Premiering comedies come up short on laughs

TV Reviews


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The original pilot for CBS's "$#• ! My Dad Says" (8:30 tonight, KDKA) mostly lived down to the bleeped profanity in its title.

The revamped version that debuts tonight shows some improvement, but this sitcom remains long on situation (it's based on a Twitter feed about a young guy who tweets his father's outrageous exclamations) and short on comedy.

William Shatner stars as the Dad of the title, Ed, who's prone to talking trash. He once met Mother Teresa and said having a conversation with her was "like talking to a fig wrapped in a napkin."

TV Reviews
'$#! My Dad Says'

When: 8:30 tonight, CBS.

'Outsourced'

When: 8:30 tonight, NBC.

'Dexter'

When: 9 p.m. Sunday, Showtime.

'Sister Wives'

When: 10 p.m. Sunday, TLC.

He's equally terse with his estranged son, Henry (Jonathan Sadowski), who was recently laid off from his job as a magazine writer. Actor Ryan Devlin played Henry in the first pilot and was replaced. Mr. Devlin was more appealing but Mr. Sadowski may be more believable as Mr. Shatner's son.

Even the best line of the pilot -- "If it looks like manure and smells like manure, it's either Andy Rooney or manure" -- has been tweaked with "Wolf Blitzer" substituted for Mr. Rooney's name. Either someone in the CBS family complained or the writers decided Mr. Blitzer is better known to young viewers now that the show is paired with "The Big Bang Theory."

Mr. Shatner is pretty much the only reason to watch the show, especially for viewers who miss seeing him as Denny Crane on "Boston Legal." Denny and Ed are two birds of a feather, but "Boston Legal" was a thought-provoking and consistently funnier program.

The plot of the "$#• !" premiere episode marks an improvement on the first pilot as it scraps an uncomfortable real estate scheme story in favor of better establishing the relationship between Henry and Ed, but the show's humor is still too often as crude as its title.

'Outsourced'

A comedy about an American manager working in an Indian call center seems like a timely premise with comedic potential, but NBC's "Outsourced" (9:30 tonight, WPXI) labors for laughs and conjures few.

Todd (Ben Rappaport) gets transferred to India to run a call center for Mid-America Novelties, which specializes in fake vomit and cheesehead hats. Cultures clash, of course, when he meets his Indian employees, who run the gamut from socially awkward Gupta (Parvesh Cheena) to America-loving Manmeet (Sacha Dhawan), whose names make Todd giggle.

At the Television Critics Association summer press tour, there was much hand-wringing about sensitivity and whether "Outsourced" was mocking Indians by playing into stereotypes. The show does some of that, but it also mocks American culture with knowing, self-deprecating dialogue. A greater concern is the overall lack of laughs generated by the pilot episode.

Former Fox Chapel resident Anisha Nagarajan makes the best impression as call center operator Madhuri, who is so shy she can barely speak.

Diedrich Bader ("The Drew Carey Show") plays Todd's fellow American expatriate, who also gives voice to the Ugly American abroad. The show re-cast an Australian call center manager and in the process made the character more girl-next-door likable and less of a va-va-va-voom hottie, which is probably wise if viewers are to believe Todd stands a chance of a romantic relationship with her.

Perhaps "Outsourced" will improve as it moves forward, but in tonight's premiere it feels like one of those mid-1990s hammock shows, series such as "The Single Guy" or "Union Square" that landed between NBC shows viewers really wanted to see, such as "Friends" and "Seinfeld." Disposable sitcoms didn't stand a chance then, and they definitely won't last in an even more competitive television landscape now.

'Dexter'

After last season's finale that dispatched Dexter's wife, Rita (Murrysville native Julie Benz), the new season has a variety of new avenues to explore, beginning with the potential for Dexter (Michael C. Hall) to be implicated in a murder he actually did not commit.

Sunday's season premiere (9 p.m., Showtime) brings Ms. Benz back for one last episode that offers Rita a less gruesome farewell, but much of the hour focuses on Dexter's version of grief and making the necessary arrangements for Rita's funeral. That includes a darkly comic scene where he has to tell her children about her demise -- while wearing Mickey Mouse ears they brought back for him from Walt Disney World.

Future episodes continue to deal with fallout from last season's finale, including Dexter's attempts to work through his grief by getting back on his game, which does not go as planned, and eventually leads to the introduction of a new character, played by Julia Stiles, who will have a prominent role in the new season.

The show's writers seem to have less of a firm grasp on how to evolve some of the secondary characters, particularly while Dexter is on leave from the Miami Metro police department. A plot about the bumpy first days of the marriage between Lt. LaGuerta (Laren Velez) and Batista (David Zayas) seems particularly banal compared to everything else going on in the show.

'Sister Wives'

Fans of HBO's polygamist family drama "Big Love" may have an interest in TLC's latest big-family series, "Sister Wives" (10 p.m. Sunday), a real-life "Big Love" about a polygamist family with three wives that may expand to include a fourth.

The series offers little to recommend in its opening moments because patriarch Kody Brown comes off as a spotlight-loving camera hog, and the introduction of the family seems rehearsed, unnatural and a little weird (Kody kisses his young daughter on the lips but only hugs his wives).

Once the focus shifts to spending more time with the individual wives -- Meri, Janelle and Christine -- "Sister Wives" turns into a more interesting psychological/sociological profile of an unusual American family.

"I honestly wanted sister wives more than a husband for a good deal of my life," says Christine, who was raised in a polygamist family.

Seeing how the family lives is also a revelation. Rather than three side-by-side homes that share a single backyard, as on "Big Love," the three wives all live in a single home that's been divided for each of them. Each wife gets her own bedroom, kitchen, living area and bedrooms for her children; Kody has no space of his own beyond closets in each of the three master bedrooms.

Viewers will decide for themselves what they think of this lifestyle choice but based on one exclamation, it's hard not to wonder if it's a situation ready-made for people who crave drama: When the idea is raised of adding a fourth wife and her three children to the family, Janelle declares, "Gosh, we need another one. It's getting kind of boring."


TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.


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