Be afraid, be very afraid of “That’s Life,” an uncomfortably crude midseason comedy about a white-trash couple in Queens which looks to be a jarringly insular, Hollywood vision of how the gentiles must live. Anytime a series comes complete with a label of “reality-based,” it’s time to turn tail and sprint away. So it is with this oddly politically incorrect sick-com that could accurately be described as “Mad About Youz.”
Earning a tryout in the coveted comfort zone between “Home Improvement” and “NYPD Blue,” show focuses on a blue-collar clan headed by a blowhard named Mike (standup comic Gerry Red Wilson), whose idea of a good time is a cold beer, a good football game and a little spousal abuse during half-time.
Yes, “That’s Life” is designed as a vehicle for Wilson, which is unfortunate given that his obnoxious Archie Bunker-meets-Jackie Glea-son shtick grows tiresome after roughly two minutes of the pilot. He’s a “dese” and “dose” kinda slob who lacks anything redeeming to speak of, and Wilson plays him like a runaway freight train — no charm, no modulation, just ear-splitting oafishness.
Mike’s wife, Patty (Kellie Overbey), is supposed to be the warm counterpoint to her hubby’s foghorn persona. She’s cute, but how does one reconcile that she permits this man to have sex with her while watching “Rocky & Bullwinkle”? Clearly, the woman isn’t the brightest bulb in the three-pack herself.
The action in creator-executive producer Eric Gilliland’s abrasive opening script surrounds Mike’s celebration after getting promoted to “head of the meat department” at the supermarket and the tensions that erupt when Patty’s grating snob of a sister, Catherine (Nadia Dajani), is abandoned by her husband and forced to stay with our favorite guardians of goyishness.
This bums Mike out something awful, since he has a hate-hate relationship with Cath and must now abandon plans to transform the spare room into “Guy Town.” But he’ll live. The pilot also introduces us to Mitch, Mike’s even lamer best bud, and Kieran (Michael Charles Roman), Catherine’s monosyllabic 10-year-old son whose future fairly screams “Helter Skelter.”
We also get a vague subplot about Mike and Patty having problems conceiving. But that’s not the point of “That’s Life.” Gilliland’s point is apparently to feed us a “Honeymooners” for the ’90s. Instead, based on the early returns, he delivers a minor debacle for the ages.