Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/22/04 11:32:07

"Rick Linklater's long lost TV pilot is far better than 95% on the networks."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

You've got to hand it to the guys at HBO, they've made a big name for themselves putting out great, cutting edge programming that pushes the envelope to places that regular old network TV is too scared to go. But that's not to say they haven't left a few boners in their wake (I'm talking about mistakes, not the result of those late night Shannon Tweed films). One of the biggest errors HBO might have ever made is ditching $5.15/hr, Richard Linklater's TV pilot that takes place in Grammaw's Home Cookin', a fast food restaurant outside of Austin that takes great pride in the new dessert treat, the Apple Fandango. $5.15/hr is, essentially, Clerks in a Dairy Queen. And when Linklater pulls a Kevin Smith, you have to know that there's going to be laughs.

Bobby Cliffs (William Lee Scott, not to be confused with Jason Scott Lee, or Rachel Leigh Cook or Robert Sean Leonard or Melissa Joan Hart or Jodi Lynn Pratt or Joey Lauren Adams or Lee Harvey Oswald or... okay, I'll stop) is a bonehead. He works a crappy job at Grammaw's with his ex girlfriend, Wing (Missy Yager), who is bringing up their little girl. Also slumming it at Grammaw's is an assistant manager (Bill Wise), a Jesus-loving teen waitress (Keri Safran) and a perpetually fighting pair of fry cooks (Clark Rittleton and 'Retta'), a white dwarf and large black woman respectively.

So what happens to them? Heck, it's called hijinks, people.

A pilot is a TV show that is created to serve as a basis for a series. If the pilot is well-received, the series is greenlit. If it isn't, then it's thrown aside and ignored for time eternal. In the case of $5.15/hr, the pilot was reportedly well received by all at HBO except one high ranking executive, who was paraphrased by writer/producer Rodney Rothman as having said "I understand, this is like one of those places you drive past on your way to Palm Springs, right?" This man, who undoubtedly sends his people out to pick up his dry cleaning, snuffed out any chance of a series by reportedly saying that HBO viewers want to see rich, successful people enjoying the high life, not people working.

And more's the pity, because this is the kind of show that could have been huge. In fact it could also easily be a a feature film, if someone had the balls to bring the cast back, rebuild the set and film a 'second episode' that would give the combined project a story arc.

The characters are there. The casting is fantastic. The laughs constant. The empathy from those who have done drudge work in a crappy restaurant while waiting for that 'management job' to appear, is true. And from a guy who until recently has professed no love for Linklater's work, the direction is top notch.

I'm one of the few people in the world who saw the Clerks sitcom pilot that NBC shot back in the early 90's. Now that was a piece of shit. $5.15/hr is what that should have been, and it's a shame that one overpaid non-human who thinks he knows far more than he does managed to stop it from happening. Because this thing would have rated, and made a few stars along the way.

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