Better odds than usual: Two out of three comedy series premiering tonight are worth watching.
Viewers who liked FX's "Rescue Me" will probably enjoy USA's first original scripted comedy, "Sirens" (back-to-back episodes at 10 and 10:30 tonight), which plays like a more comedic "Rescue Me" focused on EMTs rather than firefighters.
"Rescue Me" star Denis Leary is one of the creators and writers of "Sirens," which is reminiscent of the talkier, guy-banter portions of "Rescue Me."
"Sirens" follows three EMTs on and off the job. Usually their experiences at work provide the spark for a theme or plot that runs through an episode.
The leader, Johnny (Michael Moseley, "Pan Am"), is the most similar to Mr. Leary's Tommy on "Rescue Me." He has relationship troubles and makes bad choices but is generally smiling. New recruit Brian (Kevin Bigley) is a smarter version of the probie character from "Rescue Me." And Hank (Kevin Daniels) is Johnny's smarter best friend (aka Lou from "Rescue Me").
The series premiere was not made available for review -- never a good sign -- but a second episode airing tonight at 10:30 begins with a lightning strike at a church picnic, leading to discussions of karma as the guys behave selfishly during a CPR class for kids.
The March 13 episode, the funniest of three sent to critics, features the EMTs in their ambulance discussing their online porn-viewing habits, inspired by a patient who begs them to return to his apartment to erase the web browser history on his computer. They oblige but first take a look at what he's been watching and are horrified. It's a funny scene played for maximum laughs that makes good use of their post-viewing stricken expressions, which get replayed later in the episode when they encounter other unexpected, memorable sights.
Another upcoming episode includes a plot about Johnny's relationship with his father, played by "Rescue Me" regular Lenny Clarke.
It's worrisome that USA did not make the pilot available for review but later episodes are funny enough. Perhaps it's just the usual early episode growing pains.
Comedy Central's latest scripted series, "Review" (10 tonight), is a pretty amusing little show, albeit a one-trick pony.
Andy Daly ("Eastbound & Down") stars as Forrest MacNeil, a "life critic" who hosts "Review." He doesn't review restaurants, books or TV; rather, he reviews everyday life experiences, such as rioting, falling down stairs or rock stardom.
"Whatever life experiences you're curious about, I'll review it," Forrest says.
In the premiere episode, mild-mannered Forrest takes on stealing, addiction and attending the prom.
He begins stealing small (malted milk balls from a grocery store) and escalates (bank robbery) in ill-timed, pretty funny fashion that takes a toll on his accomplice, an intern for the show. Forrest eventually gives theft two stars.
Addiction comes second but also recurs in the prom review because, you know, he's now an addict.
"Cocaine is amazing, I give it a million stars!" he says while high. That critique gets revised down to a half-star after he sobers up.
In a future episode, Forrest tries on racism and gets into a verbal sparring match with his co-worker, who thinks racism should get zero stars but he insists on a half-star because zero stars is against "Review" policy. (This sort of fighting over stars and reviews rings sadly true.)
The recurring gag is the absurdity of nerdy Forrest reviewing often illegal/immoral activities, and it's a pretty good joke in the early episodes. It remains to be seen if that joke holds up or grows tiresome over time.
FX seems to be embarking on a somewhat schizophrenic path for its comedies. While some are considered hip and modern ("Archer," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"), the network is going down a second path to get cheap, bad programming.
It's called the 10/90 model. FX orders 10 episodes of a comedy and if the show achieves a certain rating, then the network automatically buys another 90 episodes. Charlie Sheen's "Anger Management" was the first series to go this route and now there's George Lopez's "Saint George" (9 tonight), another mediocre, three-camera sitcom with nothing new to say.
Mr. Lopez stars as George Lopez, a recently divorced entrepreneur (he markets the fifth-biggest selling energy drink in the country) who is hen-packed by his mother (Olga Merediz) at home and hit on by Concepcion (Diana Maria Riva), the assistant principal at the night school where he teaches to give back to the community.
"In case you're wondering, I'm wearing a thong," Concepcion tells George.
"I was kind of guessing big girl panties," George replies.
And that's pretty much the style of humor found in "Saint George," which tries to humanize George by making him pathetic -- he hasn't dated since his divorce 13 months ago and his mother mocks him ("The longest relationship you've had is with your hand!").
The show hints at culture clashes -- his white ex-wife (Jenn Lyon) is often around -- but never really explores this terrain. The first episode is devoted to George attempting to date and learning about naked selfies from his cousin (David Zayas, "Dexter") and uncle (Danny Trejo, "Machete Kills").
With "Anger Management" and "Saint George," it's almost as if FX is trying to go the TV Land route -- new shows for former broadcast network stars with the same stale situations -- only with raunchier dialogue.