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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"One More Time" to SULLIVAN & SON

Article first published as "One More Time" to SULLIVAN & SON on TheTVKing.

As I sit down to write a review of the season two premiere of TBS's Sullivan & Son, "One More Time," I looked back at my article last year about the "Pilot," and realize that I want to say practically the same things. It's a funny, charming show that is thoroughly enjoyable to watch, even if the story and premise don't hold up to scrutiny. Yes, there are plot holes, but it's silly and heart warming and that makes it worth my time. It's not stupid or groan-inducing, and that puts it head and shoulders above many other sitcoms.

At the start of "One More Time," it is not revealed how much time, if any, has passed since the season one finale. Yet, that only adds to my fascination with the series. The bar where the show takes place is timeless, with the feeling that one can walk in ten years after the first visit and nothing will have changed, including the patrons. It's sort of like Cheers, in that everyone knows everyone's names, as well as quite a bit more, and they welcome one another as a family. They just enjoy being together.

The 'B' plot of "One More Time" is a very typical Sullivan & Son story. Melanie (Valerie Azlynn) realizes that Owen (Owen Benjamin), Roy (Roy Wood Jr.), Ahmed (Ahmed Ahmed), and Hank (Brian Doyle-Murray) all lack some form of sports knowledge, and so sets about to fill in the gaps. The tutoring sessions quickly become group ones, with the format not unlike Alcoholic Anonymous, except that the flaw each has is that they aren't as knowledgeable as they pretend to be, rather than having a drinking problem.

This is absolutely hilarious because they are in a bar, and are awarded drinks for learning things. Hank's confusion that he is actually at AA for a minute is a bit odd, especially because he immediately drinks after, and we don't need hit over the head with the comparison quite so overtly. However, the chemistry of the characters and the choosing of such a standard problem for the setting make the story work, even though it's completely unrealistic that they need intervention for not knowing an obscure rule or two about a game.

 Of course, they have to make Melanie a part of the larger hole, and so her knowledge gap is about Sex and the City. Perhaps a bit cliche, to be sure, but by including her, she doesn't seem like an arrogant outsider. Had she just lorded her wisdom over the others, "One More Time" would not have been as good. By giving the guys a chance to assist her, even if they aren't all typically the type of guy who would have actually watched the girl-led show, it evens out the playing field.

The 'A' plot confused me a bit, though. It involves Susan's (Vivian Bang) husband (Community's Ken Jeong) coming to the bar, seeing how fun it is, and giving up his career to work there, too. Steve (Steve Byrne) isn't so pleased to have his brother-in-law around, especially because his parents make it clear they don't want to support Susan's family. Plus, the doc goes too far when he gets all of his co-workers drinking, too, and soon the hospital is almost completely without staff. Luckily, Steve helps them see that life balance is more important than just letting off steam, and they go back to work.

There are all kinds of problems to cite here. Susan's husband doesn't know pizza and beer are good prior to his visit? All of these doctors think they can just give up their careers and incomes? The local hospital is staffed only be a couple of dozen Koreans and three Jewish guys? It's OK for Steve to quit his job but not his brother-in-law? Not to mention, I was sure Susan was single in the first season, though I have been unable to confirm that on google.

Again, though, it's the overall tone of the series that wins out, beating its flaws. The story is amusing and it works for the environment. Jeong, whom I sometimes find over-the-top obnoxious in certain roles, stays within the boundaries Sullivan & Son is accustomed to. Steve's family interactions are a major selling point of the show, and he's a solid addition to that clan that will hopefully return again.

As such, although I wouldn't look too closely at "One More Time," I was completely entertained for the twenty-some minutes it took to view the episode. I like this cast and I like what they're doing, despite any complaints. It feels like the show is made of a bunch of buddies hanging out, and it makes you want to spend time among them. It's great escapism fluff to make you smile.

Sullivan & Son airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on TBS.

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