[The Nicks Fix]

Chris Isaak Show

from The Associated Press

Isaak Rocks the House in New Comedy
Singer Gets His Own TV Show Based on His Life


LOS ANGELES (March 11) - He's a sexy rocker with a sly sense of humor. They are two of the most artful writers in television, with "Northern Exposure'' among their credits.

Team Chris Isaak with Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider on a comedy series and it turns out to be a perfect match.

``The Chris Isaak Show'' (debuting 10 p.m. EST Monday, March 12, on Showtime) is a zesty romp through a fictionalized version of Isaak's on- and off-stage life, with the musician playing a droll version of himself. Comparisons can be made to HBO's ``The Larry Sanders Show,'' Garry Shandling's talk show spoof, and some are apt. Isaak is backed by colorful supporting characters, and celebrities including actress Minnie Driver and singer Stevie Nicks drop in as themselves. There's a gleeful sexuality in the show and unfettered language as in ``Larry Sanders.'' But the hourlong program has its own Alice in Wonderland spirit and soulful charm. The series even wanders through a kind of looking glass: A mermaid-stocked aquarium in the club where Isaak and his Silvertone band perform. The camera follows the mermaid to a back room where she turns out to be a nude beauty (Bobby Jo Moore) making languid movements in front of special-effects mirrors. The mysterious Mona acts as Isaak's counselor, offering sound advice he promptly ignores.

(Isaak's real-life mom also is on hand to advise him.)

``The Chris Isaak Show'' has the distinction of being one of the few projects about show business that makes a viewer want to seek an audition instead of a cleansing shower.

This isn't the seamy, back-stabbing biz we generally see. Hanging with Isaak and the band, making music videos with stars like Bai Ling and getting banana bread from a friendly stalker are carefree fun.

Isaak's willingness to mock himself anchors the adventure. His good looks even come with a built-in comic fillip: His Bob Hope ski-jump nose that adds a mischievous twist.

In the opening episodes, Isaak is teased by his friends as a cheapskate who reuses disposable cups (with lipstick stains!) and plays peeping Tom when a woman dances naked in a hotel room across from his.

Chris Isaak, is this really your life?

``If it was untrue but funny, we'd lie. Verisimilitude and reality are low, hijinks and mirth are high. If it was funnier, I'd play a dentist,'' the invariably witty Isaak said in an interview.

Reality does creep in: the exhibitionist dancer was based on one who teased him during a movie shoot and he admits to a frugal life. Isaak said his TV house is bigger and better than his own modest one.

``If the show gets canceled I want to buy the furniture,'' said Isaak, who shares a producer credit on the series, which is set in San Francisco but filmed in Vancouver.

Isaak, whose songs include ``Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing'' (used in the Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman movie ``Eyes Wide Shut'') cut back on touring to squeeze in the 17-episode series.

The occasional actor claims he didn't expect to land a show.

``I was trying to get free lunches out of people in Los Angeles,'' he said. ``You have a meeting, you talk about 'Yeah, it will be like ``Larry Sanders'' and ``Seinfeld'' and ``Leave it to Beaver'' - and I'll have the lobster please,''' he said.

Then Showtime surprised him and said yes.

``I feel like the dog that caught the car. ... It's a lot of work doing TV,'' he said.

He gets excellent backup, particularly from cast members Jed Rees (``Galaxy Quest'') as a wayward band member and Kristin Dattilo as a high-strung agent. Isaak's real band members get into the spirit of things.

And then there's the magic provided by Frolov and Schneider. Isaak's show is reminiscent of the wry quirkiness of ``Northern Exposure,'' the 1990-95 CBS series set in a tiny Alaskan town.

By focusing on Isaak's neighborhood, the writers said, they hope to create the sense of another close-knit community. This time they also have a backbeat to work with.

``We've got the goods here: a fantastic singer and his great band and great songs,'' said Schneider. ``We love to feature them. We record them live, so it has a very immediate feel. They're not lip-synching,''

Isaak paints the collaboration with Frolov and Schneider as a balancing act.

``If you left it to them they'd have poignant, meaningful stories and if you left it to me and the band everything would take place between a urinal and a strip club. ... Somewhere between the two, I hope we land.''

Entertainment Weekly, issue #579/580


- The heartthrob crooner indulges in some wicked cable games. With all the male flesh being exposed on its racy "Queer As Folk," does Showtime need to pick up some T&A slack? Enter The Chris Isaak Show, a female-nudity-filled behind-the-scenes comedy exploring the professional and sexual lives of the suave singer-songwriter and his real-life bandmates. If all this reminds you of a certain HBO talk-show sit-com, that's no accident. "If we're half as good as The Larry Sanders Show, that would be great," says Isaak, who once guested on Garry Shandling's series. "But when we're filming, I think about The Andy Griffith Show [just] as much." A revolving door of celeb guests (Stevie Nicks, Minnie Driver, Isaak's gal pal Bai Ling) should boost ratings, but if not, Isaak's got a plan. "The nice thing about being a musician," he figures, "is that if this doesn't work out, I can just have the tour bus pick us up and hit the road.


THE CHRIS ISAAK SHOW Photo of Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak sings really sad songs but is funny as hell when he's not holding a guitar. Here, the witty, debonair singer-songwriter plays himself, with his real life band members playing, you guessed it, musicians backing up some guy named Chris Isaak. There's also an ensemble of totally fictitious characters played by totally real actors. Cameras roll as Isaak and company go on the road and into the studio. Cable viewers couldn't be happier. "Northern Exposure" writer-producers Diane Frolov and Andrew Scheider are helming the series.
Premieres: March 12, 2001

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