If you're a fan of family sitcoms, you have surely noticed the surge in recent years of hilarious little oddballs, or what a writer for Vulture.com calls "awesome kid weirdos."
These characters, best exemplified by Manny on "Modern Family" and Brick on "The Middle," are unabashedly offbeat. For the most part, they don't seem to care that their peers and relatives are continually perplexed by their quirks. They just float through life on their own wavelength, stealing plenty of scenes along the way.
One of the new standouts of TV's kid weirdo club is Bert on the ABC freshman sitcom, "Trophy Wife." But the 9-year-old who plays him -- San Jose's Albert Tsai -- would rather not use the word "weird" to describe his alter ego.
"I just think he's very unique," Albert said during a recent phone interview. "Plus, he's really bright and funny."
On "Trophy Wife," Bert is part of a complex family tree. He's the adopted Chinese son of attorney, Pete (Bradley Whitford), and Pete's second spouse, loopy hippie Jackie (Michaela Watkins). Now, Pete is on his third wife -- a reformed party girl named Kate (Malin Akerman), who is struggling to provide good parental guidance to Bert and the two kids from Pete's first marriage.
Yes, it's complicated, but it's also a lot of fun. "Trophy Wife" is one of the fall's brighter new shows and pint-size Bert is a key reason. Whether he's having strange dreams ("Kate, could a doctor steal my uterus?"), shifting into coffee-fueled hyperactive mode, or valiantly trying to overcome his klutzy ways on the soccer field, he succeeds at provoking laughs and melting hearts.
In the process, Albert is winning over critics and viewers. Make a quick run through Twitter and you'll find a number of glowing compliments:
"No actor has made me laugh as much as Albert Tsai this season. Comedy genius in a tiny package." (@GetAClueTV).
"I think 'to Bert' should be a verb. 'He was out there Berting it up.' Why is Albert Tsai so fantastic?" (@Vasugi).
"That little Albert Tsai is a laugh riot!" (@dsrbroadway).
It's high praise for a kid actor who had only one TV guest spot on "How I Met Your Mother" before landing the "Trophy Wife" gig. During auditions, Albert impressed producers so much that they rewrote the part for him. Yes, Bert was originally supposed to be Caucasian.
Albert, whose parents are sales business executives in the semiconductor industry, was bitten by the acting bug as a 7-year-old at Silver Oak Elementary School. That's when he played a doctor "who was hard of hearing and mixed up his words" in the school's production of "The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley Junior."
Soon afterward, Albert was enrolled in acting classes. He attended the International Presentation of Performers (iPOP) in Los Angeles, where he earned "Child Actor of the Year" honors.
"I love acting because you're able to experience different peoples' lives and make people laugh," he says.
As it turns out, Albert has a lot in common with his "Trophy Wife" character: "They're both smart, funny and love animals," he says. On the other hand, he would never guzzle coffee like Bert did in a recent episode because "that's a drink that belongs to adults."
When not in front of the cameras, Albert, who already has his heart set on attending Stanford, can often be found with his nose in a book. He enjoys history and biographies of famous entrepreneurs. Among his favorites: Walt Disney."I want to be like him and build a company that brings a lot of happiness to people," he says.
For now, Albert will concentrate on bringing happiness to TV viewers and he'll be doing it for a while. "Trophy Wife" received a full-season order.
AMAZON WANTS YOU: Netflix gets some high-profile competition in the realm of video streaming on Friday when Amazon Studios debuts its first original sitcom, "Alpha House."
Written by "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau, the 11-episode show stars John Goodman as a Republican senator who rents a house with three other GOP colleagues (Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy and Mark Consuelos). The cast also includes Cynthia Nixon, Amy Sedaris, Wanda Sykes and Julie White.
Next Friday, Amazon premieres "Betas," a satire set in Silicon Valley that follows four friends attempting to strike it rich with a mobile social networking app.
Unlike Netflix, which releases every episode of its shows at the same time, Amazon is offering the first three episodes as an enticement to sign up for its free-shipping membership service. They'll be available for free via Amazon Instant Video online at amazon.com/AIV. After that, one episode of each show will become available weekly to Amazon Prime subscribers.
Amazon greenlit the two comedies after releasing 14 initial pilots this spring.
Contact Chuck Barney at email@example.com.
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