Spring 2013 Review: Family Tools

8 May

Family Tools!Well, when season finales for all your favorite network shows are airing, you know it’s time to burn off the shows that at some point were meant to air as midseason replacements but were later chosen to simply die off quickly and quietly in the months of April and May (shows like Bent and Best Friends Forever were featured in this role last year).  Family Tools, which will not be on the air long, fits the bill, and stars the official new king of the quickly cancelled comedy, Kyle Bornheimer.  Bornheimer, who stars in Family Tools as Jack, a wanna-be do-gooder screw up who can’t find a career and takes over his ailing father’s handyman business, is being featured in what is remarkably his fourth new show since 2008.  The other three are Worst Week, Perfect Couples, and Romantically Challenged, though I remember him best as asshole Ken Marino rival Mark Delfino in the high school reunion episode of Party Down.

There’s a surprising amount of star power in this mediocre sitcom which has no chance of being successful.  Bornheimer’s dad is played by the legendary JK Simmons, who you will have to torture me before I say a bad word about, and his aunt, Simmons’ sister, is played by Leah Remini of The King of Queens fame.  When Simmons has a heart attack, Remini makes him cede his business to his clueless son, who means well but has absolutely no idea what he’s doing.  The son has to contend with a co-worker who half asses it, his slightly off 15-year old cousin who he must share a basement with, and his co-worker’s attractive sister who works at the hardware store and flirts with him constantly (I guess not so much contend with that last one).

Even if I hadn’t known Family Tools was an ABC show, I would have guessed as much, as it totally vibes with the ABC house style.  It stars a wacky family, it’s got some narration, and at least the first episode ends with a heartwarming moment that let’s you know that theirs is a crazy family, but it’s their crazy family and they love each other through the craziness.  It has that ABC mix between being a CBS-style traditional sitcom on one-hand and an NBC-style (well, not for much longer after the CBS-ification of NBC, but you know) edgy new sitcom on the other.  It’s single camera and with no laugh track, but even within the first scene there’s lots of classic old-school humor. JK Simmons’ dad is a familiar father figure who displays his feelings through actions rather than words; he shows his son at the end of the pilot that he’s glad he’s home by fixing up his bedroom rather than by telling him.  It’s suitably wacky as these ABC shows are; the characters are Characters.  The humor is generic, but Bornheimer does a pretty good job with what he gets and I may have even smiled once or twice.  Let’s not mistake that for me saying it’s good, or above average, but it’s somewhere in the vicinity of solidly mediocre. The actors are trying their best to execute fairly by the numbers material that mostly isn’t crazily dumbed down but isn’t the height of wit either. It’s just, well, not noteworthy in any way.  It exists to be forgotten.  I can totally imagine this and other recent throwaway ABC comedy How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life coming out of the same ABC sitcom factory, off the conveyor belts produced by the assembly line they house there.

Will I watch again?  No.  It’s not like it’s going to be on for long anyway.  But it’s thoroughly mediocre.  I think I mean that as almost a compliment, considering what I was expecting, but it cuts both ways.  It didn’t make me cringe (with the one exception of JK Simmons calling being emotional “fruit loops”), but I’ll have forgotten it within an hour after writing this.  Maybe poor Bornheimer will finally get a better vehicle one day.

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