Think of it as Coach meets Newhart. That’s about the best way I know how to describe this somewhat quirky sitcom from CBS. It was mostly intended as a television project for its star, Burt Reynolds. The character would echo Reynolds’ own life somewhat. His character, Wood Newton, was a running back who had moderate success, just as Reynolds himself had. In the show he retired to his rural hometown of Evening Shade. He ends up coaching the local high school football squad which had a propensity for getting blown out in their games. The show was filled with the usual small town hick kind of characters, most notably the show’s narrator and owner of the local barbecue joint, Ponder Blue (Davis). Wood’s family consisted of his wife, Ava (Henner) who was much younger than Wood was. She was a young attorney who gets elected the town’s prosecuting attorney. There was a ton of comedic material to be found in his rather dimwitted intelligence and her more formal education. In this first season she was pregnant with their third child. Wood’s dad was played by Hal Holbrook, and he owned the local newspaper. Wood’s assistant coach was Harlan Elldridge, played by Charles Durning. Eldridge was really a math teacher and pretty much a geek, which offered plenty of comedy fodder for Reynolds. The relationship was very much like that of Craig Nelson and Jerry Van Dyke on Coach.
What was amazing about this small sitcom was the star power involved. Both Reynolds and Holbrook were pretty successful film actors and not the most likely to appear on television, let alone on the same show. Marilu Henner had not found quite as much work following Taxi, but was still riding that popularity wave when this show aired. While the series was very well liked by critics, it never quite caught on and would only last 4 years, struggling most of the way.
Evening Shade is appropriately presented in its original full frame 1.33:1 format. While this is a fairly recent series, it was merely a sitcom. Not to degrade the genre, but the studios don’t put a tremendous amount of production value in that kind of a series. Still, colors are solid. Black levels are average. This is pretty much as good as this kind of programming gets. Better overall than the broadcast versions.
Dialog is pretty much all you should care about in this Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and it delivers just fine.
Evening Shade was a quaint show with incredibly interesting characters. Unfortunately it didn’t appear as though the writers ever knew what to do with them. None of the plots are incredibly clever or original, and the actors were pretty much left to carry the show on their own. While Reynolds and Henner were promising choices, as a couple they never developed any kind of chemistry. The series attempted to mix class with Andy Griffith style small town humor, but it never really clicked. It’s not a bad show at all, but not one that would be terribly missed if it weren’t on your shelf. “They make