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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh year! 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.]
KINGS OF VAN NUYS (BUSTED ABC PILOT)
(written by Brian Bradley & Steven Cragg; directed by Ted Wass; TRT: 22:19)
The network's description: "Meet the Trotters, Del (John Leguizamo) and Rodney (Dustin Ybarra), two brothers pursuing the American Dream. But while some folks work in office buildings, the Trotters do things differently, buying and selling discounted, discontinued and slightly damaged items out of the trunk of their '78 Pacer wagon. Most days, you can find them at The Regal Hound, a bar run by Del's ex-wife Ruby Ross (Wendi McLendon-Covey) which the boys often use as an office space. Del's the risk taker, always looking for a sweet deal, whether it's unbreakable pinatas, skinny jeans that are a little burned, or a DeLorean with monster truck wheels. He's got a million big ideas. And he's just one score away from becoming the next great captain of industry.
Rodney's the more conservative one, the voice of reason, who acts as Del's conscience. Raised by his brother, Rodney is constantly trying to get out of Del's shadow. And then there's grandpa, Jackie (Christopher Lloyd), a feisty former stunt man in his golden years, who thinks he's still got it. Even though their half-cocked scams and schemes usually leave the Trotter bank account running on empty, they'll be fine as long as they avoid the law and rely on each other. Based on Britain's all time favorite comedy, Steven Cragg & Brian Bradley (Scrubs, MadTV) adapt and executive produce this subversive new comedy about the slightly crooked path two brothers travel on the way to achieving success."
What did they leave out? The U.K. original, "Only Fools and Horses," ran for seven seasons between 1981 and 1991. That and for whatever reason Rodney has been renamed as Donnie.
The plot in a nutshell: "I got a line on a deal that's gonna make us so rich, you might actually become attractive to women," Del Trotter (John Leguizamo) explains to his sad sack brother Donnie (Dustin Ybarra). Said pact is bound to be better than their current gig (Donnie: "We buy crap and sell crap out of the back of a crappy car. We're basically the Latino 'Sanford and Son.'") and could even get them out of their ramshackle apartment which they share with their crotchety grandfather Jackie (Christpher Lloyd), a formerly retired stuntman looking to get back into the game. Unfortunately, this deal of a lifetime turns out to be buying a DeLorean retrofitted as a monster truck from fellow wannabe hustler Trigger Mills (B.J. Bales).
And despite Del's promises of it leading to greener pastures ("Del: State fairs, carnivals, quinceaneras and if they make a 'Back to the Future 4' using monster trucks then baby we are set for life." Donnie: "Right, 'Back to the Future 4,' Christpher Lloyd's probably dead." Jackie: "Yeah, I think he is."), Donnie decides he's had enough of playing second fiddle to Del and opts to take a job at a friend's software company in Seattle. Del of course proves to be lost without Donnie, or as his firebrand ex-wife Ruby (Wendi McLendon-Covey) explains, "You are a stupid freight train of bad decisions and Donnie is the sad little conductor that keeps you from going off the rails." Ultimately, the brothers make up in time to clean up Del's latest mess: having monster truck DeLorean face off against Robosaurus at a car show.
What works: Oh my...
What doesn't: ...that was unfortunate. "Kings of Van Nuys" plays like a lost FOX pilot from the 1990s, complete with cheesy sets, a piercing laugh track and also-ran protagonists. It's a show with both feet firmly planted in the lowest common denominator, whether it's bathroom humor (Del: "So now everybody wants their own bed. So what's next, toilet paper in the bathroom instead of restaurant napkins?"), more bathroom humor (Jackie: "That bottle to the head invigorated me: I only had to get up to pee twice last night... and the stream was strong my friend, strong!") or, wait for it, even more bathroom humor (Jackie: "My life used to be about adventure, now it's about my growing addiction to stool softener.").
Everything else is just awkward couplets that improbably slay the laugh track (Del: "I thought vampires needed an invitation before they can enter." Ruby: "Unless it's Satan's house then they can come in whenever they want."), cringe-worthy exchanges (Del: "It's a long fall to the bottom, my friend. But not for us because we live on the bottom, Donnie. We are the lords of the bottom." Donnie: "That sounds like a gay porn.") and more shameless "Back to the Future" callbacks (Jackie, followed by a needle drop of the iconic theme: "You know it might be the glass in my skull but this car looks terribly familiar to me."), all of which match the classy sheen of the aforementioned material. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see a 21st century take on "Sanford and Son." This however is...
The bottom line: ...just a mess.