Friday, January 13, 2012

New January sitcoms bomb one and all

    January brings the return of midseason favorite and cable series. But it also heralds a batch of "second tries" by the networks to replace falls shows that just didn't work out. All three major networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC have launched new sitcoms recently, including one last night. All three sitcoms should soon be gone, with any luck, because these are not examples of what good comedy television is.

     First out of the gate was ABC's Work It. Lee (Benjamin Koldyke, How I Met Your Mother, Big Love) and Angel (Amaury Nolasco, Prison Break, Chase) have been out of work for awhile. Lee, in a desperate move, dresses as a girl and gets a position as a pharmaceutical rep, and Angel rides his coat tails. Rebecca Mader (Lost) does a great bitch, but that doesn't mean she brings much to the table. This series does earn a few laughs, but only because it is so incredibly bad. It's the sitcom version of SyFy made-for-TV movies. That's not the way a show wants to be laughed at, because it is certainly not laughing with. But it's a cheesy pile of gristle that still (barely) manages to entertain. Which means I may continue to watch it until it gets canceled, which should happen soon enough. But a classic, it is not. And if it doesn't get canceled soon, the joke of how truly horrific it is will wear thin, and it will definitely go off my TiVo.

     Next comes along NBC's Are You There, Chelsea?, the worst of the bunch. Based on Chelsea Handler's book, Are You There, Vodka, It's Me, Chelsea?, but of course with a shortened title, the first episode fails to amuse even slightly. Handler herself plays the religious, uptight, older, pregnant sister of the titular character, and it doesn't work at all. Laura Prepon (That '70s Show, October Road) tries valiantly with playing a version of Handler, but even Prepon's considerable talents cannot rise the material above drivel. Greek's Jake McDorman adds little as the bartender who couldn't have sex with Chelsea because they both like to be on top, though Lenny Clarke (Rescue Me) is not bad as her father. Lauren Lapkus and Ali Wong (breaking_in) have it worst as Chelsea's friends. An annoying, intrusive laugh track doesn't help. Skip this one entirely.

     Finally, CBS's Rob is the one with the least amount of promise, yet, perhaps by sticking to a traditional sitcom feel, it is the best of the new class. Which is not to say that it's great, by any means. Rob (Rob Schneider, Deuce Bigalow) marries Maggie (Claudia Bassols, C.L.A. No somos angeles), a girl that is way too hot for him, after six weeks of dating. Then he is introduced to her loud, obnoxious, Mexican family. Uncle Hector (Eugenio Derbez, La familia P. Luche) is the worst character, being a mooching recent immigrant. But Cheech Marin, as Maggie's father Fernando, is not at all what one expect from the character or the actor, which is a redeeming quality for the show. The cast also boasts Diana Maria Riva (The Good Guys, The West Wing) and Lupe Ontiveros (As Good As It Gets, Los Americans) among the cast. Despite some ridiculous situations involving Rob acting too much like an idiot, if the series tones down the main character, there may be something there. Unfortunately, it's something many a sitcom has already found before it.

     All in all, not an impressive batch. But then again, neither were the fall premieres. Maybe next year will be better. Until then, enjoy the tried and true wealth of funny series already running.

     Work It airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

     Are You There, Chelsea runs on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

     Rob is Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. ET, on CBS.

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