Geographical setting of a sitcom only occasionally affects the humor in a series — “Cheers” was very much about Boston, but popular series from “Friends” to “Frazier” reference their locale only in passing. Take “Hope & Faith,” which follows “Married to the Kellys,” which is apparently set in Ohio, though the state has no role. “Married to the Kellys,” on the other hand, makes a big deal about how this terrif young — and one assumes gritty — New York writer has moved to Kansas City so his wife can live closer to her hayseed family. It’s Big City vs. the heartland. Well, it takes more than a Mets T-shirt and references to barbecue for a fish-out-of-water comedy to work, and creator Tom Hertz shows little aptitude for the people of either locale.
Perhaps unwittingly, the only part of this TGIF sitcom that generates yuks is the positing of writer Tom’s (Breckin Meyer) sibling-free life against the overflowing Kelly family. He’s unnerved by freakish brother and undaunted by the weirdo uncle, but it’s the hyper-competitive sister, Mary (Emily Rutherfurd), who gets under his skin. Causing the tension between the siblings and spouses, apparently, is mom’s doghouse, a magnetic board that keeps track of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. It’s farfetched.
Tom’s wife, Susan (Kiele Sanchez), is a bubbly sort, and she’s keen on anything that involves her family. So whatever is kooky to viewers — the bug collection of brother Lewis (Derek Waters) — will seem natural to her. It’s a tired formula that’s bound to be repeated ad naseum. In episode two, for example, he’s more adept at following a recipe, and she’s got grill assembly down pat, but god forbid that the family find out. A man doing woman’s work? Unheard of in these parts.
Heart of “Married’s” troubles are a lack of chemistry between Meyer and Sanchez; he never appears happy, she’s giddy about everything. None of their conflicts feels real, and Meyer is such a likable sort, one wonders if the “Kellys” would not have been better served if he were the one from the Midwest.
Rest of the actors are stuck in one-dimensional roles that are meant to annoy. Susan’s mom, Sandy (Nancy Lenehan), is superficially moronic, but somehow in control of the lot; dad Bill (Sam Anderson) appears to be warming up to Tom, which only makes son-in-law Chris (Josh Braaten) feel insecure. Uncle Dave (Richard Riehle) and Lewis are oblivious to it all. Those two have the right approach.