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Explainer: Fall comedies may not deliver the laughs

  • We know actors such as William Shatner, Will Arnett, Debra Jo Rupp and a host of others starring in this year's batch of new sitcoms can make us laugh, but the shows? We're not so sure about them — yet.

  • 'Better With You'

    Image: Cast of "Better With You"
    Bob D'Amico  /  ABC

    Premieres Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 8:30 p.m. on ABC

    Imagine if “Friends” was centered around a family instead of six pals, and you have “Better With You.”

    Thirty-something couple Maddie (Jennifer Finnigan) and Ben (Josh Cooke) are content with their nine-year relationship and have no plans to marry. It’s a “valid life choice,” as overly analytical and mature Maddie likes to endlessly repeat. (Remind you of Monica? Or maybe even Jamie and Paul on “Mad About You”?)

    Then there’s her younger sister, Mia (Joanna Garcia), who lives life impulsively and becomes engaged to her dimwit boyfriend of seven weeks, Casey (Jake Lacy). (Hmm … Rachel and Joey?) And no family is complete without the quirky parental units, Joel (Kurt Fuller) and Vicky (Debra Jo Rupp of “That 70s Show”). (Think Jack and Judy Geller.)

    The comedy, written by (surprise!) “Friends” producer Shana Goldberg-Meehan, follows these three couples and explores how they make their relationships work and what they learn from each other.

    Worth checking out? Eh. Nothing feels new in this series even if you can remove similarities to “Friends,” and the laughs aren’t really there. The bright spots are Rupp and Fuller, who are genuinely funny. Rupp’s delivery, as usual, is spot on, while Fuller is more subtle, though his grammar jokes are a hoot. — Anna Chan

  • 'Mike & Molly'

    Image: "Mike & Molly"
    Art Streiber  /  CBS

    Premieres Monday, Sept. 20, at 9:30 p.m. on CBS

    Chuck Lorre (“The Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men”) whips up a new relationship comedy about two weight-challenged people who meet at an overeater’s anonymous gathering. The series centers on the insecurities of two affable people looking for love who may — or may not — slim down in the process.

    Melissa McCarthy (“Gilmore Girls”) plays Molly, a fourth-grade teacher with body issues compounded by living with her sexy, ditsy sister Victoria (Katy Mixon) and slender, self-absorbed mom, Joyce (Swoosie Kurtz).

    Officer Mike Biggs (Billy Gardell) uses humor to deflect his inability to lose weight. Mike’s back-up is his sensitive cop buddy Carl (Reno Wilson). Nyambi Nyambi plays glib Senegalese waiter Samuel.

    Worth checking out? Trim the fat and what you get is a warm, funny series about two engaging people trying to find love. Lorre knows how to make his comedies work, and I’m in through thick or thin. — Susan C. Young

    Story: Reality gets a few twists this fall

  • 'Outsourced'

    Image: "Outsourced" cast
    Harper Smith  /  NBC

    Premieres Thursday, Sept. 23, at 9:30 p.m. on NBC

    A wacky workplace comedy set in an Indian call center, “Outsourced” has the potential to be a disaster: It's full of xenophobia, cliches, cheap jokes and walking stereotypes. The fact that “Outsourced” manages to be none of those things all while generating its share of laughs is an accomplishment in and of itself.

    TV comedies often take some time to find their voice. The first episode of “The Office”? A dud. “Seinfeld”? Awkward. Rarely do comedies come out of the gate fully formed like “Modern Family”. “Outsourced” is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, working well enough in its pilot, but hinting at deeper potential.

    The show is based on a 2006 film of the same name and begins with our protagonist (a solid Josh Hamilton) finding out that his entire department has been outsourced to India. He can either lose his job or move there. Given the harsh economic climate, he decides to move. His team in India is a quirky array of almost-caricatures, but they're likable enough to give the audience hope.

    The creative force behind “Outsourced” is Ken Kwapis, frequent “Office” director and a veteran of feature films. Moving forward, it's going to depend on the writing, but the framework for another hit NBC comedy is there.

