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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: "Family is enough to drive anyone a little crazy. Children keep secrets from their parents so they won't upset them, dads leave for other women and moms try to run over dads with the car. Actually, that was the point that the Crumb family realized Mom was crazy. Estranged brothers Mitch and Jody Crumb reunite in their small hometown to deal with their mother, Suzanne, who is being released from a psychiatric country club and has yet to discover that her ex-husband, Billy, is about to have a baby with his new girlfriend. They have issues� major issues. Central to everything is the dynamic between these two brothers: Mitch is the prodigal son who is returning home after a failed Hollywood career, and Jody is the older brother who has stayed in the confines of their small New England town to run the family business. Together for the first time as adults, this family will have to stick by one another despite their combustible relationships."
What did they leave out: It's the most twisted (and I say that in a good way) multi-camera sitcom since FOX's "Titus."
The plot in a nutshell: Successful screenwriter Mitch Crumb (Fred Savage) returns home to his small New England hometown after getting word his mother Suzanne (Jane Curtin) is being released from the psychiatric hospital she was committed to after trying to run her philandering husband (William Devane) over with a car. There he reunites with his estranged brother Jody (Eddie McClintock), who stayed home to run the family restaurant business after Mitch left for L.A. Not surprisingly there's some bad blood between the two but they agree to keep the peace while their mom settles in, especially when they learn their dad has gotten his girlfriend pregnant. We also meet Mitch's old friend (and waitress at the family's restaurant) Andrea (Maggie Lawson), who quickly gets Mitch to spill the truth about his return home - despite hitting it out of the park with his first script (about his life back home), he's struggling to write a follow up. Plus, there's the whole having yet to tell his family he's gay thing. Anyway, in pure sitcom fashion dad's secret gets out and the brothers must perform damage control, especially when mom has dad at gunpoint. (Like I said, it's the most twisted comedy since "Titus.") This leads to probably the most surprisingly dramatic and powerful (not to mention funny) scenes in a sitcom in recent memory, as Mitch calls everyone out on their problems and the truth about why he left town in the first place comes out.
What works: I can't get over what an unexpected surprise this show turned out to be. I hate to beat to death the "Titus" comparison, but that's the only comparable show I can think of. I mean when's the last time attempted vehicular manslaughter, sex in an insane asylum and marital infidelity were played for laughs? This show is definitely not your average sitcom, even though it has all its trappings (laugh track, etc.), and certainly not what you'd expect considering the network's description.
What doesn't: The show is definitely teetering on the edge of being schmaltzy, that is to say it comes this close to overplaying the inherent dramatic undercurrent of the show. It's hard to talk about this without spoiling the final act, but suffice it to say sometimes it's better to play things closer to the vest than milk every moment dry with an extended sequence set to the latest pop music hit. That being said, it's hard to pick apart a show, especially a sitcom, that's willing to put itself out there and try to be something different. Between this and "Sons & Daughters," ABC is doing some surprisingly unique things in the comedy department and I couldn't be more excited.
The challenges ahead: Is this the type of comedy that will succeed on a network whose most-watched comedy is "According to Jim?" We'll find out at midseason on ABC.