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Fall 2013 Review: Sean Saves the World

25 Oct

Sean saving the world

Sean Saves the World stars Sean Hayes as a gay single parent. A show starring a gay single parent is not nearly as groundbreaking as a gay main character was on Will & Grace, the show on which Hayes originally gained fame, and that’s a good thing.  It’s a great thing that a gay single parent doesn’t even move the controversy meter much anymore; there’s none of the uproar from conservative affiliates pulling the show from their stations en masse.  I’m sure the real fringe doesn’t like it, but the vast vast majority of America couldn’t care less. What’s more remarkable about Sean Saves the World is that its featuring a gay single parent is really the only modern aspect of the show.

Sean Hayes stars as well, Sean, a single dad, who now has full custody of his 14-year old daughter after her mother moves away to take a new job. He wants to be the best parent he can be, and his stressed about his lack of full-time parenting experience. Luckily, he has the help of his overbearing mother, played by Linda Lavin, who starred as Alice in Alice some years ago. All that’s getting in the way of his planned daddy-daughter post-work bonding time is his new cartoonishly terrible new boss played by former The State member and Reno 911 veteran Thomas Lennon who specializes in cartoonish over the top characters (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse). Sean is continually stressed in his attempt to lead his coworkers and succeed at work while making time for his daughter.

Sean Saves the World is a sitcom in the classic, old-fashioned vein. It’s a sitcom with a capital S. A Sitcom. . Sean Hayes would be an absolute star in the days in which Sitcom stars were king, an era that didn’t end that long ago. Sean Saves the World immediately feels like a Sitcom in format with its laugh track and multiple camera set up, but even aside from these basic background factors, Sean Saves the World buys into every part of the formula that went into making those old Sitcoms.  The humor here is based on the humor that inspired those Sitcom. There’s no fast talking or quick cuts or subtle jokes and looks that require multiple viewers to really appreciate.  There’s blatant, obvious laugh lines, followed by long pauses.

Compared to small s sitcom acting, Sitcom acting relies on loud unsubtle gestures and extreme looks which last an inordinate amount of time to make sure every last viewer has seen them. If sitcom acting is more similar to film acting, Sitcom acting is akin to theater acting. Every joke has to be accentuated to make sure the audience gets it, every facial expression has be to clear and overwrought so that even the viewers in the far back rows can get the idea.  Every bit of physical comedy is overplayed so you know exactly what’s coming next. At one point in the episode, Sean is trying to escape his work through the bathroom window so that the boss doesn’t see him leaving. He steps on some furniture to help him reach the window. The second he gets up on that furniture it’s clear that the furniture is going to break while he’s stepping on it, but the audience has to wait until Sean’s finally making progress for the furniture to break and Sean to fall and injure himself in a comical manner. There’s plenty of shoddy wordplay which is a staple of any old fashioned Sitcom, overwritten dialogue that might instantly seem clever, but really isn’t. It’s borscht belt humor, hamming it up left and right.

If I was reviewing Hayes’ ability as a Sitcom actor, well, he’s a pro. His mother is also. They’re both quite good at what the show is clearly going for, whether it was their decision or not. Unfortunately that style just leeches the humor out of every situation. We’re a long way away from the domination of that era, when there were three networks and those were the only comedies on television and I don’t ever want to go back.

Will I watch it again? No. It’s quite good at being something that I don’t care for at all and not good at anything I like.  So, in short, I don’t like it, it’s not funny, and I’m not going to watch it again.