Following in Howie Mandel’s footsteps, Beth Lacke wants to make a deal with you: This Thursday at 8:30 p.m., try something new by giving her FOX sitcom, HAPPY HOUR, a shot. “If you don’t laugh, don’t tune back in,” says the forthright beauty who plays opinionated Kelly Ripa wanna-be Amanda on the comedy. “You won’t laugh at anything I do. I’m horrible, but everybody else is hilarious.”
Seeing as HAPPY HOUR is pitted against America’s newest sweetheart (UGLY BETTY), the country’s most popular castaways (SURVIVOR) and the man of steel (SMALLVILLE), viewers may be surprised to learn that FOX’s freshman sitcom is indeed still open for business. “The cast showed up Monday for a table read and everyone started freaking out because ‘Brilliant But Cancelled’ said we were cancelled.” Luckily for the HAPPY crew, rumors of their demise were greatly exaggerated. Despite having been benched for three weeks in order to make room for baseball playoffs, Amanda and her fellow lushes will belly up to the bar again on Thursday, November 2. “My Mom can’t wait for new episodes because she keeps watching the same three over and over.”
The big question, of course, is whether anyone other than Lacke’s mom will tune in “It’s a little scary,” admits the actress. “On the positive side, FOX believes in our show and ‘TIL DEATH to take on these giants. But on the negative side,” she concludes with the perfect delivery of a born comedian, “they’re giants!”.
The harsh reality is that modern networks aren’t willing to give a show time to find an audience. “Unfortunately we live in a culture of ‘now or never’, and if a show isn’t going to be a hit in three episodes, it’s over,” Lacke says with a sigh which makes it clear she’s aware that if viewers don’t start tuning in, HAPPY HOUR could easily be replaced by yet another reality show.
Surprisingly enough, while many who labor on scripted dramas or sitcoms are quick to blame such fare as THE AMAZING RACE or BIG BROTHER for the lack of quality programming, Lacke believes that the opposite may in fact be true. “The reality TV craze makes people in the industry work harder. It forces the writers to write better material and makes the actors really show up and bring their ‘A’ game.” No, you won’t find her blaming would-be models and folks willing to eat bugs for the downfall of modern television. In fact, if PROJECT RUNWAY happens to be on, you’ll find her glued to the set!
Despite the dark cloud of cancellation threatening to rain on HAPPY HOUR’s parade, Lacke says things are surprisingly sunny on the set.”We’re having a blast! Everyone is playing characters that they enjoy. The writers are so loving and giving. The executive producers set the tone for the show, and they’re very supportive and so much fun.” Offering up a metaphoric comparison perfect for a struggling show set in a pick-up filled bar, Lacke says, “When you’re dating someone, there is often that feeling of ‘Oh God, is this going to end? The break-up is going to be horrible!’ Or you can enjoy your Friday night movie date while it lasts!”
Speaking of dating… fans of the show (and yes, they exist!) are dying to know if Amanda and her pal Larry might try approaching life as more than just friends. “They’ve been friends for so long that Amanda doesn’t think of Larry in that way,” says Lacke, who then goes on to offer a little behind the scenes scoopage that proves just how unlucky in love poor Larry really is! “Interestingly enough, in the original New Years episode which we just filmed, Larry and Amanda were supposed to kiss. But as we were shooting, the writers changed that. They didn’t want to go there just yet. Right now, they’re just establishing that Amanda’s not emotionally ready for a serious relationship.” But don’t give up, Larry. There’s always hope. “Maybe in season five,” his would-be partner in smooches teases.
And while some might think it awfully presumptive of an actress on a show struggling in its first season to even joke about still being on the air four years from now, Lacke is actually grateful just to finally have a show on the air! “With my first pilot, they spent six weeks casting my brothers and sisters, only to have NBC pull the plug. NBC was kind enough to offer me another show, so I went home, did the Zone Diet thinking I was going to be on TV, then things started to fall apart. One of the actors was beating his girlfriend, show over.”
Clearly, she’s been in the business long enough to know that her energy is better spent making people laugh than worrying about who those folks are or how many there might be. “I haven’t had time to think or worry. I’m sure that once we’re done shooting our twelve episodes, the worry will start to creep in. But our time-slot and whether or not people are going to tune in is out of our control. All we can control is our attitudes at work, and try to focus our energy on making the best show we can.”