With 30 Rock and The Office out of the picture, and CBS adding a 2-hour comedy block to its schedule, Thursday nights are wide open for a new batch of sitcoms. And, that's exactly what the networks are offering. 5 new sitcoms join the likes of Big Bang, Parks & Rec, and 2.5 Men. Are any of them worthy heirs to past Thursday night classics like Seinfeld, Friends, and The Cosby Show? Let's find out:
THE MILLERS. This comes from Greg Garcia, the creator of My Name Is Earl and Raising Hope. Both of those shows were rather unorthodox and inventive. The Millers is not. This is strictly meat-n-potatoes comedy. Mom moves in with son. Hijinks ensue. Most of the pilot fails to register laughs, and is too reliant on clueless parent and/or fart jokes. The Dirty Dancing moment that ends the episode is downright embarrassing. And yet. The cast is great. It's weird to see Will Arnett paired with a canned laugh track, but he's good. So are Margo Martindale, Beau Bridges, Nelson Franklin, and the secret weapon, J.B. Smoove (so good on Curb). I laughed maybe once ("old white women love their ice cream"), but I think the show has potential to be a decent, mindless laugher. It should pair well with Big Bang, and it's definitely the best of the new crop of shows about overbearing parents (Dads, Mom). Grade: B-
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY. It has a relatable premise (teenage couple get knocked up; parents clash), but as a sitcom, it's comedically tone deaf. Mike O'Malley has enjoyed a nice little career renaissance thanks to his role on Glee, but this show just brings back all those bad memories of Yes, Dear. By pilot's end, most of the conflicts between characters have been resolved or are capable of being resolved. There's really nowhere left to go here. More like Welcome to Cancellation. Grade: C-
SEAN SAVES THE WORLD. After so many years killing it on Will & Grace, it's nice to have Sean Hayes back where he belongs. He is a consummate pro, and he knows just how to play up a scene. Pitting him opposite the great Thomas Lennon, as Sean's uptight boss, is a stroke of genius. Lennon is awesome here, and I look forward to seeing the two play off each other in future episodes. Not everything works - there's a really lame physical comedy bit involving a chicken and Sean trying to escape from work; Linda Lavin pops up from time to time as Sean's (you guessed it) overbearing mom. Seriously, what's the deal this season? No more overbearing mom characters! At least the core concept is fairly novel - a single gay dad raising a teenage daughter. That's a family dynamic we haven't really seen before. Grade: B
THE CRAZY ONES. Robin Williams returns to TV after several decades away, and your response to this new show about advertising execs will depend on your tolerance for Williams' manic comedic style. He certainly comes on strong in the first five minutes of the pilot, and you may be tempted to stop watching, but if you stick around, he calms down a little and lets the rest of the cast shine. That's a good thing because this is a strong cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk ("Not good, Bob"), and Hamish Linklater (The New Adventures of Old Christine). There were several laugh-out-loud moments in the pilot, the best being an improvised sexy McDonalds jingle that Wolk and Williams pitch to guest star Kelly Clarkson (in a pretty big cameo). If anyone can wrangle this cast and make Mad Men-style advertising absurd, it's creator David E. Kelley. His involvement gives me hope for the show's creative longevity. Grade: B+
THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW. I love Michael J. Fox. Wish him nothing but success. I love the fact that he has his own sitcom again. I just wish this were funnier. The pilot has one too many Parkinson's-related jokes (some clever, some lame), but by the end of the second episode, the ratio has evened out a little. Ultimately, this is just another family comedy - notable only for the involvement of Fox, though Breaking Bad's Betsy Brandt is also a plus. In a transparent attempt to ape Modern Family, the show features character confessionals to the camera, none of which are funny or all that insightful. I'll be interested to see how this develops over the course of a season (NBC already greenlit 22 episodes) and whether it can find its own voice. But those terrible opening titles? They gotta go. Grade: C+
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