    Worth checking out? Sure. If you have room for another comedy in your TV schedule, “Outsourced” is probably worth a shot. There's enough potential in the pilot to warrant a second viewing, though the characters aren't yet well-drawn. You will laugh, though, at least a few times. — Oscar Dahl

  • 'Raising Hope'

    Image: Cast of "Raising Hope"
    Matthias Clamer  /  Fox

    Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 9 p.m. on Fox

    Oh, baby. Life is about to change for the misbegotten Chance family after son Jimmy, 23, (Lucas Neff) has a one-night stand with a murderer (Bijou Phillips) that results in an infant daughter Jimmy must raise after Momma goes to the big house — and we aren’t just talking prison.

    Jimmy skims pools for a living with his good ol’ boy dad, Burt (Garret Dillahunt). Mom Virginia (Martha Plimpton) may be a maid, but she doesn’t bother to clean up around her own house. The two had Jimmy when they were just 15 and aren’t eager to jump into child rearing again any time soon. Also living with the family is Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman), the matriarch who seldom has a lucid thought these days.

    Still Jimmy’s determined to be a good dad with the help of his new friend Sabrina (Shannon Woodward), a sardonic checkout clerk he met at the local grocery store.

    Worth checking out? Call me sick and slightly twisted, but I’m still laughing out loud at the irreverant lines from this series. Take a chance on what looks like the funniest comedy on the fall lineup. — Susan C. Young

    Story: What to expect when fall favorites return

  • 'Running Wilde'

    Image: Will Arnett on "Running Wilde"
    Brian Bowen  /  Fox

    Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 9:30 p.m. on Fox

    “Arrested Development” creator Mitch Hurwitz again teams with Will Arnett in a comedy about an immature, wealthy playboy named Steve Wilde who wants to play house with his former childhood crush Emmy (Keri Russell), the daughter of his family’s former housekeeper. Emmy’s out to save the world and comes back to self-centered Steve to help her preserve a third-world tribe.

    But Emmy’s daughter Puddle (Stefania Owen) plans to use Steve to keep her out of the jungle so she can live life as a normal kid. They enlist the aid of Steve’s frenemy Fa’ad (Peter Serafinowicz), his errand boy Migo (Mel Rodriguez) and his “manny” Mr. Lunt (Robert Michael Morris) to help Steve win Emmy.

    Worth checking out? Haste makes waste, and there was a lot of talent — including Hurwitz, Arnett and Russell — squandered on this rushed pilot. I would like to think it will get better, but even a major overhaul doesn’t seem to hold out much hope for reviving this DOA series. — Susan C. Young

  • '$#*! My Dad Says'

    Image: William Shatner
    Ron P. Jaffe  /  CBS

    Premieres Thursday, Sept. 23, at 8:30 p.m. on CBS

    This title comes with an official pronunciation of the random symbols: “Bleep My Dad Says.” The series is based on a popular Twitter feed by writer Justin Halpern and subsequent New York Times best-seller about his dad’s hilarious comments.

    William Shatner stars as Ed, a contemporary Archie Bunker. The outspoken conservative spews inappropriate remarks primarily aimed at his blogger/aspiring writer son Henry (Jonathan Sadowski). Henry moves back into the house after getting dumped by his girlfriend and starts blogging his dad’s daily observations. Henry bears the brunt of most of Ed’s scathing remarks, but sharing the pain is his meek brother Vince (Will Sasso), who is married to the shrill Bonnie (Nicole Sullivan).

    Worth checking out? Love the Twitter feed, liked the book, but don’t bother to beam me up for the series, Scotty. This Shat-centric comedy is all one-liners and no heart or substance. — Susan C.Young

    Story: Heavyweights dominate fall dramas

    Anna Chan is the TV Editor for TODAYshow.com. Oscar Dahl and Susan C. Young are regular contributors.

Timeline: Fall TV premiere schedule

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