Hi. My name is John Hemingway and I’m an alcoholic.” It’s doubtful any TV comedy has ever opened at an A.A. meeting, let alone unveiled an introductory line quite like that. Credit John Larroquette, who stars as a recovering boozer taking over the night management of a St. Louis bus station, for bringing humor, respectable drama and even a touch of grace to the dark, edgy corners of this refreshing sitcom.
If viewers are ready and hungry for comedy with social bite, thisshow should register numbers. In both the pilot and premiere episodes, the tone is established by ripe, politically incorrect humor in one scene after another.
The format — alternating confrontations between Larroquette and the bizarre denizens of a self-contained world — is as old as radio and “Duffy’s Tavern.”
But the exec producers (who include Larroquette himself) turn an urban underbelly into an adult, witty, street-smart mural. Contributing to the flavor is the bus station’s colorful, bygone-era art-deco decor (designed by Ed LaPorta).
The show’s major risk is the sheer amount of A.A.-inspired material. A running gag is how everyone is always inviting the tempted Hemingway into the bar for a drink. But the writers deftly skirt any personal agendas.
In one encounter with a drunk hanger-on (Eric Christmas), the inebriate absorbs a Larroquette remark about sobriety and cynically responds, “You’re in the program? I wish all you people would take your 12 steps off an 11-step pier.”