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Titus (TV series)

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8.8/10 TV

Original language(s)  English
No. of episodes  54 (list of episodes)
Final episode date  12 August 2002
7.6/10 IMDb

Country of origin  United States
No. of seasons  3
First episode date  20 March 2000
Network  Fox
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Created by  Christopher TitusJack KennyBrian Hargrove
Starring  Christopher TitusZack WardCynthia WatrosStacy KeachFrances FisherDavid ShatrawRachel Roth (Seasons 2–3)Elizabeth Berkley (Season 3)
Cast  Christopher Titus, Stacy Keach, Cynthia Watros, Zack Ward, David Shatraw

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Titus is an American dark comedy sitcom that debuted on Fox in 2000. The series was created by its star, Christopher Titus, Jack Kenny, and Brian Hargrove. The sitcom is based on Christopher's stand-up comedy act, more specifically his one-man show Norman Rockwell is Bleeding (which itself would be broadcast on television in 2004), which was based loosely upon his real-life family; lines from Norman Rockwell is Bleeding were spoken by Titus as commentary (see below). Titus plays an outwardly childish adult (based on himself), who owns a custom car shop. The show follows him and his dimwitted half-brother Dave, his girlfriend Erin with the "heart of gold", his goody-goody friend Tommy, and his arrogantly lewd, bigoted, heavy smoking & drinking, womanizing, divorced multiple times, father Ken "Papa" Titus.

Contents

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Overview

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Titus began doing comedy when he was 18. After two years of relatively normal comedy bits, his act soon began to evolve to focus around his family, particularly his father's heart attacks and his mother's mental illness.

Titus (TV series) Titus TV Series 20002002 IMDb

One night while performing, an assistant to a Fox executive was in the audience, and he brought his bosses to the show.

Production

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Knowing he had a deal with Fox, Titus wanted "Dad is Dead" to be the pilot. After the series ended, Titus commented that, if one watches Norman Rockwell is Bleeding, and then "Dad is Dead", the latter essentially "rapes" the former.

Titus (TV series) Amazoncom Titus Seasons 1 amp 2 Christopher Titus Cynthia Watros

Because Kenny and Hargrove came from live theater, and Titus from live comedy, it was a unanimous decision that the live story would be shot in real time, like a play, in as few takes as possible; as cues for the editors in post-production, so they could incorporate Flashbacks and action in the neutral space, the action would pause briefly, and then resume. Episodes were blocked and rehearsed extensively, and shot on Friday every week.

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The cast also had different methods of working. Being a comedian, Titus knew where the punchline would be and never explored anything else. Zack Ward had difficulty finding the joke during rehearsals, but Kenny realized that he was looking for where the joke could be. Watros asked Titus to point out where the joke was, and promised to hit her marks. During breaks in rehearsal, Shatraw would work by himself on set, looking for specific quirks or actions that Tommy would do or take.

The season two episode "The Last Noelle" is one of Titus's favorites, and is based on his relationship with an abusive ex-girlfriend.

As a running gag, in most of the episodes there is a reference to guns and/or fire, usually the threat of someone or something being set on fire, as well as Titus's story of how he drunkenly fell into a bonfire and nearly died when he was a teenager.

Casting

Cynthia Watros was the first person to audition for the role of Erin, and was also the first person cast. Steve Carell and Zack Ward both auditioned for Tommy; Carell lost out to David Shatraw, while Ward was soon cast as Titus's brother, Dave. After a number of auditions for Titus's father Ken, Stacy Keach was cast after Titus admitted Keach intimidated him.

Before his passing, Christopher's real father, Ken Titus, would give tips to Keach on how to better portray him. Titus also admitted that, even with the driest line the writers could invent, Keach would find a way to make the line funny. This often upset Titus because Keach's set-up would be funnier than Titus's punchline. Hargrove has also commented that Keach could get an audience response with just a look; Hargrove's favorite moment is the look Ken gives Tommy in "Insanity Genetic (1)" after Tommy comments "I have no nuts."

