TV Talk: Steelers legend Jerome Bettis stars on CBS sitcom “The Neighborhood”


Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome “The Bus” Bettis stars on Monday’s episode of “The Neighborhood” (8:00 PM, KDKA-TV) as himself.

The story finds Calvin Butler (Cedric the Entertainer) meeting Bettis at a restaurant and learning that the Hall of Famer grew up knowing Calvin’s wife Tina (Tichina Arnold), who calls her Romey, a nickname for Jerome.

“Jerome and I go back to the time when the Amazon was just a tropical forest,” Tina says.

The butlers invite Bettis to dinner where Calvin learns that Bettis and Tina had a teenage affair. Calvin gets jealous, references are made to Bettis ‘GEICO commercials and Calvin worries if Tina regrets her choices: “Being married to a guy who owns a body shop doesn’t get you into’ The Real Housewives of Pittsburgh. . ‘”

Although this is a sweeping month, “Neighborhood” showrunner / executive producer Meg DeLoatch said it was not a directive from the network to feature Bettis in an effort to better promote the sitcom at the events. CBS Sunday NFL games.

“I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t know much about sports,” she said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “I am no team. I just knew Jerome was a lovely football player who I knew could do more than just play football.

DeLoatch said she met Bettis a few years ago during Pro Bowl festivities in Hawaii through a friend married to NFL player Chester McGlockton.

“[Bettis] I had a lot of personality and so when I presented the story I would always say ‘Jerome Bettis’ but I never thought I would have it, ”DeLoatch said. is, of course, the most manly of soccer players, someone that this character, Calvin, would respect, love and geek about. He just won’t be an old guy. Jérôme was perfect for that. We wrote it down. And then the cast was like, ‘Well, do you want to try to get Jerome Bettis?’ We were like, “Of course,” never expected him to be ready to come and do it.

Bettis said he was happy to be asked and ready to make the trip to Los Angeles from Atlanta, where he now lives.

“I’m a huge fan of Cedric the Entertainer,” Bettis said in a phone interview on Friday. “We’ve been friends for years so I really wanted to support him and I was a huge fan of the show so it was fun to get the request.”

On “The Neighborhood”, it has already been established that Tina grew up in the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles, so for the story to work with Bettis, the writers invented a grandmother for Tina who lived in Detroit, where Bettis has grown up. Tina visited her grandmother there every summer, which is how Tina met and dated Bettis.

Although Bettis is playing himself, he’s in multiple scenes, so he has to act.

“Anything we wrote we could give to him because we knew he could take it off,” DeLoatch said. “And then when he got here he was even better than I thought he would be. It was a pleasure to work with him. He’s just the most approachable guy, hanging out with everyone and very warm and friendly. And then he was ready for all this stuff that we threw at him. “

Bettis has appeared in scripted television series before, playing characters in “Chuck” (2009) and “Living Single” (1994) and appearing as himself in “The Office” (2006), but “The Neighborhood” makes his mark. biggest role to date.

“It’s the most extensive because I was in a number of scenes,” Bettis said. “Most of the time you do one scene or it can bleed into a second scene, but it was an amazing opportunity to be in the episode in multiple areas and to have multiple lines and to have to interact with the actors, which was great for me. “

Bettis said he has not exchanged acting advice with fellow Steelers former compatriot James Harrison, who has a regular role in Starz’s “Heels” series, which was recently renewed for a second season.

“I watched him and he quickly set foot on solid ground and did an amazing job,” said Bettis. “I am very impressed that he was able to pick it up so quickly.”

Due to covid security protocols, “The Neighborhood,” like most sitcoms typically recorded in front of a studio audience, continues to produce new episodes with no audiences present. DeLoatch said Bettis came in rehearsal days several days before Band Day when the episode was taped. And he dragged on after.

“We had a lot of loot and he signed everything and then we had the team raffle him and he raffled and personally took a photo with each person who won,” DeLoatch said. “He was here long enough for everyone to get their picture. He hung out with us and had a drink afterwards. He was just a decent human being.

Bettis has said he will consider other acting roles in the future.

“I enjoy this art form and know how difficult it is,” said Bettis. “In no way would I think you could just go in and master this craft because it’s an art and it’s so difficult. I have been fortunate to work with groups of people who make things very easy.

As for the Steelers’ current season, Bettis said he was quietly excited about it.

“At first it was going in the wrong direction and I was like, ‘Oh, oh, here we go, we had a lot of promises at the start of the season and it kind of crumbles,” said Bettis. “I think they have [righted] the ship and now they are able to really get out there and become one of those sleeper picks who can go out and do special things so I can’t wait to see what the second half [of the season] will look like.

Kept / Canceled

Fox has renewed its “Fantasy Island” sequels series for a second season to air in 2022.

Hulu has renewed “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” for a third and final season.

Amazon’s “Hanna” will end with its third season, airing on November 24.

Cable sports stops

NBCSN will be on hiatus on December 31, and many of its properties – Premier League, NASCAR, horse racing and Olympic Games coverage – will switch to USA Network. Some live sports may also go on CNBC and the Peacock streaming service.

Additionally, ESPN Classic will close on January 1.

The zapping

‘It’s Always Nice in Philadelphia’ returns for its 15th season – making the series the longest-running live-action comedy in television history, bypassing ‘The Adventures of Ozzie Harriet’, but with fewer episodes – at 10 p.m. December 1 on FXX and airs the next day on FX on Hulu. … IATSE members, including those working on productions in western Pennsylvania, will vote on whether to ratify their new contract over the weekend of November 12-14. … Netflix’s “Rustin” will be filmed in downtown Pittsburgh on Monday, closing Ross Street between Forbes and Fourth Avenue, 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and Smithfield Street between Fifth Avenue and Oliver Avenue, 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

You can reach TV editor Rob Owen at [email protected] or 412-380-8559. Follow Rob on Twitter or Facebook. Ask questions about TV by email or phone. Please include your first name and location.

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