TV Producer Chuck Lorre Gets Personal In 'The Kominsky Method'

23 hours ago
Originally published on November 17, 2018 10:51 am
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Chuck Lorre is known as the king of TV sitcoms. He's the producer responsible for big comedies like "The Big Bang Theory," "Mom" and "Two And A Half Men." His latest project is more personal in nature and drops today on Netflix. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans reviews "'The Kominsky Method" and says it's a surprising departure from a producer mostly known for broad comedy.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I'll admit I've spent a fair amount of my time looking down on some of Chuck Lorre's goofier series. I'll still never forgive him for helping make a TV star out of Charlie Sheen on "Two And A Half Men." But I love "The Kominsky method." It's so personal, featuring Michael Douglas as aging acting teacher Sandy Kominsky and Alan Arkin as his even older agent and best friend Norman. Lorre, age 66, has crafted a show all about the struggles of men getting older, which kind of feels like my story, too. Check out this moment as Kominsky waits for Norman outside of a bathroom.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE KOMINSKY METHOD")

MICHAEL DOUGLAS: (As Sandy Kominsky) How's it going in there?

ALAN ARKIN: (As Norman) Why, you got somewhere to be?

DOUGLAS: (As Sandy Kominsky) No, you've been there a while.

ARKIN: (As Norman) What can I tell you? I urinate in Morse code - dots and dashes.

DEGGANS: Fair warning - there are a lot of jokes about going number one here. Danny DeVito even pops up as a crazy urologist who Kominsky visits to handle his own elimination issues.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE KOMINSKY METHOD")

DANNY DEVITO: (As character) Anyway, we're going to do some tests and make sure there's nothing serious going on.

DOUGLAS: (As Sandy Kominsky) What do you mean by serious, cancer? All right.

DEVITO: (As character) But based on your symptoms, I would say we're dealing with prostatic hyperplasia.

DOUGLAS: (As Sandy Kominsky) Which means...

DEVITO: (As character) You've got a big prostate.

DOUGLAS: (As Sandy Kominsky) Which means...

DEVITO: (As character) It means you're going to pee a lot.

DOUGLAS: (As Sandy Kominsky) Can you tell me something I don't know?

DEGGANS: Lorre told me during an interview that he created this series to write about, quote, "the wonderful comic adventure of watching your body disintegrate." I think he was kidding. But Douglas' Sandy Kominsky is coming apart in all sorts of ways, struggling to help Norman handle a tremendous personal loss while negotiating a romance with one of his older acting students played by Nancy Travis.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE KOMINSKY METHOD")

NANCY TRAVIS: (As Lisa) You're not here 'cause you're crazy about me. You're here 'cause you don't want to walk the green mile all by yourself.

DOUGLAS: (As Sandy Kominsky) The green mile?

TRAVIS: (As Lisa) Yeah, you know, Tom Hanks, the big guy with the mouse. You know what I mean.

DOUGLAS: (As Sandy Kominsky) Hang on. I just say we were good together.

TRAVIS: (As Lisa) Oh, hot, yeah.

DOUGLAS: (As Sandy Kominsky) And you and I both know that being crazy about someone doesn't last. It's just happy brain juice that tricks you into not getting a prenup twice.

TRAVIS: (As Lisa) Ouch.

DEGGANS: "The Kominsky Method" isn't filmed like a sitcom using multiple cameras at once. It's filmed with one camera like a movie, so there are no laugh tracks to tell the audience when something is funny like on Lorre's other shows. And it's Netflix, so episodes are as long as 33 minutes or short as 22 with no commercials and plenty of profanity. The result is a loose but engaging comedy about people who deflect anguish with humor until they just can't avoid it anymore, as in this scene when Norman admits why he's floundering so much in the face of personal tragedy.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE KOMINSKY METHOD")

ARKIN: (As Norman) I thought I was angry, but the truth is I'm scared. I'm scared all the time.

DOUGLAS: (As Sandy Kominsky) We're all scared. And you know why? Because it's a scary [expletive] world. But we get through it because we're not alone.

DEGGANS: Let's admit that Sandy Kominsky is basically an entitled man child learning lessons about self-centeredness he should have gotten a long time ago. And some of Kominsky's and Norman's confusion comes from suddenly realizing that because of their age, the world doesn't revolve around their sensibilities the way it did when they were younger white guys in Hollywood. Still, "The Kominsky Method" is a touching, funny, occasionally mournful look at getting older from one of TV's most successful producers offering his most personal story yet. I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR'S "AKIKO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.