|I Pity the Fool: Season One (2007)
Starring: Mr. T
“I am a sinner who has been saved by grace. It’s by the grace of God that I’m here. We all have sinned and fallen short on God’s glory. I come home and I ask God to forgive me for my sins. Everyday I ask for a new cleansing. I say, ‘God, let me show kindness to someone, let me give someone hope. Let me be a light at the end of a tunnel for somebody.’”
Mr. T, Beliefnet.com
Sorry to start with a quote that might strike some readers as a little preachy, but it’s important that the stage is set accordingly for the short but sweet collection of the six episodes that make up the first-season DVD for “I Pity The Fool,” the TV Land reality series starring the one and only Mr. T.
Sorry, did I say “reality?” I meant … wait for it … “Reali-T.”
Who would’ve imagined when Sylvester Stallone spotting of one Laurence Tureaud in The World’s Toughest Bouncer competition in 1982 it would’ve catapulted the Mohawk-sporting former bodyguard into a 25-year career in show business? Once you take away his breakthrough role as boxer Clubber Lang in “Rocky III” and his time as aviophobic mercenary B.A. Baracus on “The A-Team,” however, Mr. T’s known mostly just for playing a larger-than-life version of himself, and now that he’s survived a battle with cancer, T has decided to take that glowering persona and utilize it to help people shape up their personal lives.
The back of the DVD box begins, “Look out, Dr. Phil, and step aside, Tony Robbins,” in an attempt to describe where T is coming from. But it does so in a way that says “treating it as if T is taking this thing completely seriously” is absolutely the wrong way to approach the promotion of this series. While Mr. T is undoubtedly heartfelt when he responds to the people who’ve sent him letters asking for his help in solving some problem in their lives, “I Pity The Fool” is a surprisingly funny and entertaining show that succeeds only because it constantly offers a knowing wink at its audience.
Each episode begins with Mr. T breaking the fourth wall and growling at the camera in his usual manner (“Hey, fool, sit up and pay attention! This ain’t no time to nap!”) before introducing the problem he’s been tasked to solve. Cue the melancholy piano music, as we cut to a shot of a viewer, perfectly lit as they write their letter to Mr. T. The voiceover begins, and the viewer offers a synopsis of the situation that requires T’s assistance. T lays out the problems he needs to solve, and, from there, he’s off to save the day. On foot.
That’s right, Mr. T’s always in such a hurry to fix his latest problem that he can’t be bothered to wait for transportation. Instead, he slaps on his red tracksuit and immediately runs to his destination, where he is always greeted with cheers and applause, his stamina such that he never seems to be out of breath when he arrives.
T’s level of tact varies depending on the situation. For example, when a little girls’ dance studio is in shambles because the owner is constantly battling with the girls’ mothers, T saves his stern tone until he’s one-on-one with the adults. There’s a steady blend of humor and melodrama, and when it comes to the problems that T solves, it seems likely that most of the issues probably started all over again about five minutes after he jogged away from the scene. Still, at the end of each episode, the world at least feels like a better place because T has stepped in.
Yes, it’s over the top. It’s Mr. T! What else would you expect?
The money shot for the entire series, however, comes at the end of that first episode, when T summarizes the experience of bringing harmony to a family-owned car dealership in rhyming verse. Unsurprisingly, he pairs “New York City” with “fools to pity,” but after reciting the last couplet:
“T took care of business, and the others played their parts
Not just selling cars, but touching people’s hearts”
he sputters into laughter and has to walk away from the camera, proving that even Mr. T has his limits.
Yep, Mr. T is quite a character. And that’s why “I Pity The Fool” works.Special Features: None? What, no outtakes or commentary or anything? I’m writing a letter of complaint to Mr. T right this second. With any luck, Season two will start off with him visiting the offices of Lionsgate to straighten those guys out!