Censorship by the network

More than one episode was censored/banned by Fox, including a two-part episode made in the months after the September 11 attacks that centers on the premise that the U.S. government believes Titus and his family and friends are a terrorist group after a series of misunderstandings -– as a result of his mother's suicide, Titus suffers a nervous breakdown on the plane ride home, Tommy complains to a flight attendant about his mispronunciation of 'chicken à la king', to the point where Tommy gets down on his knees and cries "A la, a la, a la king!" (which sounds like "Allah king"), and Dave comes out of the plane's bathroom gurgling mouthwash, which seems like he is speaking unintelligibly, and wearing a towel turban, a robe, and shaving cream on his face which resembles an Islamic beard.

The episode "The Intervention" was also almost banned, as the censors were wary about the episode glorifying alcoholism, since the story focused on Titus convincing his father, Ken, to start drinking again since Ken's sobriety is making him boring. Titus had to read the script to the president of Fox page-by-page over the phone in order to show him how the episode could be funny.

Another episode, "The Protector", was not aired until the very end of the last season, as it dealt with the revelation that Erin's niece, Amy, was molested by a male family friend who looked after her while her parents were in prison, which Amy remembers because the man had a rose tattoo on his penis. Had "The Protector" aired in production order, viewers would have seen the real reason behind Amy's asocial, criminal behavior (besides the fact that her parents are drug addicts who neglected her and were always in jail for drug crimes or domestic violence), and a possible explanation for Amy being a lesbian (as seen in "Errr"). Also, if "The Protector" had been broadcast in production order, the references to Amy being molested and going after a boy who sexually harassed her in school (who turns out to be the son of the man who molested Amy) in such episodes as "The Session" and "Insanity Genetic (2)" [which, in production code order, aired after "The Protector"] would have made more sense.

"The Wedding" was aired out of order, as well, as the season three premiere "Racing in the Streets" deals with Titus's recovery from the accident in "The Pit" and continues in "The Pendulum", yet he seems unaffected and the accident is not mentioned in the season two finale. This is also confirmed by these episodes' production codes, which puts "The Wedding" in between "Tommy's Girlfriend II" and "Hard Ass". "The Wedding" was banned due to scenes depicting violence at a church -– Juanita's second husband punches her in the face after the two argue about Juanita taking her medication, and Juanita ends up shooting him after Titus, Ken, Dave, and the priest presiding over the wedding tie up the man and yell at him for abusing her.

Cancellation

On a Sirius Radio interview on Raw Dog 104, Titus said the show got canceled due to an argument with executives. They wanted to split up Titus and Erin because the show Dharma & Greg had done similar and their ratings went up. Titus refused, because not only was he still married to his then-real wife, Erin Carden, but the entire focus of the show as "two screwed up people living a normal life" would be compromised (ironically, Titus and Erin would divorce in 2006, following a rocky marriage in which Erin cheated on Titus, stole his money, threatened to kill him, and constantly goaded him to commit suicide). Upon Titus's refusal, on-air promotion ceased and the show was soon canceled. In another radio interview, he claimed the show was also taken down for its content and being "too edgy".

Cancelled revival

As of May 2010, Christopher Titus was reportedly in negotiations with the Fox network to start up a new series again, billed as a sequel of sorts to his first sitcom (and based on his comedy specials The 5th Annual End of the World Tour and Love is Evol). The series was confirmed to eventually be revived and pick up eight years later with Titus divorced from Erin, Titus's father dead, and Titus dealing with his new normal girlfriend and her perfect family.

In March 2014, Titus posted on his Facebook page that the revival project was shut down due to legal issues with 20th Century Fox and limited funding.

