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Articles about Grown Ups

Actor (Jaleel White) is back, all 'Grown Ups' (1999)
Review by E-Online (1999)
New 'Grown Up' comedy with Jaleel White on UPN (1999)
'Grown Ups' about the sitcom and Jaleel White (1999)

Actor is back, all 'Grown Ups'
R.D. Heldenfels, Akron Beacon Journal, August 22, 1999

Jaleel White goes from Steve Urkel on `Family Matters' to new UPN comedy

When Family Matters ended its nine-season run in 1998, Jaleel White didn't find his plate overflowing with offers. Cast of "Grown Ups"

For many viewers of the series, which spent eight seasons on ABC and a last on CBS, White's performance as Steve Urkel was the marquee attraction. But White said recently that he never felt as if ABC saw him as all that valuable, that he was just another kid who'd grown up on television.

``Someday, somebody will do a great film about what it really is to be a child in this business,'' White said during an interview in Pasadena this summer. ``When you're a child you do not get the respect for the work that you do. People basically discount the things that you do as `luck,' `cute,' `hammy.'

``A lot of the things that I did, I know how much thought I put into it. . . . and you don't get credit for things like that,'' White said.

But don't take this as the plaint of an embittered, unemployed actor. White had options. He spent a year pursuing his film studies at UCLA (where he'll graduate in 2001). And at 8:30 p.m. Monday, he's back in prime time as star of Grown Ups, a new comedy on UPN.

``I get a chance to move on,'' White said. ``It would be worse if I didn't get a chance to move on.''

He's moved down an odd road. Grown Ups was originally conceived as a one-hour comedy-drama about a young Jewish man named Ethan. Now it's a half-hour, and the main character is J. Calvin Frazier, a 24-year-old aspiring businessman who's finally putting his youth behind him.

A pilot previewed for the news media wasn't very good, but the producers -- who include White -- have talked about changes, including opening up J.'s professional options in ensuing episodes.

White, meanwhile, wants to keep the basic tone similar to what he saw -- and liked in the show's original script.

His first six months away from the daily series grind were tough, he said, but then he got used to being away.

``I really wasn't looking for anything,'' he said. ``This was really recruitment by (UPN Entertainment President) Tom Nunan. And when somebody in Hollywood reaches out to you and says, `I've seen your work, I believe in you, I think you can do a lot more' -- you have to acknowledge that.''

Besides, win or lose, the show moves him one step away from the inevitable Urkel questions -- like a reporter at a news conference who wondered if White would be doing much physical comedy in the new show.

White's basic answer was, ``If something is slippery in front of me, I might fall.'' But he also pointed out that his comedy isn't based in any one style. ``I've never taken an acting lesson in my life,'' he said. ``I basically watch people.''

And in the pilot for Grown Ups, he said, ``The last scenes weren't particularly sit-commy. My vision for this is just to play moments, whether they're comedic or dramatic, I just want to play them as naturally as possible.''

Still, he knows the pitfalls facing any series, new or old. While he speaks fondly of Family Matters as a show that ``gave me confidence and knowledge,'' he speaks less fondly of its final season.

``The last year was all about money,'' he said. ``And that's not coming from me. My contract was signed and delivered. The last year was about money for a studio, and CBS was willing to pay it. I'm not casting any aspersions on the year. I knew what was best for the show but you have to be professional and hang in there. . . . But after a while, everything you say starts to sound like `What you talkin' bout, Willis?' And you know it.''

That experience, and what he's seen happening to other young stars, has made him leery of the big networks.

``The bigger networks right now are not letting some shows grow, and are not even really nurturing some of their talent,'' he said. ``Not to knock these people at all, but people like the Olsen twins and Fred Savage, who I pretty much came up with during the same era, they've already come and gone.'' (The Olsens' latest series, Two of a Kind, was canceled last spring after a single season; Savage's Working barely lasted two seasons.)

Reminded that those actors at least got series on the air, White said, ``They did get that shot. And there is a side of me that wonders what I would have done with that shot. But there's also a side of me that says, I'm where somebody believes in me.''

