Pop Culture

New comedies are rare, and mostly dreadful

Poor sitcom fans. Season after season, the networks focus all their attention on spies and doctor shows and dramedys, ignoring the poor viewer who just wants 22 minutes of don't-have-to-think-too-hard laughter on a weeknight.

It's no wonder why "Two and a Half Men" has a permanent spot in the Nielsen Top 10 -- it's a rare entrant in an uncrowded field. The days of "M*A*S*H" and "The Cosby Show" and "Mary Tyler Moore" are fading even further in our memories.

This season will change all that. Ha, just kidding — this season doesn't look any better, with two new dramas for every new sitcom, and the few comedies that are new aren't looking very impressive.

Laughs are already hard to come by in the real world these days. It's a shame we can't even count on TV land to conjure up some humor.

'Gary Unmarried'Jay Mohr's new starring vehicle plays like a male-centric version of "The New Adventures of Old Christine." It's tough not to wonder why CBS thought it needed another sitcom about a divorced family — on the same night, no less. And if the pilot is any indication, this show has a long way to go before it can approach "Old Christine" in quality.

Mohr plays Gary, adjusting to single life after splitting with his wife, Allison, played by Paula Marshall. Just three months after their split, Gary learns that Allison is engaged to their marriage counselor, who was played by Larry Miller in the pilot but will now be played by Ed Begley Jr.

The kids, played by newcomer Ryan Malgarini and "Back to You" castoff Laura Marano, provide some funny moments in the pilot while the adults, for the most part, stick to pretty familiar domestic jokes.

One to watch? No. There's no doubt that Mohr, Marshall and Begley are talented, but the "Gary Unmarried" comes off as just another bland sitcom.  (Premieres Sept. 24, CBS, 8:30 p.m.)    —Victor Balta

'Do Not Disturb'
Granted, comedy is subjective. What makes one person laugh might make another groan.

DO NOT DISTURB is an upstairs/downstairs comedy that takes place at one of New York's hottest and hippest hotels. DO NOT DISTURB airs Wednesdays (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) this fall on FOX. Pictured L-R: Jerry O'Connell and Niecy Nash. © 2008 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Yet, if there is one single person in America who can be found chuckling at any joke delivered on Fox’s “Do Not Disturb,” he or she should immediately be sent for a medical evaluation. This might be the worst, most offensive sitcom to make it on the air in quite some time.

“Do Not Disturb” is so bad it makes NBC’s horrific “Coupling” seem like “Seinfeld.” So terrible that one would be better off buying the season one DVD package of last year’s “Cavemen” and watching that on a permanent loop.

Jerry O’Connell, coming off last season's unfunny “Carpoolers,” plays a general manager at a swank New York hotel who’s upset that he’s not getting the credit for the hotel’s turnaround. How did he do it? Keep the fat woman who thinks she’s the next American Idol downstairs answering phones where nobody can see her, and the hot dimwitted twentysomethings behind the front desk wearing high-heel shoes that they can’t walk in.

The jokes aren’t only lame, but offensive as well. This show's existence is strong ammunition that television execs too often reach for the lowest common denominator. Yet when the succeed with that strategy, they only fail.

One to watch? No. Please no. Don’t do it. Ever. (Premieres Sept. 10, Fox, 9:30 p.m.)   —Stuart Levine

'Kath & Kim'NBC has had critical,  if not ratings, success with its Thursday night comedy lineup, both with a format imported from the U.K. ("The Office") and with originals ("30 Rock"). For its next sitcom, the network is importing "Australia's number-one show," as the previews tell us.

NBC vet Molly Shannon stars as Kath, whose recently divorced, 20-something, kind-of-dumb daughter, Kim (Selma Blair), moves in with her. John Michael Higgins, who's perhaps best known for the characters he's played in improvised docudramas such as "Best in Show," plays Kath's awkward boyfriend, while comedian Mikey Day plays Kim's husband.

NBC is now airing the new show at 8:30, following "My Name is Earl," a scheduling change designed to pair the two programs. In other words, like "Earl," the show finds comedy in its well-intentioned but often dumb working-class characters.

The stars and executive producers of the Aussie original will serve as consultants on the new show, which is being adapted by executive producer Paul Feig, who created "Freaks and Geeks," and executive producer and writer Michelle Nader, previously of "King of Queens."

One to watch? If it lives up to its Australian model, "The Office," or "Earl," then definitely. (Premieres Oct. 9, NBC, 8:30 p.m.)    —Andy Dehnart

'Valentine'Remember “Cupid,” the short-lived 1998 ABC show starring Jeremy Piven as a guy who thought he was the god of love?

Well this hour-long romantic comedy is like that, except that Cupid now goes by Eros and looks like actor Kristopher Polaha. And this time, Eros’ whole family of matchmaking gods secretly lives among us.

The Valentine family is led by mom Grace (“Hustle” star Jaime Murray), who’s really the goddess Aphrodite. Eros goes by Danny Valentine, and according to a network press release, he’s ditched the bow and arrow for some sort of gun. Phoebe Valentine (“The O.C.’s” Autumn Reeser) is the goddess of the Oracle at Delphi, who helps the family find new lovebirds each week.

Polaha and Murray are charming actors. Still, it’s yet to be revealed how she plays his mom when he is actually a few months older than she is.

One to watch? This one’s likely for die-hard romantics only. (Premieres Sept. 21, CW, 8 p.m.)    —Jeff Hidek

‘Worst Week’It’s not like the concept of this show, adapted from a British version, is anything new: A young man is having a tough time impressing his soon-to-be in-laws.

Robert Voets / CBS ENTERTAINMENT
"Pilot"-- Sam Briggs (Kyle Bornheimer, pictured left) is an entertainment magazine editor who will do anything to please his girlfriend Melanie's (Erinn Hayes, pictured right) parents (Mom - Angela, played by Nancy Lenehan, not pictured and Dad - Dick, played by Kurtwood Smith, not pictured)… but instead becomes a one-man wrecking crew whenever he's around them, on WORST WEEK premiering Monday, September 22 (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT). Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Yet plenty of slapstick, tempered by star Kyle Bornheimer’s sweetness, make "Worst Week" the comedy to watch this fall. CBS has faith in it as well, planting it right behind ratings powerhouse “Two and a Half Men” at 9:30 on Mondays.

As Sam Briggs, Bornheimer can’t help but making a bad situation worse, and adorable fiancee Melanie (Erinn Hayes) has his back at all times, even while her parents (sitcom vets Nancy Lenehan and Kurtwood Smith, aka Earl and Randy Hickey's mom and Eric Forman's dad) are wondering why she’s marrying this buffoon.

Love conquers all, of course, but if Bornheimer gets into as much self-induced chicanery in the following episodes as he does in the pilot, Hayes might start second-guessing herself.

One to watch? Absolutely. Even if watching live, it might be best to record on TiVo to catch the jokes missed because of laughing too hard.   (Premieres Sept. 22, CBS, 9:30 p.m.)    —S.L.

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