Oct. 01--WHY is it that most new TV sitcoms arrive these days with as many pitfalls as funny moments?
I think it's a combination of too much new programming and writing taking a back seat to business deals and network nervousness.
At any rate, they keep coming, so we keep trying to review them and put them in some sort of order. This time out, CBS's "The Crazy Ones" comes in first, easily. NBC's "The Michael J. Fox Show" and "ABC's "Back in the Game" are a ways behind, for different reasons.
"The Crazy Ones" shines because it has something that's as connected to comedy as guffaws and silly giggles: Robin Williams.
Though the show forces him into sappy moments now and then, it also lets him loose to riff and do his schtick, something he does in a way that's funnier than any other human on the planet.
The show's framework has Williams playing the legendary owner of an advertising agency that's seen better times.
He's now working with his daughter (Sarah Michelle Gellar). She tries to look at things in an orderly fashion as her father tries to wing it, getting by on humor.
It's a great way to use Williams' talents, which the show does often.
Note to producers: Toss the sickly sweet stuff and let him be funny, and let a good cast blend their considerable talents. It's why we're all tuning in, and why this show will be around when others get the yank.
'THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW'
That brings us to Michael J. Fox's latest outing, a comedy show bearing his name. It's hard not to want to like this show, given the fact that the talented and likable star has the courage to make his Parkinson's such a part of it.
His character, a newscaster, has taken years off to deal with the disease, but is steered back to his old job by his wife (Betsy Brandt) and the news director (Wendell Pierce).
Yes, Fox is courageous and is somewhat likable in this role.
The problem: the show and Fox's character are too frenetic and simply not that funny, with him dashing hither and yon to the point that there's little time for real humor.
One minute Fox's Mike is chasing his family around the house trying to make them sit down for a meal, the next he's getting pitched at his old station and finally he's on camera on NBC's "Today" show, a shameless plug.
Along the way, he's making only slightly funny comments about his Parkinson's, his kids and the world in general.
In the second episode, the show does what too many do today have a main character start acting crazy giving Mike a silly crush on a pretty neighbor next door. Why?
Kudos to Fox and the show for trying to tackle a difficult subject succeeding at home and work with Parkinson's. But somewhere along the way, in an obvious problem for a comedy show, humor took a back seat.
'BACK IN THE GAME'
ABC's "Back in the Game," a series that feels like the umpteenth redo of "Bad News Bears," has the opposite problem.
It's got laughs and solid performances from James Caan and Maggie Lawson. They play a crusty former ballplayer and his daughter. She's a former college softball player who agrees to coach her son and a bevy of other young and talent-challenged players.
Unfortunately, the setup and Caan's character are such cliches, it's hard to accept it all. But and this is a big but Caan is a gifted actor, Lawson has a knack and the writing is solidly funny.
This could eventually get beyond its cliched approach.
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415
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