Filmed at CBS Radford Studios, Los Angeles, by the Carsey-Werner Co. Executive producers, Matthew Carlson, Harvey Myman, Tom Werner, Caryn Mandabach, Marcy Carsey, Linwood Boomer; co-executive producer, Bruce Rasmussen; series created, premiere written by Carlson; directed by Pam Fryman; supervising producer, Bill Barol; co-producers, Amy Toomin, Jill Condon; producer (premiere) , Patrick Kienlen; associate producer (premiere), Timothy Ryder; producer, Randy Cordray; associate producer, Michael Collier; creative consultant, Dana Gould; executive story Townies” opens with a trio of young women liberating the men’s room at a sports arena, or at least turning it co-ed, to the obvious discomfort of the men there. The scene establishes several things very quickly: That this latest sitcom from the Carsey/Werner stable will share the wisecracking, confrontational sensibility of “Roseanne,” the extended-family ensemble of “The Cosby Show” and the working-class aspirants of both “Roseanne” and “Grand” worthy qualities all. And like many a Carsey/Werner venture, “Townies” is built around a star, in this case flame-haired ex-teen film queen Molly Ringwald.
As Carrie, the sensible one in this twentysomething crowd, Ringwald anchors the show with a strong physical presence. Though she is virtually unrecognizable from her “Sixteen Candles” years, her mouth still seems to have a life independent of the rest of her; it’s just the thing for registering exasperation , a plentiful commodity in Gloucester, the Massachusetts fishing village the townies call home. Carrie’s two girlfriends are Denise (Lauren Graham), about to become a bride if the father of her newborn baby can tear himself away from the Celtics long enough for the ceremony, and Shannon (Jenna Elfman), whose attitude toward the convention of marriage is somewhat less than reverential.
“Townies” has a lot of predictable, raunchy humor. But it’s also strong on small-town atmosphere, much of which rings true.
“Roseanne” hardly began a stampede to make sitcoms about working-class people , and Matthew Carlson, who created “Townies” and wrote the premiere episode, clearly has a sympathy for these people. He also has an ear for the way they argue, and the comedy sometimes hits the bull’s-eye. “I don’t know where I’d be without the Church,” a mother cautions. “Divorced and happy?” her daughter rejoins.
Sitting on a pier, Carrie, Denise and Shannon talk about the future; Shannon wants out of Gloucester because “the economy sucks, there’s nothing to do and everything I own smells like fish.”
The men are less differentiated, more generically cads and dopes, though perhaps that will improve in future episodes. But the three women work well together and Graham is a real discovery; watch her quicksilver emotional changes. Conchata Ferrell adds a sandpaper rasp as the honcho in a diner where they all work and hang out. Tentative and ungainly as its heroines, “Townies” has the promise of a series that actually likes the people it’s about.