Format

Part of the show's success was its unique format; a few exceptions aside, the show stuck to what worked. The "neutral space" was where Titus opened and ended the show. This lead-in and lead-out allowed for one liners and a monologue, before heading to what the producers called the Main Narrative, or "Live Story". The live story was the bulk of the action, and was the basis for the theme of the episode and the other gags. The live story was unique in that it was extensively rehearsed throughout a production week, and shot in one day, in as few takes as possible. The result allowed the actors to keep their comedic timing, and kept the studio audience engaged to the point that the show did not have to employ a laugh track. Also of note was that the Live Story was (for an overwhelming majority of shows) shot on just one set.

Most episodes also took place over a short course of time, usually only a few hours; very rarely would a plot carry over to "the next day". The main narrative was frequently intercut with the neutral space, sometimes just a quick one-liner from Titus, or for either informative exposition, a quick flashback, or a sparingly used fantasy scene. The Live Story would also usually take place in one place, either a recurring location like Ken's house, the garage of Titus's car shop, or a one-time location like a bus station or a houseboat.

Neutral space

The show always opened and closed in the black and white neutral space, usually with the same sentence, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Titus was the neutral space's only occupant except in two episodes, when he was replaced by Ken and Erin, respectively, and would appear always wearing similar clothes, with a wooden chair, a lightbulb, and the bland walls. Frequently, props appeared for one-shot gags in the neutral space. Very rarely would anything from the Live Story appear there (one notable exception was Dave's suicide note in "Private Dave"), nor would anything from the neutral space appear in the Live Story. There are many allusions to the neutral space being Titus's mind, though it is never said outright. On a few occasions, the neutral space is used to demonstrate the passing of time, or Christopher will do something "in" the neutral space when he is really just thinking about it while doing it; we only see his thought process. Also, as in "The Trial", sometimes he will say something in the neutral space and not realize he is also saying it in reality, like when he calls the prosecutor an idiot, thinking he only thought it. Following the credits in the final episode of the series, Titus drags the bare wooden chair into the middle of a real life street, sets it on fire, and walks away, whistling.

Flashbacks

Flashbacks — always introduced from the Neutral Space — were frequently used for character development and background. Flashbacks generally went back to one of three time periods: when Titus was five, ten, or seventeen. Three different child actors played the five- and ten-year-old versions of Titus, the latter sometimes joined by five-year-old and ten-year-old versions of Dave and Tommy. Flashbacks to high school with the seventeen year old Titus had all of the current actors playing the younger versions of themselves. To compensate for being too old to believably play the roles, the actors have humorously exaggerated costumes and mannerisms. Except for a few flashbacks in "Grandma Titus" that featured Ken as a child, Stacy Keach is the only one to appear in all of his character's flashbacks; only his hair and clothes change with the times. The flashbacks themselves had no specific format other than being quick, one laugh gags. They frequently showcased Ken Titus's unique approach to parenting, relationships, and drinking. The women that Ken is shown dating (or even married to) in these flashbacks are frequently not given a name, and their faces are rarely shown. Episodes with guest characters who had any connection with the main characters, like Tommy or Erin's families, frequently appeared in flashbacks as well.

Occasionally, instead of a flashback, a far-fetched "What if...?" scenario (showing an alternate reality, what Titus's life will be like when he is older, or a one-off gag similar to those found on The Simpsons and Family Guy) will be presented, such as Titus and Erin as a bickering married couple in their old age, Titus and his father as rich men who use their butlers to beat each other up while Christopher and Ken read the newspaper, Titus trying to deal with Ken being married to a man, and Titus, Dave, and Ken as heads on a couch.

Characters

^a "Dave Titus" appears on the DVD material, but Dave's last name was given as Scoville in the show. The only clue to this discrepancy in the show proper is when Dave says he was never legally adopted by his father in the first season episode "Red Asphalt".

Episode list

(Episodes listed as they were ordered on the DVD release)

DVD releases

Anchor Bay Entertainment (under license from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) released the entire series on DVD in Region 1 in two packages in 2005/2006. Both are now out of print.

References

Titus (TV series) Wikipedia


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