Meadows Ready for Primetime

By John Kiesewetter,
Cincinnati Enquirer

Tim Meadows knows all about taking a leap of faith.

The versatile Saturday Night Live comedian left New York to pursue a sitcom career in Hollywood two years ago, only to crash land on The Michael Richards Show.

  He had no luck developing his own star vehicle, so he's again entrusting his career to a project over which he has no creative control, NBC's Leap of Faith (8:30 p.m. Thursday, Channels 5, 22).

"My feeling going in was that I didn't want to do somebody else's TV show," he says.

"But after I read this script, and talked to (creator) Jenny Bicks, I thought it would be kind of cool to do this character. Jenny gets what I do," says Mr. Meadows, who plays the advertising agency boss for main character Faith Wardwell (Sarah Paulson).

Taking the leap with Ms. Bicks, a former Sex and the City writer, wasn't easy to do. The Detroit native has seen so many SNL stars fade after leaving the show: Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, Joe Piscopo, Ellen Cleghorne, Laraine Newman, Nora Dunn, Kevin Nealon. Maybe they're called "Not Ready for Prime-Time Players" for a reason. And people think there's a Seinfeld curse.

Mr. Meadows knows something about that, too. Last season he was a private eye on Michael Richards' spy spoof, which was canceled in a month.

"When you're coming off Seinfeld, or a huge hit that everybody loves, it's just hard. I think it may have been a little bit hard to satisfy everyone's expectations," he says.

If Michael Richards had more time, it could "have been a very funny show, similar to Get Smart," he says. But Mr. Meadows' first sitcom experience, after being the reliable "go to guy" on SNL sketches, was not good.

"It was difficult for me because I didn't have any control over what was being written. It was a completely different situation than I had been used to," says Mr. Meadows, who wrote or revised many of his SNL sketches.

Intersection of life

At 40, he found himself at an interesting intersection of his personal and professional life. He had plenty of free time to devote to his first child, a son, born a year ago. He has a nice home near the ocean. But he also wanted to act. Somehow, some way.

"My goals have changed," he says. "My goal is to just continue working. I would love to have my own show, but that's not what's happening right now. I sort of made a promise to myself to just keep working, and either I'll generate the material, or the material will come."

Then he got the call from Ms. Bicks, an SNL fan. The Leap of Faith offer intrigued him, because NBC did not demand exclusivity. He may appear in other series, and audition for pilots which could become new fall shows.

"He's a guest star for five of the first six shows," Ms. Bicks explains. "We're doing that with the expectation he's going to continue to be on the show forever."

Comedic foil

Ms. Bicks calls Mr. Meadows an excellent foil for his employees, played by Ms. Paulson and Lisa Edelstein. "He can be hysterical being a very straight boss. He brings so much comedy to the straight stuff. He can do anything."

Mr. Meadows also was willing to try something new - the subtle comedy of a relationship sitcom, in contrast to the broad characterization of his womanizing "Ladies' Man" character. As he puts it: "The Ladies Man was not a guy who had long conversations with women standing up. So this is a little different."

Different is good. So far. Who knows what comes next?

Leaving the frenzied pace of SNL after 10 years, he says, was like quitting a factory job.

"It's like you worked for the Ford Motor Co. for 20 years, and you didn't retire, but you quit working," he says. "I'm still young, so I guess I should still keep working."

He's ready for prime-time.

Source: The Cincinnati Enquirer

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