ABC’s “Rodney” is a gem of a working-class comedy. Predictably stocked with a dumb husband, precocious kids and a wife with a heart of gold, the Alphabet laffer is still funnier than the gaggle of lunkhead sitcoms that have blanketed TV over the years … from anything starring Lenny Clarke to “Still Standing.” Among more expensive, more hyped and more star-driven entries this fall, “Rodney” serves notice that there’s room for the little guy.
“King of Queens” is the benchmark for well-done dumbbell comedies, and “Rodney” should be considered its first cousin. As familiar as a Hollywood laugh track, show nonetheless manages to get mileage out of its standard premise.
It’s based on the real life of Rodney Carrington, a goofy, Tulsa-based redneck who has released five comedy albums and trudged along the club route for almost 15 years. Probably better known to “Grace Under Fire”/”Home Improvement” fans than to the “Seinfeld”/”Friends” set, he gained exposure early in his career from appearances on syndicated morning radio shows like “Bob and Tom” and “John Boy and Billy”; he’s that kind of yokel.
But a hilarious one. Rodney (here given the last name of Hamilton) quits his job at a fiberglass plant in order to focus on his standup-comedy pipe dream. Trouble is, he’s tied down with two boys, a mortgage and a wife, so he’s not exactly free to live that dream. While working at a friend’s bar for peanuts, he considers taking a job selling used cars from his slimy father-in-law (Mac Davis), as well as trying to win the support of his feisty wife, Trina (Jennifer Aspen).
Like so many “name” half-hours before it — “The Drew Carey Show” and “According to Jim” come to mind — “Rodney” uses a simple structure: basic thoughts, few edges, Everyman themes. But it’s blessed with some terrific writing, proof that the same formula can be rehashed if the jokes are good.
Show may have vanilla plotting but, like “Roseanne,” there’s plenty of yuks to milk from trailer-park sarcasm, and it doesn’t come across as too mean or localized.
Carrington seems at ease in his first starring role anywhere, and he even manages to get in some of his trademark songs. Except for Aspen, who’s solid as his spirited spouse, supporting players are cutouts. In fact, there’s nothing much given to co-stars Nick Searcy (as Rodney’s best friend), Amy Pietz (as Trina’s sister) and the two sons in the pilot to really do.
Retro-ly enough, show looks very 1988, replete with the same ol’ house clutter and interior home layout.