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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.]
STRANGE BREW (FOX)
(written by David Kohan & Max Mutchnick; directed by Marc Buckland; TRT: 22:02)
The network's description: No official description has been released...
What did they leave out? ...so everything. While originally conceived as multi-camera, the show was actually shot in single-camera format.
The plot in a nutshell: No matter what Burt (Greg Germann) of Burt's Brewery says, Ted (Jere Burns) of Forrest Ale isn't selling. Sure they're ridiculously in debt and sure his family is ill-equipped to actually run the business, but he still won't admit they're on the ropes. His wife Janie (Laurie Metcalf) unabashedly walks the tight rope of sobriety; daughter Lizzy (Aya Cash) pops pills to escape the boredom of her job as his assistant; twins Kyle (Skylar Astin) and Clay (Mo Mandel) are all-around idiots, as they struggle to get rid of a stray cat they had been feeding at the facility; youngest Michael (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) is more concerned with hiding the fact he's gay; and brewmaster/longtime family friend Lester (Damon Gupton) is exasperated by the antics of our merry band of misfits. They'll need to rally however as Lagerfest, the biggest beer festival in Colorado, is around the corner and Burt is threatening to run away with top honors.
Ted's "fake it 'til you make it" plan then is to simply whisper encouraging words to everyone and submit their ale for Lagerfest as "even our worst is going to be better than Burt's cat pee." Unfortunately, cat pee is exactly what their ale is going to taste like as the aforementioned cat apparently drowned inside one of the tanks. (Seriously, this is an actual television show.) Regardless, it all takes a backseat to the fact that Lizzy, distracted by her affection for Lester, forgot to submit the application in time. Defeated, Ted agrees to sell to Burt - who will ultimately be revealed to be his brother (I'll pause for you to pick the pieces up from your exploded minds) - but Burt insists Ted fire the kids first. And so he does but winds up feeling guilty in the process. It seems he'll have to be a better dad to them before becoming a better boss, beginning with not selling to Burt.
What works: If there ever was a show that needed a laugh track...
What doesn't: ...this was it. And while part of it is for obvious reasons - to tell us where its supposed "jokes" are supposed to be - it legitimately feels like something that would play better in the multi-camera format. Everybody here is big and broad leaving the air between their performances in much need of some filler. Sure, stuff like Janie telling Michael, "Sweetheart I need you to get out, mommy's got to medicate. Or meditate. Not medicate, meditate," or Ted responding to Clay that Lagerfest isn't named after his grandfather because his "grandfather's name was John" aren't exactly rolling in the aisles funny (or that minus the rolling in the aisles part) but there's the sense that if given a livelier stage it could at least pass as a joke.
Here it's nothing but crickets, a fact that's made all the more aggravating by the "something-wacky-is-going-on-here-get-it?" elevator muzak that punctuates every scene. All of this is however is just my collegial exercise designed to distract me from reiterating the sad collection of tomfoolery this show ultimately is, whether it be Ted finding Michael's copy of Buff Guy Magazine, Kyle struggling to spell the word "model," Janie shrilly yelling that no one helps out or Ted and Burt engaging in a childish game of "I'm not touching you" - all in the dreadfully flat fashion as previously detailed.
The bottom line: Laugh track or not, I'll pass.