Here’s a long shot for ya: a short-run sitcom about the hardships faced by the Pilgrims — launching in the middle of the summer. We can scarcely imagine the intense conflict this is likely to pose in homes across the fruited plain. Should folks attend that sumptuous beach barbecue … or stay home to watch a comedy that labors to squeeze laughs from the merciless disease and starvation endured by our nation’s first settlers in 1621? Talk about prime comedy fodder.
It is like blasting a sitting target with a musket to point out that watching “Thanks” turns out to be thankless, presenting viewers a turkey minus the stuffing and cranberry sauce. The intended joviality falls embarrassingly flat, reminding us again that the Pilgrims clearly knew nothing about TV or they wouldn’t have landed at Plymouth Rock during a sweeps month.
“Thanks” feels like the second coming of UPN’s abysmal “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer,” without the racial controversy. Here, the only potential outrage is the show’s considerable lameness quotient.
“Thanks” centers on the experience of the Winthrop family at the close of their first Massachusetts winter after their journey to the New World on the Mayflower. Things are so rough that even corn mush is hard to come by. James (Tim Dutton) and his headstrong wife, Polly (Kirsten Nelson), along with their three kids (Erika Christensen, Amy Centner, Andrew Ducote) and James’ crusty mom, Grammy (Cloris Leachman), are forced to subsist on, uh, boiled water and candy.
Besides being the only one here with a British accent, James (who runs a general store devoid of merchandise) is also the only one sufficiently determined to stick it out in this unsparing new land. Everyone else is ready to hop the next ship back to England. Repressed Polly, meanwhile, appears solely concerned with getting her husband into the sack. The kids desperately want out of this hellhole, particularly the one who regularly gets locked in the stockade as a suspected witch. Grammy, meanwhile, just wants to snare herself a young sailor.
Opening teleplay from exec producers Phoef Sutton and Mark Legan is vapid and woefully short on coherence and laughs. To be sure, these are the stoutest, most joyful and cosmetically appealing malnourished people ever to grace the planet.