'Halfway' funny (is not funny enough)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

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Oh, Comedy Central, how you love to tease.

First in 2007, the network debuted "The Sarah Silverman Program," a raucous and profane, but undeniably smart and funny, show.

Now we get "Halfway Home," a partially improvised half hour (at 10:30 tonight) that wants to do for a halfway house what "Reno 911!" did for "Cops." There's just one stumbling block: "Reno 911!" is funny with memorable characters. "Halfway House" is occasionally amusing but the characters are not well-formed.

Marc Lecureuil
Jessica Makinson, Regan Burns, Oscar Nunez, Octavia Spencer, Jordan Black and Kevin Ruf star in the halfway funny "Halfway Home."

Two of the show's stars -- Oscar Nunez, who plays Oscar on "The Office," and Kevin Ruf -- are executive producers of this tale of halfway house supervisor Kenny (Ruf) and his charges. They include a male prostitute (Nunez), an Internet fraud artist (Jordan Black), a fire-starter (Regan Burns), a drug trafficker (Jessica Makinson) and an armed robbery convict (Octavia Spencer).

In the premiere, Kenny is revealed to be a hypocrite and the firestarter is a narc who gets abused by his housemates.

On occasion, cut-away segments show the house prisoners in one-on-one sessions with Kenny. In one, the black militant Internet fraud artist, who's actually from a rich California family, objects to wearing his glasses.

"You feel more comfortable now that you put my eyes on lockdown!" he exclaims after putting on his glasses.

It's a funny outburst, but these are, unfortunately, few and far between.

Worse, an upcoming episode is nothing but sophomoric sex jokes as all the guys in the house suffer from erectile dysfunction on the same day that the drug trafficker enters a pogo sticking contest, igniting their sex fantasies. It's all a little obvious and too on-the-nose.

Better luck next time, Comedy Central.


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