ABC’s got their two new family comedies all set to join Modern Family, which is reasonably fun and Cougar Town, which I am loathe to mention it stinks so badly.
First up is Hank, at 8 p.m., starring Kelsey Grammar as Hank Pryor, a fallen from grace executive who now has to start over in his old home town in Virginia, with his spoiled wife and two spoiled children. And his brother-in-law who never left.
Safety-wise, there are some language issues – such as the term for illegitimate children repeated twice and loudly in the opening scene. There is some sex joking and impending sexual activity between Hank and his wife Tilly (Melinda McGraw). But I can’t get too excited about a married couple celebrating their love for each other.
Friendly-wise, there are some good themes about rising above and making good of a bad situation. Yes, Hank has been isolated from his kids, but he sees his downfall as a chance to reconnect with them. It doesn’t mean he always likes it. And it is hard having to go back to being relatively poor when once you were seriously loaded. I like the fact that the show doesn’t back off on that, in spite of Hank’s can-do attitude. But you get the sense that he’s still going to try and that’s pretty admirable.
However, this is a comedy, which means we should be laughing along with Hank. And… The show does have more funny moments than not, but there are also a lot of overly familiar gags, as well. If the characters grow some real flesh to make up for the cliches, there’s a chance it might go somewhere.
The Middle, at 8:30 p.m., stars Patricia Heaton as the mother of three kids with an outside job and a husband who somehow has to say whatever is on his mind, whether it’s appropriate or not. The Middle, of course, refers to Indiana, as in the Mid-West, it even jokes about it being a fly-over state.
It does have a little sass – Frankie Heck is not a perfect mom, by any stretch. I get that it’s supposed to be a joke that her idea of making dinner and eating it as a family is bringing home fast food and everyone watching it together in front of the TV. Oh, yeah, in between the commercials, Frankie asks everyone how their day was. I’m sorry, given how close that is to many folks (you have to give them points for being together), it’s just a little too grating to be funny, in my book. Especially when you hear the Dancing with the Stars theme and “Move that bus…” coming from the TV. Gee, those just happen to be ABC shows, aren’t they?
But ultimately, the characters were the usual stock characters (why does Hollywood think every family has one weird genius kid?). At least, the female characters aren’t all geniuses with the guys being idiots. In fact, the girls are just as dumb as the boys. Not a big step forward, but better than what’s been happening.
More to the point, the humor wasn’t very humorous. The show has potential, but it’s not really going anyplace right now. There are also some language issues, including the word damn a lot, but nothing more serious. There was one joke about a pregnant teen, too. But that was about it.
The biggest problem is that it’s not very interesting. If the idea is to remind us that places like Indiana aren’t a snooze, they’re going to have to do a lot better than what I’m seeing here.
Anne Louise Bannon
Your Family Viewer