GUYS WITH KIDS: Wednesday 8:30PM starting September 26 on NBC (“sneak peek” Sept 12 after “America’s Got Talent” season finale) – Change the Channel
Disclaimer: Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall. Pilots are often reedited and re-scored, and in some cases even recast or reshot. These critiques shouldn’t be taken as full pilot reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.
This is the week of network television’s semi-annual pilgrimage before the laptops and scrutiny of the Television Critics Association. Each network takes a day to troop up on stage at TCA and display its latest wares like very cheerful Willy Lomans, spinning whatever tale they’re pitching for the fall season. FOX went yesterday, with its news of Mariah Carey signing up for the new season of American Idol and some promising pilots. In the case of NBC, the message is “We’re not dead yet!” The execs are trumpeting the fact that the network sneaked into being #3 last season (by airing the Super Bowl), assuring anyone who will listen that Smash will actually be good this time, and swearing–swearing!–that firing Community‘s creator and creative voice won’t damage the show at all.
Mostly, the network is selling the idea that NBC is on the road back to ratings and creative health, and that its new roster of shows will help bring it to the promised land. The problem with this rosy picture, of course, is that eventually people are going to see those shows. For example: GUYS WITH KIDS, the network’s creaky new Wednesday night multicamera sitcom. It’s uncomfortably reminiscent of last year’s ABC flop Man Up, only with, you know, babies.
The 3 protagonists are old friends who are now all fathers. Chris (Jesse Bradford) is recently divorced, with one son; Nick (Zach Cregger) is more or less happily married to Emily (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), with 2 kids; Gary (Anthony Anderson), married to Marny (Tempestt Bledsoe) is a harried stay-at-home dad of 4. (It should be noted that in the original pilot, Chris’s “dragon”–other words come to mind–of an ex-wife was played by Sara Rue, but since she was unavailable for the series because she had another pilot picked up, she’ll be replaced by Erinn Hayes; it’s unknown whether any rewriting of the very unlikable character will accompany the recasting.)
Charlie Grandy’s pilot script (he had previously written on The Office) is basically one joke: an Erma Bombeck routine with guys playing mom. The wives, however much their husbands love them, are demanding and emotionally needy; the kids are cute but nothing but trouble, preventing their dads from eating, sleeping, having sex and getting out of the house. After just one episode, the show already feels contrived, overly broad and repetitive (a pilot shouldn’t need to pull a piece of silly stunt casting out of its hat just to survive 20 minutes on the air), so there’s not enormous promise here. Also less than thrilling: since Grandy has never run a show before, the series will be handled by Betsy Thomas, who’s coming over from… Whitney.
Guys With Kids does have one thing going for it: Anthony Anderson, who knows how to drain every possible laugh out of shtick like yelling at an off-stage child and falling asleep in the middle of a conversation. He’d be the breakout star of the show if there was anything to break out from, but there are few signs of that. The rest of the cast delivers its lines with more emphasis than wit, although in fairness to all concerned (and director Scott Ellis), production with so many little children in every scene can’t be easy.
Even beyond its mediocre quality, it’s not clear who the audience is meant to be for Guys With Kids. The mix of baby gags and “my wife is such a pain” jokes isn’t likely to appeal in full to even undemanding male or female audiences, and it’s a strange fit with its lead-in, the single camera Animal Practice–although maybe the idea is that the people who watch one for cute animals will watch the other for cute babies. (In pondering how it’s reaching the air in the first place, one shouldn’t overlook the fact that its producers include Jimmy Fallon.) However, NBC, which is in dire need of good news, got a little bit yesterday, when ABC adjusted its own Wednesday and moved the awful The Neighbors into the 8:30PM slot. Here’s a happy bulletin for TCA: Guys With Kids isn’t particularly good, but it’s better than that one.