ECHOES from the Jeff Foxworthy Show

Researched and Written by Fair

The world of television is something that Haley is quite familiar. The bulk of his earliest work was centered around various television series, and a few made-for-tv movies. What is interesting, is that Haley would later become primarily known as a dramatic actor, and yet most of his television work focused on comedy. Of course the obvious explanation for that is usually the best film scripts available are of a dramatic nature. But we should have no doubt that Haley is more than capable, and is quite comfortable, with both drama and comedy.


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I think it was for the best that none of the TV series that Haley had been involved lasted for more than one or two seasons. Although it would be very nice to be able to watch Haley in a new episode each week, I think the "daily grind" of doing a television series tends to erode your skills over time. It is inevitable that as the series grinds out each season, the writing for the show will eventually become stale and the episodes repetitive. This is not the case for every television series, as there have been a few with the good sense to go out while still on top. But I think for the most part the networks tend to run the series into the ground, and then cast the actors aside. Sort of a, "Thanks for the last five years of your life... but what have you done for us lately...?" kind of a thing, as the actors are escorted off the studio lot. Fortunately, Haley was instead able to use television in order to build his career, before crossing over to his preferred medium of film.

 

 

"The Jeff Foxworthy Show" was an interesting stop along the way as Haley continued his ascent up the mountain of excellence. First premiering Tuesday, 12-September-1995 on the ABC Television Network, the half-hour situation comedy was based around the stand-up comedy routine of Mr. Jeff Foxworthy. The television landscape at the time was seemingly populated by nothing but other shows built around the stand-up routines of other famous comics. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but as is usually the case with network television, "if something is worth doing, then it is worth over-doing". This still holds true even today, as we can see by all the many quality "reality-based" television shows.

After giving up his previous computer career with IBM to focus on his stand-up routine, Mr. Foxworthy reserved his place in the halls of comedy with his trademark, "You might be a redneck if..." jokes. I must admit that I really enjoy his type and style of humour. There is a certain friendliness in his presentation that is both open and honest, and he never feels the need to use profanity for a few cheap laughs. I have no problem with including him in the same class as Jerry Seinfeld, who is probably the most famous comic working today, as neither of them stoop to the level of vulgar and profanity laced jokes. Anyone can string together a series of curse words that would cause a drunken sailor to blush, but I think the real skill can be found in those that rise above gutter-level comedy.

 

Being new to the world of television and Hollywood, Mr. Foxworthy was not quite sure what to expect from the series. He soon learned that the network executives sometimes like to help their shows along if they think it is for the best. A rather simple and formulaic comedy, the only thing distinguishing it from the rest of the other comedy series, were the concepts presented in Mr. Foxworthy's stand-up routine and the inclusion of a certain wonderful young actor. The show started off with decent ratings, especially in the mid-west and south, and Jeff Foxworthy did win the People's Choice Award as "Favourite Male Newcomer" for 1996. But the series did not find an audience in the New York and Los Angeles markets, and that was enough reason for the network to step in and try and "boost" the ratings.

In a move that is probably quite rare for a first season series, at only the mid-way point of the season, the bulk of the supporting cast was dumped from the show in order to make room for new characters to help steer the series in a new direction. Despite the changes, at the end of the first season (15-May-1996), the ABC network decided not to renew the show. The NBC Television Network felt the series still might have some potential, so they picked up "The Jeff Foxworthy Show" (where the 23 episodes ran from 23-September-1996 to 05-May-1997), and gave it another chance. However, despite keeping only two of the original actors that started with ABC, and again changing all of the supporting characters, and moving the show from Bloomington, Indiana to the more obvious Atlanta, Georgia... the show would only last for those two separate and distinct seasons.

Of the changes made, there were two worth mentioning. In the first season, they brought in another comedian, Jay Mohr. He certainly added a lot of energy to the show, and it was wonderful to watch Jay and Haley interact together in the series. What is interesting is that even though he was only involved with the last half of the first season, it would not be the last time that Jay would be lucky enough to work with Haley. They would next be involved in the same film project, less than a year later, where they both appeared in the comedic film, "For Better or Worse...". But Jay is probably best remembered for appearing in the wonderful Haley film, "Pay It Forward".

The other change worth mentioning occurred in the second season at NBC. For that season, they featured another comedian, Bill Engvall. Bill would again work with Jeff Foxworthy a few years later on the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour", which would then spawn the current sketch comedy television series, "Blue Collar TV". That series marked Jeff Foxworthy's first return to television since his original show, and it also features Bill Engvall.

With so many changes made to the original "The Jeff Foxworthy Show", there were only two constants throughout the entire life of the series. The first being the obvious, Jeff Foxworthy, which the show was supposedly built around. The second being an amazing young actor by the name of Haley Joel Osment . That was something in which both networks seemed to agree... even though he was only seven and eight years old at the time, they knew that his potential was pretty much unlimited right from the very beginning. They knew that he could and would deliver every single time, and that was one of the many lasting impressions Haley left on everyone involved with the show.

During the recent promotional tour for his new series, "Blue Collar TV", Mr. Foxworthy gave many radio interviews along with other media events. Without fail, eventually the topic of the interview would focus on Haley for at least a few questions. A good example of one such interview can be found at the All Hit 989 radio station website, which includes this portion of the radio interview:

Quote:

Radio Announcer: Now how old are your kids...?

