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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2009-2010 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on either a cut screened to us privately or a copy supplied by a third party NOT a screener provided by the network in question. All were received or screened prior to the networks' official mailings that went out in mid-June.]
(Wednesdays at 8:00/7:00c starting this fall; TRT: 22:36)
The network's description: "Kelsey Grammer stars in this timely comedy as Hank Pryor, a titan of industry who suddenly finds himself out of work, almost out of money and around a wife and kids for whom he's never made much time. Despite his recent setbacks, however, Hank is confident he's on the road back to the top. He knows he is destined to return to greatness. And he is just not the greatness he imagines."
What did they leave out? The show was originally titled "Awesome Hank," for reasons you'll see shortly.
The plot in a nutshell: Ousted as CEO of Pryor Sports, Hank Pryor (Kelsey Grammer) is being forced to go back to his roots - whether he likes it or not. "You should have seen their faces," Hank explains to his wife Tilly (Melinda McGraw). "It killed them to fire me." And so with their savings gone, the Pryor family - which also includes spoiled daughter Maddie (Macey Cruthird) and overly excitable son Henry (Ryan Wynott) - must now pack up their New York home after 17 years and return to River Bend, Virginia, the site of Hank's first store-turned-global empire. Hank however is taking things in stride - after all, this will finally give him the chance to reconnect with his family and no longer be a slave to his job. (Hank: "Son, what do you say later you and I go out and throw a baseball?" Henry: "At what?")
And while some things do end up going well - a mishap involving their bed gives Hank and Tilly a much needed spark in the bedroom (Tilly: "It's like we're poor now and all we have is our bodies!") - for the most part, home life isn't all he made it out to be: his children don't listen to him, Tilly has informed him she's the one that should be going to work and his redneck brother-in-law Grady (David Koechner) is into... hugging. Even worse for Hank, it turns out you can't run a family like a corporation. Thankfully, like in any sitcom, it's a lesson he'll learn in a half-hour's time.
What works: Kelsey Grammer has made a career out of playing fussy blowhards and "Hank" is no exception. After Maddie accuses Hank of stealing Obama's "Yes We Can" theme to inspire their collective recovery, he responds, "I could have been president... this is America young lady, a rich white man has just as much chance as being the president as anyone else!" While Tilly explains her secret nicknames for the children - Moody Maddie and Hyper Henry - he takes notes... on his Blackberry. (A smiling Hank: "Say, do you have a secret nickname for dealing with me?" A covering Tilly: "...Awesome Hank.") It's all more or less what you've come to expect from Grammer. The rest of the cast is likable enough - from Koechner's Grady, whose son Kyle follows him around like his own personal redneck Mini-Me ("Kyle, start the truck!"), to McGraw's Tilly, whose exasperation thankfully doesn't become your stereotypical nagging ("I'm used to having [the maid] Consuela. Guess what, you're Consuela now buddy!"). I've always been a self-professed fan of the multi-camera format so it's nice to see a show that knows what it is out of the gate and the kinds of stories it wants to tell.
What doesn't: "Hank" obviously is by no means reinventing the comedy wheel, it's just trying to be funny - and a little sweet - for 22 and a half minutes. With that in mind it's hard to work up any righteous indignation towards a few lead balloons or an eye roll here and there. I'm also happy to report that in an era where we supposedly need our comedies to reflect these tough economic times, "Hank" thankfully packages it in a way to make it the catalyst for an absentee father to start learning about being a parent. All in all...
The bottom line: ..."Hank" turns out to be a fun appetizer to the comedy meals that follow.