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Too Titus For TV?

18 Jan, 2006 By: Brendan Howard

If you want to know why people are messed up, listen to Christopher Titus' explanation of human psychology.

“Every way you react is based on when you were a kid,” Titus said. “You played with matches, something happened, your dad spanked you. You took it to mean matches were the coolest thing in the world, and you became a pyro.”

If that sounds dysfunctional, Titus has encouraged people to remember in his one-man show and his sitcom that a recent study found 63 percent of American families were dysfunctional.

Titus' family in the sitcom “Titus” qualifies. The show wraps up in Titus: Season Three (four-DVD set $39.98), streeting Jan. 17 from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Filling out the set are interviews, outtakes, a fake police-record insert and episode commentaries with Titus and writer-producers Jack Kenny and Brian Hargrove (“great guys, great producers,” Titus said).

Based on Titus' real-life childhood, the sitcom features Titus, Titus' girlfriend (Cynthia Watros), his brother (Zack Ward), their manic-depressive schizophrenic mom (played by a rotating cast) and their booze-swilling, womanizing, cruel dad (Stacy Keach).

The show, however, is different from other dysfunctional-family shows, Titus said.

“I know I can lead audiences anywhere if I make them feel safe, if it's real,” he said. “This was based on my real life. Keach was exactly like my real dad. Relatives of mine would say, ‘I can't believe you're getting away with what you're doing.’

At its height, the show was pulling great ratings, and it made live audiences laugh, too.

“People would tell me the laugh track was ridiculous. There is no laugh track,” he said. “We had to take laughs out. There was one time Stacy [Keach] did a joke. You see the outtake of it on the set. It just rolls and rolls. We had to cut it because of that.”

So, live audiences loved it, and TV audiences loved it. Why did it die after three seasons?

“If you tell a network president they're stupid long enough, they will fire you,” Titus said.

Here's the story: “The new president [Gail Berman, now at Paramount Pictures] said, ‘I want you to split up Erin and Titus.' We're in a meeting with all of her cronies, and I say, ‘Do you even watch the show?' I explain it to her like she's a 3-year-old. ‘If you split up Erin and Titus, they're everybody else.'

“It looked like I sucked the life out of this woman, and she just says, ‘OK, fine, do what you want.' After that, we didn't get a commercial on TV. Then they put us opposite ‘The West Wing' a month after 9/11. It was show assassination. That was one of like six incidents with the president. It's my fault the show's gone.”

Titus is optimistic about his show's future on DVD, though. Watching a few episodes will convert anybody, he says.

“People would say, ‘I love your show, but my wife can't stand it,’ he said. “I'd say to her, ‘Do me a favor. Watch three episodes, and you'll click into what we're doing.' She'd be back and say she finally got it.”

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