Duo of decent new sitcoms get full season orders

Dave Bartlett
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Ratings continue to rise for ‘The Goldbergs,’ ‘Trophy Wife’

It didn’t take long for ABC to commit to two of its new Tuesday night comedies, which air in Canada on CTV.

And while both “The Goldbergs” and “Trophy Wife” are decent network sitcoms, they rely on the tried and true instead of looking for original story-telling avenues.

That being said, both have made me laugh out loud at least once in each of the episodes I’ve seen so far, and by airing these shows back to back, the networks have come up with a nice juxtaposition of a classic and a modern standard of the genre.

“The Goldbergs” is not only set in the 1980s, it has the look, feel and pacing of comedies from that era, and to its credit, it does so without feeling out of date. The narration (by comedian Patton Oswalt) gives it a “Wonder Years” quality, which is enhanced by the VHS blurbs that end most episodes (featuring clips recorded by show creator Adam Goldberg of his family from when he was coming of age.)

The family features the Homer Simpsonesque father Murray (Jeff Garlin) who drops his pants as soon as the front door is closed to lounge around the house in his tighty whities. He’s a simple guy who works hard at a furniture store and wants nothing more in the evening than to be left alone with his dinner and TV.

Mother Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is over protective of her kids and grows frustrated as they grow too old for hugs. Her love for her kids make her do crazy things to prevent them from embarrassment, which of course makes matters worse. Yes, you’ve heard it before, but it works and it’s not so uncomfortable that you cringe while watching.

The oldest kid Erica (Hayley Orrantia) seems to be written as the Lisa Simpson of the family when it comes to common sense, but she’s less of a teacher’s pet and more of a popular rebel at school.

Middle child Barry (Troy Gentile) is the classic sitcom big brother who loves playing games like “why are you hitting yourself?” He has anger issues, but yet has a showman-like charm that comes alive in an episode where he goes to work with Murray to earn money for Reeboks that pump up. Yes, there’s all sorts of nostalgic references for folks my age, from “Knight Rider” to “Ghostbusters” to “Alf.”

But my favourite relationship in the show is between protagonist and youngest son Adam (Sean Giambrone) and his grandfather (George Segal). The widower is retired and fully enjoys his golden years, both with his family and on his own time (and terms). I love the crotchety-old-man archetype that seems to be popular again (see James Caan in “Back in The Game”) but Segal plays it far less bored and angry and far more bemused and comfortable in his own wrinkling skin. A great character.

While “The Goldbergs” has that classic ’80s feel, “Trophy Wife” uses the formula that’s worked for “Modern Family” by blowing up that nuclear family template.

How’s this for a cast of characters? A lawyer dad, his two ex-wives, his twin teens (one boy and one girl) from his first marriage, his adopted son from his second marriage and his new, much younger wife, all navigating the complex waters of love and parenting.

But I’ll give “Trophy Wife” credit for putting the pretty blonde Kate (Malin Akerman) as the protagonist. While the character is young and only months removed from a party girl lifestyle, she loves all three of her husband’s kids and really tries to be the best stepmom she can be. The other wives view her as a child, but she shows her dedication to her new family in whatever ways she knows how. Of course, she’s already stepmom No. 2, so she’s at an immediate disadvantage.

My biggest issue with this show is what keeps the affable father Pete and Kate together. It’s not like they have no chemistry, but it seems he’s simply glad to have any woman around to help him navigate the drama of his exes who constantly show up unannounced, while she seems more focused on this ready-made family than a romantic relationship with a stable older man.

Maybe the show will weave this in over time, but so far the main relationship seems hollow, especially when the ex-wives are both intense: a control-freak surgeon (played by the always fabulous Marcia Gay Harden) and a new-agey woman who is having trouble letting go (Michaela Watkins).

While neither show has reached household name status, both continue to see their ratings go up and may even be able to hone themselves into long-lasting shows before their sophomore year.

The biggest surprise is the show they follow. “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is starting to lose its viewership. The most anticipated network drama of the year is a great watch, but I’m not surprised it’s starting to slip.

That’s the problem with over promotion. A show can be very good but still not live up to months of summertime hype.

What pop-culture skeletons of the ’80s have yet to be picked clean by Hollywood, but should be? Send the answers and other

questions/comments to Dave Bartlett at

talkingtelevision@gmail.com.

Geographic location: Troy, Hollywood

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