Fox is at it again. The network that revolutionized crude-and-rude TV returns to its roots with “Titus,” an edgy but spotty comedy in desperate need of a moral compass. The dysfunction part is a riot, but do viewers really need more sophomoric jokes about alcoholism and lesbians?
The star is California native Christopher Titus, who earned notice in 1998 for his one-man show, “Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding.” That breakthrough performance piece, which he still takes on tour, covers the same ground as his self-titled sitcom: They both introduce auds to his emotionally stunted childhood. An oft-married, philandering dad and a psychotic mom fuel his fury, and his shtick revolves around the problems growing up.
In the pilot (which Fox brass recently decided to air as the second episode), Christopher (Titus) and his younger brother, Dave (Zack Ward), think their father (Stacy Keach) is dead because he hasn’t emerged from his bedroom in four days.
Since they both refuse to open the door, the two spend the afternoon riding down Memory Lane. They recall their days with an institutionalized mother and a man whose primary goal was to score with tarty women.
Also in the mix is Dave (Tommy Shatraw), a persnickety friend who works at the family’s hot rod shop, and Erin (Cynthia Watros), Christopher’s spunky girlfriend who supposedly serves as the group’s ethical leader. But, considering how miserable her boyfriend is, even she’s a little disappointed when daddy eventually surfaces.
Christopher Titus is a funny, macho guy. His pain translates into a few clever bits, and he’s full of decent intentions. The execution, however, doesn’t always click. There are cracks about necrophilia, drug use and panties, so the one-liners sound a lot like they might have come from “Married … With Children.” And while nobody’s expecting “Masterpiece Theatre,” “Titus” is overly concerned with its own raunchiness.
The pilot’s biggest victories come whenever Keach is center stage. He taught his sons how to swim by throwing them into the lake, prodded them into touching electrical wires and embarrassed them at soccer games. His demented behavior, shown via flashbacks, is a hoot.
But there’s too little of that witty bitterness and too much bad taste. “Titus” is in it for the instant laugh track instead of the long haul, and that, with the help of a very plain look, makes for some pretty hit-and-miss stuff.