Tag Archives: Guys With Kids

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.

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Fall 2012 Preview and Predictions: NBC

11 Sep

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall (now spring!) television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  14+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  13- – the show is cancelled before 13)

NBC

NBC has the first debuts this year so we’ll start there.  The last place network, which is coming off a super popular Olympics high, has six new shows initially scheduled to air this fall.  Let’s take a look.

Go On – 9/11

Go On aired a special pilot sneak preview in August, as NBC tried to take advantage of the one time people were actually watching, during the Olympics to promote a couple of its new shows.  You can read my full review of the pilot here, but here’s the basic premise.  Friends veteran Matthew Perry is an egomaniacal sports talk radio shock jock who is forced by his employers to attend grief therapy while dealing with the death of his wife.  He helps out the other members of the therapy group, while also learning from them, etc, etc.

Verdict:  14+ I don’t see it going that far – it’s just not that good, and while obviously that means little to nothing in what happens to shows on network television, I don’t think audiences will connect – I don’t really see it’s audience – not Community enough for that crowd, or Whitney enough for that crowd (I hope that’s not really a crowd).  Perry’s name will get it the full season pick up though.  Also, it’s better than Mr. Sunshine, which is worth something I suppose.

Animal Practice – 9/26

The other NBC show which got a shot at airing during the Olympics, a full review can be found here.  It’s about a veterinarian who loves animals, but not so much their owners.  He’s now forced to work with the new owner of his animal hospital, who is an old flame, who is returning after having not seen him for a couple of years.  Also a couple of wacky sidekicks and a monkey that does human stuff.  So that’s cool.

Verdict:  13-  Honestly, a quick look over the fall shows (and maybe I’ll regret this when I get to CBS or Fox) tells me there are far fewer crazy obvious instant cancellations like The Playboy Club and I Hate My Teenage Daughter (and Last Man Standing…oh, wait).  Something’s got to get cancelled.  Probably quite a few somethings.  This utterly forgettable show will likely be one of them.

Chicago Fire – 10/10

Too soon for a reference to a disaster that killed hundreds and destroyed over three square miles of downtown Chicago?  House’s Jesse Spencer is the lead in an ensemble show focusing on the exciting and fast-paced lives of firefighters and paramedics in Chicago (the non-police two thirds of Third Watch).  It’s less overused than cops for sure, so small amount of credit there, but it offhanded screams out generic procedural (I really think the logic was um, cops, been there – how about firefighters?), maybe with some personal life business to get you all attached to those characters.  We’ll see though.

Verdict:  Renewed – crapshoot 101.  NBC has not been a big home to procedurals of late, but they’ve got new management and probably want to follow the CBS model to success, with at least one.  Prime Suspect did fail miserably last year, but boy, NBC would take almost anything right now.  Oh, and it’s produced by a guy named Dick Wolf who used to have some pull around NBC.   Dick Wolf claims he chose Chicago over Law & Order’s NYC to be different but if you don’t think it’s because of the name you’re kidding yourself (future overseas spin off The Great London Fire?  Think about it).

Guys With Kids – 9/26

Jimmy Fallon co-created this sitcom which stars Law & Order verteran Anthony Anderson, Whitest Kid U Know Zach Cregger, and general actor who is in a bunch of things but no one super notable role Jesse Bradford as three dads with young kids, “desperately trying to remain dudes” as the official NBC web site tells us.  Two are married, one is divorced.  Anderson is married to Cosby Show daughter Tempest Bledsoe and Cregger is married to Sopranos daughter Jamie-Lynn Sigler.  Can they remain “cool” with little kiddies by their side?  Only time will tell.  It seems incredibly uninspired but who knows these days.

Verdict – 13- – it’s got the Jimmy Fallon backing and early reports say that it might be better than I instinctively thought (any show about dudes trying to remain dudes just reeks off the bat but comedies are less premise dependent than dramas) But again, it’s NBC so I have to assume that a fair amount of their shows will get cancelled.

The New Normal – 9/11

Ryan Murphy kind of owns television these days.  Glee is still going str…well, going.  American Horror Story made some splashes last fall and will be back.  And this year he’s got a more traditional comedy featuring a less traditional group of folks.  A career oriented gay couple decides they want a kid, and hire a surrogate mother from the Midwest who has an 8 year old kid of her own who comes out west where they live.  She’s accompanied by her racist, homophobic grandmother (I’m kind of guessing about the racist, homophobic part).  And now, they’re THE NEW NORMAL.  It smells a lot like Modern Family, for better or worse.

Verdict:  Renewal – Ryan Murphy’s on something of a role these days, and what network wouldn’t kill for even a shot at the next Modern Family, which will be winning Best Comedy Emmys like Rafael Nadal wins French Opens (Congrats Andy Murray by the way!).

Revolution – 9/17

JJ Abrams 101.  A post-apocalyptic future where the power is out, for good.  Without electricity, the world descends into chaos with militias and warlords and what not ruling their own patches of earth.  Is the supernatural involved?  Who knows.  Our own roving band of misfits is being pursued by a particular militia.  Actors included Twilight grad Billy Burke, Lost grad Elizabeth Mitchell (and a star of V, cementing her sci-fi TV cred), Gustavo Fring himself, Giancarlo Esposito, and a bunch of relative newbies.  After failure after failure (see:  Terra Nova, The Event, V., Flashforward), hope for the next Lost remains.

Verdict: Renewal – I know this is wrong, I just know it, I’m making the exact same mistake I made with Terra Nova, but man, one of these shows has to succeed eventually, right, or they’d stop making them?  Plus the JJ Abrams imprimatuer could buy it a couple of extra episodes at least?  Maybe?