[06/05/10 - 03:29 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Nolan Knows Best" (ABC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) 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 the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]

(written by Dana Gould; directed by Craig Zisk; TRT: 21:34)

The network's description: "When your Dad is a legend in your town, it can be hard to get out from under his shadow. When your Dad moves in to the apartment over your garage... forget about it! All his life, Dana Nolan knew his dad Phil loved his older brother Stan more. No matter what Dana did, he never quite seemed to measure up to his dad's old-school values. Obviously, he couldn't be the best son, so instead, Dana decided to be the best husband and dad he could possibly be. Now, Dana has the chance to get a little closer to his dad. After bailing Stan out of yet another jam, Phil is moving in to the spare apartment above Dana's garage. Just great. You see, to Dana's adorable daughters, Phil is their lovable grandpa. And at the high school where Dana works as a guidance counselor, Phil is the legendary 'Coach Phil' who still shows up every day to give the team a pep-talk.

But to the long-suffering Dana... he's just the same old critical dad he's always known and grudgingly loves. Luckily, Dana has his wife Julie to keep him grounded, but as a full-time anesthesiologist she's got her own problems like being judged by other school moms who only work part-time. Dana's smart enough to know he's got to make the best of his dad situation, but it's going to take time... a whole lot of time. Comedian Dana Gould takes a page from his own life and lets us all laugh at the thousand small humiliations he's suffered from his dad. Nolan Knows Best is a family comedy about trying to get out from under your dad's shadow, while attempting to live up to his high expectations."

What did they leave out? That's really it.

The plot in a nutshell: Happily married father of two/high school guidance counselor Dana Nolan (Dana Gould) only really has one problem in life: his dad, Phil (Brian Dennehy). Whether it's still showing up at school where he was a legendary football coach, inviting himself over to the house or his unwarranted favoritism towards his screw-up brother Stan (Todd Stashwick), Phil's constant stream of criticisms and opinions continue to frustrate Dana even as an adult. Said dynamics reach a boiling point however when Stan's latest business scheme finds him homeless and Phil's solution is to give him their childhood home. "It was a sure thing," Stan pleads. "That's all they told me." Even worse, to make room for Stan and his family, Phil's going to move out... and move in with Dana.

Dana's wife Julie (Traylor Howard), an anesthesiologist, however reminds him they need to start setting boundaries with Phil. He agrees as he ultimately doesn't want to relive his childhood ("When we were kids, my dad used to get us to do stuff by threatening to murder Santa Claus."). But after telling Phil no - and especially after learning he's going to move in with Frenchie (Harry Groener), the town drunk, instead - Dana becomes riddled with guilt. Begrudgingly he warms up to the concept because, after all, they have a spare room and the kids (Lexi Jourden, Payton Lucas) adore him. And so, after some ground rules are set by Julie, Phil agrees and our new status quo is achieved.

What works: It's kind of cute in a this-is-how-sitcoms-used-to-be-20-years-ago kind of way...

What doesn't: ...but darn if this shouldn't have stayed in the time capsule. An endless string of canned jokes - Phil, about Dana's hybrid: "It don't even look like car, it looks like a camera! I drive a car." Dana: "You drive a truck!" Phil: "A truck, now that's a car!"; Julie: "If I'm not there, there's no anesthesia, which leads to a lot of screaming." - eye-rolling observations - Stan: "Shark Week: has it been a year already?"; Phil on his late wife's cat: "That thing wouldn't piss in the sand if it was lost in a desert."; Dana: "Kids don't need yoga, they're naturally bendy. Look!" (Shakes the kids' heads.); and limp declarations - Dana: "To me every kid who doesn't know how to make wine in a prison toilet is a victory unto itself."; Dana: "Dad thinks Mom watches him from heaven. He wouldn't sleep with another woman unless they were under a lead quilt." - "Nolan" is exhaustingly ordinary and uninspired.

Gould, generally funny and sharp in his stand-up, is your typical neutered TV husband here and his script seems more than content with lobbing up your typical sitcom fare. Wait he doesn't get along with his dad... and now they're going to live together? Let the wackiness ensue! I can just see the print ads where Dennehy is chuckling to himself while Gould stands next to him, his arms folded disapprovingly. Ultimately it's hard to build up any righteous indignation towards this as at the very least...

The bottom line: ...it's a solid reminder how far sitcoms have come in recent years.

  [june 2010]  


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