Fall 2012 Review: Guys with Kids

25 Sep

Personal branding has become a big industry in TV, as more and more showrunners and executive producers and creators pop their names on different projects.   You’ve got the actual people who run the show day to day like The Shield’s Shawn Ryan behind Last Resort and The Office’s Mindy Kaling taking on The Mindy Project, but you’ve also got the producers with whom it’s unclear how big their role is on the show – Judd Apatow behind Girls and JJ Abrams behind Revolution, for example.  Guys with Kids has been promoted heavily as being produced and “from” NBC Late Night host and longtime SNL alum Jimmy Fallon,  and is being sold on that name more than any of the actors or anything about the show itself.

Now, I haven’t always been the biggest Jimmy Fallon fan (I think SNL is the most overrated cultural institution of the past 30 years and never dug his weekend updates), and I just about never watch non-Daily Show/Colbert Report late night TV, but from what I hear, Fallon’s show is actually kind of pretty good, and every once in a while I’ll see a decent segment that becomes viral. So, I’m not exactly expecting the world when Jimmy Fallon puts his name on a show, but I do expect better than a retrograde laugh track-y sitcom about men trying to stay men.

Three best friends and dads with young children hang out and try to stay cool even with all the responsibilities placed on them by having kids.  They’re played by Anthony Anderson, who has four kids, Zach Cregger, who has two, and Jesse Bradford, who just has a baby. The former two are married, while the latter is divorced. The only minor “twist” on typical sitcom family structure is that Anthony Anderson is a stay-at-home dad, while his wife, played by The Cosby Show’s Tempestt Bledsoe, works. In every other way, the jokes are typical and the laughs are canned, filled with lots of familiar ground like that men and woman are different, and which activities are and are not masculine.

The first episode plotwise as well is loaded with typical sitcom situations shown and portrayed in a typical way. Typical doesn’t have to mean bad, but in this case it does. Divorced Bradford wants to go on a date to the Knicks game (Go Knicks!), but his crazy ex-wife (played by Childrens Hospital’s own Erinn Hayes) won’t watch the kid, or allow him to hire a babysiter because she has her own date, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (and, yes, from the moment his name was mentioned I put the odds at 85% that he would actually show up, and he does, and I wonder how much he got paid). Hilarity ensues when the babysitter bails, Cregger has to watch the baby, and Bradford has to rush back to his apartment when his crazy ex, who still has a key, decides to pay an impromptu visit to check that he wasn’t lying about the babysitter. Cregger on the other hand, angers his wife (Meadow Soprano herself, Jamie-Lynn Sigler) by agreeing to watch Bradford’s kid on the night they’re supposed to go out to a silly Titantic themed event for their daughter’s school. The event is ridiculous, he thinks, why would she care, not realizing she just wants to get out of the house, after spending much time indoors with the kids, as stay-at-home dad Anderson explains. Come on dude! Marriage 101!  He makes it up to her with an adorable fake Titanic dance when she gets back, and all is forgiven in the name of love.

Even the most boring and trope filled plots can be played with and reworked endless times in genuinely interesting ways. However, I spend time describing the plot because 90% of the time, you actually can guess accurately from just reading it whether the show is going to be good or not. I think this is one of that 90%.  I don’t think the premise is the real problem though; rather, it has all the pitfalls of most multi-camera shows that appear these days (I don’t think multi-camera shows have to have these problems, but they tend to); the timing is terrible, the few jokes that could be funny aren’t, and everything feels boxed and forced instead of free and natural.  I like Anderson and think that if he was put in a better situation to succeed he could be very funny; but the mediocre dialogue in addition to the format are stacked against him.

This would be a show not worth watching 15 years ago, but at least it wouldn’t have stood in such stark contrast to the really good comedies on TV.  The best I can say about it is that it’s not offensive like the truly awful comedies, the Last Man Standings, and the Rob!’s, but that’s very small praise.

Will I watch it again? It’s nice to have an easy no.  It’s too bad Jimmy Fallon couldn’t use his newfound critical acclaim to put his name on something better.

2 Responses to “Fall 2012 Review: Guys with Kids”

  1. tvevangelist September 26, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    I thought Zach Cregger was by far the highlight of the show. The Titanic bit with the diamond/lipgloss necklace was the only bit that made me laugh. He was the best part of FWB too. Hopefully he finds a more successful show in the future!

    • televisionthedrugofthenation October 9, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

      I actually loved the first season of The Whitest Kids U Know, and Cregger was one of the two most important people on it. I do agree the Titanic bit was the best part. It would be nice to see him in something better than this or “Miss March.”

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