Review: ‘Kelsey Grammer Presents: The Sketch Show’

Silliness has its own rewards, especially in this age of color-coded alerts, but sketch comedy remains a largely hit-or-miss proposition. So on the heels of Comedy Central's similar import "The Hollow Men" comes this fitfully clever Fox show -- a fast-paced, mildly diverting half-hour that more than anything brings to mind the interstitial gags in "Love, American Style."

Silliness has its own rewards, especially in this age of color-coded alerts, but sketch comedy remains a largely hit-or-miss proposition. So on the heels of Comedy Central’s similar import “The Hollow Men” comes this fitfully clever Fox show — a fast-paced, mildly diverting half-hour that more than anything brings to mind the interstitial gags in “Love, American Style.” It wasn’t too long ago that Fox struck out with the giddier (and more controversial) “Banzai,” though if this works the network may wonder why it simply hasn’t shifted “Mad TV” to primetime.

In addition to producing the show, “Frasier” star Kelsey Grammer appears briefly in introductory or closing sketches, which riff on plenty of familiar themes, from the astronaut who locks himself out of the module to a fast-talking loan officer rattling off the fine print in a garbled blur.

Laugh-out-loud moments prove few and far between in the two episodes provided, but there are several witty ones, such as a phobia mixer in which each fear (of apologies or repetition) causes a chain reaction of shrieks among the attendees.

Given the popularity of such quirky fare in the U.K., “The Sketch Show” is not surprisingly adapted from an eponymous British format and enlists the original’s immensely talented Lee Mack as part of its ensemble. There’s also something to be said for both the program’s speed and minimal cost, qualities tailored to an era of fragmented audiences with hyperactive attention spans.

Inasmuch as variety dominated the early television landscape, it seems inevitable that its viability will be tested anew, what with gameshows and “Queen for a Day”-like concepts having returned to primetime. While this concoction looks unlikely to break out in a substantial way opposite even “Desperate Housewives” reruns, its key ingredients — fast, cheap and juvenile — look to be the right mixture for updating the genre, if not necessarily the exact prescription.

Kelsey Grammer Presents: The Sketch Show

Fox, Sun. March 13, 9:30 p.m.

Production

Filmed in L.A. and London by Grammnet Prods., Baby Cow Prods., Angst Prods. and Avalon Television in association with Fox 21. Executive producers, Richard Allen-Turner, Jon Thoday, Dan Patterson, Henry Normal, Kelsey Grammer, Steve Stark; co-executive producer, Charlie Hanson; director, Richard Boden; sketches by Lee Mack, Ronni Ancona, Neil Webster, Daniel Maier, Karen Taylor, John Archer, Tim Vine, Karl Theobald, Jim Tavare.

Crew

Camera, Tony Keene; production design, James Dillon; editor, Richard Halladey; music, Steve Brown. Running time: 30 MIN.

Cast

Cast: Kelsey Grammer, Kaitlin Olson, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Paul F. Tompkins, Malcolm Barrett, Lee Mack.
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