Review by E-Online (1999)

At any moment, one almost expects Jaleel White to stand up and scream "I am not Urkel!" considering how hard Grown Ups tries to exorcise any and all of the syrupy good nature of Family Matters. How else can you explain all the sex jokes, including one man praying to God that his wife have a lesbian affair? Actually, this has its moments, and White deserves credit for possessing comedic skill beyond that which we've seen before. This show gets high marks on UPN, but they'll have to work harder than this if they want to be players in the network game.
Also starring: Dave Ruby, Marissa Ribisi

New 'Grown Up' comedy with Jaleel White on UPN (1999)

As if to prove that all child stars make a difficult transition to adulthood, Jaleel White stars in "Grown Ups" (8:30 p.m., UPN, TV-PG) as Calvin Frazier, a bumbling optimist who manages to keep a smile on his face even as he's robbed by his roommate and ignored by the love of his life.
This grown-up comedy has navigated White into comedy territory well-mined by arrested-development twentysomething sitcoms like "Friends." In this debut, Frazier has a frank conversation with his roommate about female sexual geography. He's usually not so forward with women, but he thinks she's gay (and she thinks he's gay, too). While pretty derivative, "Grown Ups" is not without its charms. Frazier's relationship with his grade-school buddy Gordon (Dave Ruby) may remind some of the chronically immature patter between Jerry and George on "Seinfeld." Liberated from his Urkel glasses and nerdy wardrobe, Jaleel White has lost none of his comic timing and his talent for playing the lovable loser.

'Grown Ups' about the sitcom and Jaleel White (1999)
by Bridget Byrne / Entertainment News Wire, August 23, 1999

    LOS ANGELES -- "J.? What's J. like? Fairly optimistic. Cute and cuddly. Just fun. Fun. Really fun. Really optimistic about his future."
    Jaleel White is describing the nature of J. Calvin Frazier -- known to his friends as J. -- whom White portrays in the new UPN sitcom Grown Ups, premiering tonight at 9 on Channel 50 in Detroit.
    The original concept for the half-hour show, created by 27-year-old writer Matthew Miller, a graduate from the University of Southern California's film school, featured a lead character named Ethan who was Jewish. But that role has metamorphosed into J., played by the African-American actor famous for his portrayal of Steve Urkel, the nerd with the hitched-up pants, huge glasses and flair for the unusual on the sitcom Family Matters, which ran for many years on ABC and for a final season on CBS.
    Miller's script, which UPN was already eager to develop, instantly appealed to White.
    "I just fit into it. I fit into his vision," White says, noting that it all "just came together with fate."
    Astute and savvy, agile in mind and body, White played Urkel 215 times during his teens, and also on occasion southern belle cousin Myrtle Urkel, and sophisticated alter-ego Stefan Urquelle.
    Now at 22, and as he jokes, "at least an inch and a half bigger," he's clearly adult, even more astute and savvy and not at all nerdy looking. He describes himself as "an average guy who's always been athletic, likes to play sports, go to movies, get turned upside-down on a rollercoaster." J., with his Banana Republic-style of dress and his hopes and dreams for a bright future, is much closer to White's true self than the outlandish Urkel.
    "I just happened to fall into a project that was perfect for what I have to offer. ... It's where I am right now, it's where I'm at," he stresses again.
    The comedy features three post-college, preparenthood friends learning what it means to be grown-up. J. is still single and in search of the ideal roommate, but Gordon (Dave Ruby), his best friend from childhood, is now married to Shari (Marissa Ribisi). Besides coping with real life, the show will also feature flashbacks and fantasy sequences born out of J.'s Walter Mitty-type daydreams.
    White (although a star lead on a network that features many minority cast shows including Moesha, Malcolm & Eddie, Star Trek: Voyager and the debuting The Parkers) was, inevitably, questioned about the issue of the moment -- lack of ethnic diversity on network television. His response was to note that he was "not looking to play any race card. ... But, you know, sometimes it's there looking at you, and you have to deal with it."
    J.'s close friends on Grown Ups are white, but White says there are plans for the character to mix with friends and date girlfriends from various ethnic backgrounds. He believes it makes sense to cast a color-blind show, but realizes that arguments will persist as to what is reality and what is just tokenism when it comes to the portrayal of minorities on television. He is aware of the difficulties political correctness can impose, but he hopes there won't be so much analysis that "being funny" is impeded.
    "The bottom line is, look, if you're funny, you're funny. If you're not, you're not. If your show works, if it makes sense, if it has issues that people can relate to, they'll buy into it. Otherwise they won't."

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