Tom Arnold’s back, and this time the project’s about right. The humor’s natural (despite a lead-heavy laugh track), characters are human, material’s well organized and situations have snappy resolutions. Directed ably by Will Mackenzie, the first program should draw well from audiences looking for identifiable, unsophisticated laughs.
Dark-blue-collar welder Tom Graham (Arnold) lives with his devoted wife, Dorothy (well-cast Alison LaPlaca), in a construction trailer next to the city dump while he builds a house — he’s digging the cellar and owns three cows. Their five children — Mike (Jason Marsden), Trevor (Josh Stoppelwerth), twins Emily and Charlotte (Tiffany, Kathryn Lubran) and small Donnie (Andrew Lawrence) — so far are mostly comic foils, but it works.
No dynamo as an actor, Arnold has likability going for him. He uses it to the nth degree as Tom Graham swaps talk with Dorothy, takes vain stands at controlling his kids or simply gabs with one of them. Serious moments — cornering a college admissions dean, speaking up to his boss about being passed over — play well enough.
Dorothy, who holds an English degree, wants to convince Tom she should go to law school, and he’s an easy mark. When her sister Kara (Colleen Camp) tells how she blackmails her husband, ineffectual Rodney (Danton Stone), to get what she wants, Dorothy doesn’t need to respond.
That may be the tie that binds, the humanness and understanding. A strong cast responds to what writers Roseanne Arnold, Steve Pepoon and Arnold himself have created. Not only the writers’ names, but the first show’s wit and wisdom suggest that the Grahams are not-too-distant cousins of Dan and Roseanne Conner; that’s good ratings stock.