The Crazy Write Winger

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Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Last night, "My Big Fat Greek Life" primiered on CBS. My wife and I had been looking forward to it ever since we heard a series was being made from last summer's sleeper hit, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."

"Greek Wedding" is a wonderful, enchanting and downright funny tale about a young Greek girl and her very Greek family who expect her to "marry a Greek boy, have Greek babies and feed everybody for the rest of her life." When Toula begins dating handsome Ian Miller, definitely a non-Greek, her father hits the ceiling. Nevertheless Ian perseveres, while Toula frets that her weird Greek family will drive him off. Ian even agrees to be baptized Greek Orthodox after they get engaged. "Greek Wedding"is one part Ugly Duckling, one part Cinderella, one part Father of the Bride and one heck of a lot of laughs.

CBS managed to get all the original cast except for John Corbett, who played Ian Miller, for the series. It seemed like they had something that would be a nice departure from the usual sitcom fare.

Unfortunately, the charm of the movie is missing from the series. The family in the movie was loud and boisterous. They fought they nagged and they yelled, but as the picture unfolded there was always the sense that these people cared deeply about one another.

In the series, they come across as whiny brats. Toula's little brother Nick, who in the movie was obviously very proud of his sister's accomplishments and the love she's found, is little more that a Greek tough-guy in the series. Her parents, played by Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan, mutated from a well-worn pair of soulmates in the movie into a couple of bickering old fuddy-duddies in the series.

Even Ian, now renamed Thomas, who in the movie was a positive portrayal of a man so in love he would do almost anything for his bride, turns out to be something of a selfish twit. For example, near the end of the movie, Toula's parents present her and Ian with the deed to a house. Ian is obviously deeply touched by the gesture, and Toula realizes that underneath all her father's blustering is the daddy that wants nothing more than to make his little girl happy.

The house becomes a bone of contetion in the series, however. Instead of being grateful, Thomas and Nia refuse the house, fearing it will bring too much of her parents' influence into their marriage. Thomas only acquiesces when Gus tells him he purposefully found a house with a study for him. It is almost as if CBS is afraid to show a Really Nice Guy on any of their shows.

Hopefully Nia Vardelos, who writes for the series and wrote the screenplay for the movie, will do more to try and capture the charm of the original movie. My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a charming story that just about everyone could relate to on some level. It managed to avoid the gratuitous crassness that pervades so much entertainment these days. To let it become merely another sitcom of bickering relatives will be nothing more than a Big Fat Greek Tragedy.

"Today's report confirms that, despite White House scare tactics, Social Security remains sound for decades to come.."

-? Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) upon hearing reports that the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds will go bankrupt even earlier than predicted.

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