-26 11/May/04 The Marriage Bank
77 3-27 18/May/04 Everyone Gets Dumped
78 3-28 25/May/04 The Swimming Pool (1)
79 3-29 25/May/04 The Vast Difference (2)
VIDEO:"According to Jim" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen by Lionsgate. The presentation is a little better than broadcast quality; detail looked unexpectedly good (for a TV presentation) and the picture quality - while not without a few imperfections - was at least largely consistent. Flaws included a few traces of artifacting. Colors remained bright and lively throughout, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The series is given a Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. Not surprisingly, the show's audio is largely dialogue-driven, leading to little use of the surrounds beyond some reinforcement of the music and light ambience. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and music.
"Season 3 According To Jim" In this nine minute featurette, Jim Belushi talks about some of his favorite episodes and what made season three so great. He also talks about the shows ratings, filming locations, the cast, writers, and guest stars. With some clips from the season, this feature offers a nice look back with Jim Belushi at a memorable season.
"Live On Tape" Jim Belushi, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Larry Joe Campbell and Kimberly Williams-Paisley talk about the importance of performing in front of a live audience and how they feed off their reactions. At fifteen minutes, there's a lot of discussion including the use of four cameras, writing for TV, set design, performing for TV vs. theater, keeping the audience entertained and more. There's a decent amount of interviews, footage of the tapings, Jim Belushi entertaining the audience, and warm up comedian Michael Burger interacting with the audience. Overall, this is a fun, entertaining behind-the-scenes look at what goes into taping a live sitcom.
Final Thoughts: Final Thoughts: Overall season three of "According To Jim" stands out as one of its most memorable. With a great collection of guest stars, enjoyable performances and memorable writing, season three is worth a look. Rent it.