Losing patience with Peter Pan comedies

Dave Bartlett
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CityTV debuts new Fox shows with mixed results

The leaves are just starting to turn, the dogberries are ripening fast and the Fox network has debuted some new shows a week before the rest of the majors, like it did last year.

Andy Samberg (left) and Andre Braugher star in the new sitcom “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” a workplace/cop comedy. — Submitted photo

In Canada, CityTV is carrying both comedies “Dads” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and Global airs the drama “Sleepy Hollow.”

Dramas often take a few episodes to get going, so I’ve parked Monday night’s debut episode of the modern retelling of the Ichabod Crane legend until more pile up on the PVR.

Comedies, however, should give you a sense right away of what to kind of humour to expect and the quality of jokes. In fact, a bad comedy pilot is likely the easiest type of show for a network to spike.

I mentioned last week, I plan to review at least a couple of episodes of each new network show without reading the reviews of others. But in the social media age, I haven’t been able to avoid headlines about how “Dads” is the predicted to be the worst show of the year.

The show stars two veteran lead actors — Giovanni Ribisi (who’s been in everything from “Saving Private Ryan” to a reoccurring role as Phoebe’s brother on “Friends”) and Seth Green (“Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “Family Guy” and one of the guys behind “Robot Chicken”).

Both are in their late 30s, and both with lengthy, diverse careers — each have big hits and big misses on their résumé. But there should be enough star power here to try and find something redeeming about “Dads.” However, both play characters that echo their mid-20s personas.

Was it last year, or the year before, when the networks marched out a whole bunch of comedies about guys who refused to grow up, all of which failed by Christmas? Add “Dads,” to the list.

In this case, two best friends run a video game production company and by the end of the pilot both of their fathers move in with them.

One dad (Martin Mull) already lives with Ribisi’s character and his wife. Mull’s character is an optimistic, old-school businessman wannabe.

The other dad (Peter Riegert) is divorced and recently homeless. Both have been failures as dads and in life and are now back to make amends to — and mooch off — their successful frat-boy sons.

I read somewhere the team that put “Dads’” together — also the folk behind “Family Guy” — were asked to completely retool the pilot by the censors because it was so raunchy, sexist and racist.

I would like to think that resulted in a watered down and simply unfunny show, but the sexism and racism remain. It goes for cheap laughs, the delivery is half-hearted and the jokes are tired and needless repetitive — as if by telling an unfunny joke again and again in a different way makes it clever. It does not.

I will force myself to watch one more episode, but have no hope for “Dads.”

On the other hand, I liked the cop-spoof “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” starring “Saturday Night Live” alumn Andy Samberg as a gifted police detective who … never grew up.

When the show began I was thinking, here we go again. But when the new captain (Andre Braugher) shows up, he’s not about to let the smart-ass detective ruin his first command.

You’re thinking I’ve heard this one before, but in this case the captain character — while a pencil-pushing, by-the-book, dress-code enforcer — doesn’t become a screaming, yet ineffective, superior of a renegade cop.

Instead, Braugher is a smart put-you-in-your-place tough guy who cracked a historic case — The Disco Strangler — in his heyday. He’s worked his way up through the force and has finally been given his first command. He’s not about some to let some yahoo screw it up.

Braugher is great, as always, and gives the show a counterpunch to Samberg’s antics.

In some ways, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” reminds me of “Chuck” and “Pysch,” yet wraps its cases in 30 minutes instead of an hour. In fact, the cases are more background as the show also has an awkward workplace sitcom feel — not unlike “The Office.”

There’s enough of a twist here to keep me watching “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” for now and I’m as surprised as anyone to say so.

Send comments and the shows you’re most looking forward to this fall to Dave Bartlett

 at talkingtelevision@gmail.com

Organizations: CityTV, Family Guy

Geographic location: Brooklyn, Canada

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