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Series / Stark Raving Mad

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Chaotic, neurotic, peculiar and amazing.

Tony Shalhoub is Ian Stark, a misanthropic horror writer with a penchant for practical jokes. Henry McNeeley, played by Neil Patrick Harris, is obsessive compulsive, afraid of everything, insistent on working when there is work to be done, and Ian's new editor. Their starkly different approaches to work and life clash as they work together, which apparently involves a lot more hanging out than actual writing or editing.

They are joined in their hijinks by Ian's typist, Jake Donovan, who's not too bright after years of recreational marijuana use; Maddie Keller, a bartender and college student who somehow has difficulty attracting men; and Henry's girlfriend, Tess Farraday, who is every bit who you would expect to be with an obsessive compulsive, phobia-ridden, super-serious book editor.

The show, an NBC Sitcom, ran for a single season, 1999-2000. Despite being both clever and funny, it suffered from clashing styles with Frasier, which followed it in the next time slot, leading to its time-slot bouncing and subsequent cancellation.


This show provides examples of:

  • Covert Pervert: Henry, which may come as a surprise. Notable incidents include The Grade where he has put a topless picture of his former girlfriend as his screensaver and The Pidgeon where he becomes fixated over Tess' former classmate being a lesbian and having a crush on her (with the two of them meeting again later in the episode).
  • Death of the Author: invoked Played With in "The Grade." The professor in question insists Ian doesn't understand Ian's own books, though he doesn't know it is Ian at the time.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Ian and Henry's relationship is often played as pseudo-romantic, a premise extended in "Therapy" to include accusations of cheating and a child (Jake).
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted with Tess. The episode told from her POV reveals that she's smarter than her bubbly personality would suggest.
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  • Epunymous Title: Ian Stark is Stark Raving Mad.
  • Hypno Fool: Ian and Henry hypnotized Jake and Tess to respectively believe they were Romeo and Juliet. Turn your back on two people believing they're hell-bent literary lovers that died in Shakespeare's play, and look what happens.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Tess is not above using this on Henry.
  • I Was Young and Needed the Money: Ian once starred in a cheesy musical. He is so ashamed of it that he is willing to let people believe he was in a mental institution during that time.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: Subverted and Played for Laughs in "The Man Who Knew Too Much". When Ian first meets Tess, he poses as a relationship counselor and unwittingly learns that she finds her boyfriend (Henry) is a total dud in the sack due to him being too boring and vanilla. This prompts Ian and Henry to go to an S&M shop to buy things to spice up Henry's sex life. But then Ian finds out the Tess he met isn't the same Tess that Henry was dating, and that Henry actually traumatized his Tess with all the kinky S&M stuff he got.
  • Unwanted Gift Plot: Jake receives a heavy bead necklace from his then girlfriend, which he must wear for the rest of the episode because he "loves" it so much.