“Costello” may be the first comedy in TV history that should come equipped with a volume warning. It is, without question, the loudest half-hour ever to hit primetime. Everyone goes around screaming at the very top of their lungs, as if the audience had somehow gone instantly hearing-impaired. And it’s not as if we really want to hear what they’re saying to begin with, unless you happen to get off on creative dialogue like, “Get outta here, ya pig!” and the ever-popular exchange, “Whore!” “Bitch!” “Whore!”
So much for those comparisons with “Masterpiece Theatre.”
At its core, “Costello” wants very badly to be “Cheers” — albeit afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome and dumbed-down six notches or so. It’s set in South Boston, and much of its action takes place in a bar. And it features a female bartender who likes to use a lot of big words. The comparisons pretty much end there, however.
Replacing Sam and Diane in this equation is Sue Murphy, the “pahk the cah” alter ego of comic Sue Costello. Why the “Home Improvement” team from Wind Dancer Prods. and Touchstone TV would base a show on a woman’s life, use her actual surname as the title of that show and then change the name of her character is a tad baffling. But no matter.
“Costello” is being promoted as “inspired by the real life” of Costello, who grew up in the working-class, Irish Catholic neighborhood known as “Southie” where everybody says what they’re thinking and says it VERY, VERY LOUDLY! DO YA UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M SAYIN’ HEAH!?
In this community, the essential communication device is the short, flailing outburst, and arguments are settled by the command to “put up ya dukes!” Welcome to the “Jerry Springer” of sitcoms.
Oh yes, the plot. In the pilot, the spirited Sue — think of her as a shiksa Fran Drescher — has just broken it off with her hunky boyfriend P.J. (Matthew Michael Mahaney) because she doesn’t want to settle in as just another Southie twit.
This bums out everyone, from her brash carpenter daddy (Dan Lauria) to her affection-withholding waitress mommy (Jenny O’Hara) to her slacker younger brother Jimmy (Chuck Walczak) to even her best pal Trish (Kerry O’Malley).
Jimmy’s view of the world is best exemplified by this reaction while looking at a University of Massachusetts catalog: “These bitches need to get laid.” (Obviously these writers have never attended UMass.)
We know Sue is the smart, introspective one of this group, because she likes to peer into a Coors-insignia mirror behind the bar for regular pep-talks with herself. Except that she also enjoys using her fists on occasion, adding to those “Costello”-“Springer” comparisons. At least that’s how it plays in co-creator Cheryl Holliday’s colorful and rambunctious but generally unfunny opening script.
If this is really how the folks are in South Boston, pray that the Red Sox don’t win the World Series. We’d all have to buy earplugs and chin protectors to handle the fallout.
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