Jeff Foxworthy: They're nine and eleven.

RA: So they probably don't even remember The Jeff Foxworthy Show do they?

JF: No, not at all. I mean now they kind of think it's cool that Haley Joel Osment and Jonathan Lipniki were my kids on there, because they see them in other movies.

RA: Oh yeah.

JF: In fact somebody had asked Engvall when we were doing the "Blue Collar" thing, they said, "When you all were doing The Jeff Foxworthy Show did Haley Joel ever walk around saying, "I see dead people"?"

RA: Ha, Ha, Ha...

JF: And Bill said, "no he just kind of walked around saying, "I see bad actors!""

RA: Ha, Ha, Ha!!!

JF: Because there are plenty of them on that show.

RA: So did you know he was going to be the big star that he became...?

JF: Yeah, you know what... we did. From ah... from day one. He was just... and the cool thing about it he was a normal kid, but he just had this amazing ability. Because I can memorize things pretty quickly and... I remember one night we were in the middle of shooting a show, and sometimes they would do a rewrite and just hand you new pages that you would have to kind of learn on the spot. Haley and I, it was a scene with just Haley and I, and we are sitting on the steps and it's like three pages and we read the first page, flip it over, read the second page... and Haley would say, "Ok, I'm ready." And I'm like, "there's NO way...!!!". And he was, he could sit there... he did it like a photographic memory.

RA: No kidding! Wow!

JF: But a great normal kid! Then he would jump up and run out and ride his bike and play with his dog... and just a great little normal kid.

The unexpected release of the complete first season of "The Jeff Foxworthy Show" on DVD earlier this year, still waiting for the second season to be released, was a most welcome surprise. Finally we would be able to enjoy some of Haley's earliest work, and be just as amazed as everyone else was with him that worked on the show. Right from the opening moments of the first episode, you could already tell Haley would dominate whatever scene that he was involved. Playing the part of "Matt Foxworthy", that domination would be realized when Haley delivered what I thought was the single biggest laugh of the first season. Watching the other actors involved in the scene, you can catch a brief glimpse of their reactions to Haley's perfect timing, as they were "frozen" by his delivery... almost as if they would just "drop-out" watching him perform. Interesting that Sam Robards would give similar sentiments when he spoke of his experience working with Haley in the brilliant film, "A.I. Artificial Intelligence".

That is something to watch for if you should have the chance to view any of the first season's 18 episodes. There are many brief moments where you can catch a glimpse of the adult actors involved in the scene, with a large grin on their face, as they are amazed by Haley's performance. Not to be overshadowed by the comedy, during the few dramatic scenes that focused on Haley, you can feel the heart ache of the studio audience, as they became lost in the moment from watching the scene.

Given the Osment families southern roots, I think it is easy to understand why they would jump at the chance to be a part of this series. It was an open and honest presentation of a "normal" southern family, trying to make there way in a non-southern state, and they retained the southern humour for the laughs. That might sound like the same formula for other shows featuring a family (minus the southern humour of course), but in this series the young kid does not make wise-cracks to the adults, so that they look silly and incompetent for a few cheap laughs. Despite whatever antics they were involved, at the end of the day in this series, the family still loved each other and tried their hardest to raise their son with the best relationship they could provide. I suppose that was one of the reasons for the shows lack of success, they were not trying to "best" each other in a game of "witty" comebacks and remarks.

I was mildly surprised at how much I enjoyed this series on DVD. Given all of the negative feedback you usually find associated with the show, I wasn't sure what to expect. But time and again I should have learned by now that Haley does not disappoint. I find myself watching the episodes from this series more often than any of the slate of comedies currently available on television. I consider myself quite fortunate that I can watch and enjoy this momentary stop along the way in Haley's amazing career. It is a wonderful glimpse at his extraordinarily complete talent.

Haley is the best.

 

 

The long awaited Jeff Foxworthy series featuring Haley Joel Osment is finally released on DVD ! The Complete First Season is available now , released 27th July 2004.

Be sure to buy the DVD set today !

 

 

 


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And two for the very nice "Haley's Hats" collection.

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Special Note from Fair

Basically, there is very little information remaining that mentions Haley's earliest work, It has all faded into the mists of time. There are a few scraps of information here and there, but nothing to the level I was hoping to present with these articles. The "Echoes from..." series stalled as I was searching about looking for any lost treasure, but there was none to be found. That left two options, either kill the series completely, or present what little there was and be glad to have something. Well, I like this series, and I especially like focusing on Haley's earliest work, because that was an important part of his career. So I decided to evolve the series again, and will attempt to make the best use of what little information can be found. It isn't perfect, but it is better than nothing. I will add this article was stalled for quite some time. Then I spotted something, and suddenly the article found new life. I'll include the image with this article, as it very much captures how everything sort of "echoes through time" the way that it does. It is so simple that it is hardly even worth mentioning... and yet I think it is so much more.


This is the sort of thing that makes these all the more fun to do... when you spot stuff like this. Interesting how everything always seems to come around full circle. Starting with the comedy of "The Jeff Foxworthy Show", as the echoes flow right on into the dramatic, "The Sixth Sense". So simple, and yet somehow it means so much more.

 

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