Imagine getting the chance to live your life over, and the outcome is something from a Molly Ringwald movie. That’s the premise of the WB’s “Do Over,” a sitcom with certain ’80s retro appeal, but, like a pair of neon parachute pants, a limited shelf life. In the same way that and “That ’70s Show” highlights a bygone era in an effort to reinvigorate familiar concepts, this effort is really just a comfortable comedy with an elaborate build up.
Joel Larson, a discontented and balding paper salesman (Tom Everett Scott, who also provides the voiceovers), bemoans having to deal with his long divorced, belligerent father and a substance-abusing sister. When he’s involved in a freak defibrillator accident, he wakes up to find himself back in 1981 complete with bad hair and acne.
In the new reality, his parents are still married — although the seeds of discontent are apparent — as is his sister Cheryl’s penchant for controlled substances. Quickly resigned to reliving high school, Joel decides to take his 34 years experience and apply them to his freshman year.
Taking a common theme from the wish fulfillment department, writers and creators Rick Wiener and Kenny Schwartz toy with some universal fantasies; winning over the girl that got away, rectifying past mistakes, playing the stock market with the ultimate insider information.
But here, Joel just wants to make his second trip through the classroom less embarrassing. And at home, the key, it seems, is to stop his family from eventual implosion and therein lies the toughest work. Dad is oblivious to anything but his own needs and Mom tries to holds things together between aerobics classes.
Newcomer Penn Badgley has the winsome charm of, say, Scott Baio and Ferris Bueller; his natural exuberance only reinforces Joel’s newly adopted carpe diem attitude. Gigi Rice and Michael Milhoan are once again pigeonholed as stereotypical parents, but have created a funny albeit dysfunctional dynamic.
In fact, the Larsen family unit provides most of the laughs. Time spent in high school is really just a vehicle to show off an extensive wardrobe of Chess King apparel. Overall tech credits are top notch, especially in the music department, which reels off like a Time/Life Treasury of one-hit wonders. Show hails from ex-NBC topper Warren Littlefield’s shingle.