Monday, August 17, 2009

Sherri comes to Lifetime October 5

Last Friday in New York City, I attended the taping of the first regular episode (after the pilot) of Lifetime's new sitcom Sherri, starring The View's Sherri Shepherd.

I first came to be a fan of Shepherd's during her days on ABC's Less Than Perfect, and in her guest roles as Robert's police partner on Everybody Loves Raymond. She's a naturally funny comic actress, and brings that same charm to Sherri, which is based loosely on her own earlier life as an aspiring actress/paralegal who divorces and reenters the dating scene after finding out that her husband has impregnated another young woman.

Lifetime is obviously high on the show, and here's how you can tell: they've built the show an expensive new studio right in the heart of Manhattan. The show's warmup comic that night bragged that this is the only sitcom to have taped in Manhattan -- well, maybe he meant in recent years, because Spin City taped at Chelsea Piers, and then there was Kate & Allie at the Ed Sullivan Theater back in the '80s. But he's mostly right: on the rare occasion that we New Yorkers do get a hometown-produced comedy, those shows tend to film out in the wilds of Queens, a long subway shlep from Manhattan.

But for Sherri, Lifetime has combined the former studios of Maury Povich's and Sally Jesse Raphael's talk shows -- by knocking out a wall -- and created the rare Manhattan space large enough to house standing proscenium sets and a live audience. Tucked away in the former ballroom of the Hotel Pennsylvania, right across from Penn Station, hopefully this studio will be a gift to us New York writers for generations to come, even beyond Sherri's days on the air.

And so back to Sherri -- the show is well written and quite fun, surrounding Shepherd herself with a funny cast of coworkers, including one I loved in her role as a white homegirl on Whoopi, Elizabeth Regen. And since Lifetime seems to be a bit more patient than the broadcast networks to let its shows build, I would expect that Sherri won't have much trouble building a following from among the network's female audience, to which it has such built-in appeal.

The episode I saw had a fun guest star, Kym Whitley, whom I loved in the film Deliver Us From Eva. And the pilot featured an appearance by Tichina Arnold, late of Everybody Hates Chris and whom I just saw stealing the show as Evillene in the recent Broadway production of The Wiz.

Sherri will premiere on Monday, October 5 at 7 PM, leading into Lifetime's returning successful sitcom Rita Rocks. The two shows will air every night from Monday to Friday of that week, and will then move into their regular Tuesday 10-11 PM block.

And October 5 will be a big day for Shepherd, by the way -- her book Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break also comes out that day, from Grand Central Publishing.

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