[11/03/09 - 03:41 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Cop House" (FOX)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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So you've seen all of the new shows this fall - but what about the ones that didn't make the cut? For the next 30 days we're going to take a "first look" at a collection of 30 pilots that didn't land on the 2009-10 season schedule. Are there any gems that got passed over or are they all deservedly locked in the networks' vaults? Stay tuned.

(written by Adam Resnick; directed by Brett Ratner; TRT: 21:17)

What is it? A single-camera comedy set at a halfway house for troubled cops.

Who was behind it?: Adam Resnick, the screenwriter of "Death to Smoochy" and "Lucky Numbers." Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour 3") directed the pilot and executive produced.

The plot in a nutshell: A series of vignettes introduce us to the residents of the Strattsburg County Police Home, a facility devoted to rehabilitating "once valuable but now psychologically troubled police personnel and return them to active duty." There's Officer Brian Ford ("Entourage's" Scott Caan), who had a nervous breakdown after his wife Meg (Bre Blair) left him for his sister Beth (Carla Gallo); Tony Doyle ("Chuck's" Tony Hale), a fourth-generation cop, who's suffering from PTSD after being attacked by a tiger; Trish Burkholder ("In the Motherhood's" Rachael Harris), a vice cop who got in trouble for posing for "Hustler" while on duty; Richard O'Donnell ("The League's" Nick Kroll), an overzealous narcotics detective who will do anything to get ahead; Skip Malhorta ("Office Space's" Ajay Naidu), a detective whose apathy literally keeps him from doing any police work; and Officer Donnie Sneed (Curtiss I'Cook), who's simply just crazy. Serving as their den mother then is Rebecca ("Privileged's" Joanna Garcia), a psychologist who leads their group therapy sessions which consist mostly of everyone bitching about their half-assed assignments (i.e. washing police dogs, security guard at a senior bake sale) and airing their petty grievances against one another (Tony thinks Skip stole his prized rooster mug).

She nevertheless hopes to bring the house together with a group outing, the location of which the sextet must unanimously decide. Brian, who's hoping to stay under the radar during his last two weeks at the home, simply suggests a Flyers game while Richard is pushing for a PBA pistol tournament in an effort to bring some dignity to the house. Richard then spends the rest of the half-hour trying to convince everyone to pick his choice, but that quickly falls apart after a mishap while practicing. His only option: get Brian to stick around and lead our band of misfits to victory at the pistol competition. Brian reluctantly agrees and winds up getting far more than he bargained for: their bus is hijacked while stopping at a convenience store on their way to the tournament. Collectively - thanks to everyone's own unique band of crazy - they manage to stop them and for once, feel like real cops again. Not surprisingly, Brian gets his dinged for his efforts (he, along with Richard, commandeered a motorist's vehicle to catch the gunmen) and is now forced to stay at the home for another six months.

What works: Character actors Harris, Hale, Kroll and Naidu are always great to see. Unfortunately...

What doesn't: ...there's not much for them to do here. A hodgepodge of limp cop archetypes and humorless situations, "Cop House" never really seems to get going on any level. If anything the show seems funny more in theory than in practice. Harris playing a sexpot vice cop who was raised Amish: funny in theory, not so much in practice. Naidu playing a cop so disinterested in his job he reads the paper while a woman wrestles with a purse snatcher: again funny in theory, not so much in practice. Part of the problem is that most of their problems aren't translated well into the actual plot. Brian, first seen shooting up his Christmas tree after seeing Meg and Beth together again, is subsequently as a docile as a kitten, happy to bury the event and move on. The hook of the show then is supposed to be everybody needs Brian to stay, because he's... apparently as close to normal as any of them can get and he can help everybody on their path to recovery.

The problem is just about everyone is content with the status quo - "Donnie's entertaining prostitutes, Tony screams in his sleep and Skip is fermenting raisins in his bathtub," Brian notes - and barely interact with him at all. Only Richard and Trish have any stakes in him staying, for equally selfish reasons: he to win the gun tournament, she to win him in the bedroom ("That is so horrible," she says after hearing he has to stay after six months. "I have to go upstairs and change."). What's worse is all this is just minutiae compared to the fact that nothing funny really happens (sample quip - Brian, during the car chase: "What happened buddy I thought you were all about the street?" Richard: "I can't just turn that stuff on, I need time to boot up!"). Even Hale, once again playing his usual quirkily crazy character, is only tasked with lame developments like losing his prized rooster mug or getting car sick. Only I'Cook's Donnie seems to fully embrace what's going on as he inexplicably talks into an imaginary police radio and makes bizarre, random comments like, "Do you know the problem with my penis? It has no character." All in all, there's really not much more to say other than...

The bottom line: ...you aren't missing much.

  [november 2009]  


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