[06/19/06 - 12:00 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Knights of Prosperity, The" (ABC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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With the official start of the 2006-07 season less than three 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 or so previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at one of the 39 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 entry:

(Tuesdays at 9:00/8:00c this fall)

The network's description: "For almost 20 years, Eugene Gurkin has dreamt of opening a bar, but his dead end job on the late, late janitorial shift won't even fund a bottle of premium booze. In the wake of a co-worker's death, he catches an episode of television. Call it divine intervention, call it a dumb idea, but whatever it is takes hold of Eugene and soon he recruits a group of misfits into his "gang" for a heist to finance their dreams. The target: Rock icon Mick Jagger's super-luxe Central Park West apartment. Working together, this band of affable, new-age Robin Hoods, who have never even shoplifted a candy bar, are soon casing the joint and prepping for their crime. What they don't know is that there's a much richer target for them... the chance to find hope, self-esteem and confidence within themselves. From Jon Beckerman and Rob Burnett, producers of "Late Show with David Letterman" and creators of "Ed," comes a hilarious tale of haves and have nots. Donal Logue ("Grounded for Life") stars. Mick Jagger appears in a cameo (he is not a series regular)."

What did they leave out: Who knew Mick Jagger was this funny or willing to make fun of himself?

The plot in a nutshell: Eugene Gurkin (Donal Logue) and Francis "Squatch" Scuacieri (Lenny Venito) are about as down on their luck as they can get. As janitors on the late, late shift, life has more or less kicked them to the curb. But after one of their co-workers drops dead (and a late-night viewing of "E! News"), Eugene gets an idea that will change both their fortunes - rob Mick Jagger. And while most of their misfit friends and acquaintances think they're crazy, a few start to buy into Eugene's enthusiasm. There's Gourishanker ("I'm gonna call you Gary") Subramaniam (Maz Jobrani), a female-obsessed cab driver; Rockefeller Butts (Kevin Michael Richardson), a velvety-voiced night watchman; Esperanza Villalobos (Sof´┐Ża Vergara), a diner waitress whom Eugene has a crush on; and Louis Plunk (Josh Grisetti), a college student whom Gary offers an "internship" in their crew. And so their crime syndicate (which they dub the "Knights of Prosperity" - complete with T-shirts) is born. Their first mission, steal the key to Jagger's apartment from the building manager's office. It's a task that somehow sparks a fire they never felt before.

What works: Words cannot do justice on how funny this show is. Basically if you're a fan of Beckerman and Burnett's much-missed "Ed" or "My Name Is Earl" you'll be doing backflips over this. Filled with offbeat characters, out-there references and a go-for-broke attitude, "Rob" is another notch in the ever-expanding network comedy belt. From its "Resevoir Dogs"-esque shot of the six wearing their firetruck red "Knights of Prosperity" T-shirts to Jagger demonstrating his "Rolling Stones" popcorn butter dispenser on "E! News" to their Jewish supply store hideout to the Barry White-esque Rockefeller's cookie requests, there's just nothing in here that doesn't feel unique and original. Even better, it's just a lot of fun - plain and simple.

What doesn't: Those worried about its limiting premise should be happy to know it's not really about the robbery but rather how their decision to do so changes their lives. As silly as it is, the robbery gives them something they so desperately need - hope for better times ahead.

The challenges ahead: Against its all drama competition - NBC's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," CBS's "The Unit," FOX's "House" and The CW's "Veronica Mars" - will ABC's counterprogramming of an offbeat comedy find an audience?

  [june 2006]  


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