The creators of "Will & Grace" have given us another high-strung (if decidedly straight) comedy quartet, again prone to bickering and goofy behavior that relies mostly on manic energy to bludgeon the audience senseless. Credit NBC with trying to reassemble its Thursday comedy block, but the net has dealt itself an uninspired joker.

“Bros before hos” is the rallying cry of the four young white dudes in this paper-thin comedy, which doesn’t mean that women (or “hos,” if you prefer) won’t occupy a considerable portion of their time. The creators of “Will & Grace” have given us another high-strung (if decidedly straight) comedy quartet, again prone to bickering and goofy behavior that relies mostly on manic energy to bludgeon the audience senseless. Credit NBC with trying to reassemble its Thursday comedy block, but the net has dealt itself an uninspired joker when it could desperately use an ace.

Charming, easygoing Ben (“Committed’s” Josh Cooke) inherits a sprawling Manhattan apartment from his late grandmother, which at least for once explains how NBC’s sitcom 20-somethings can occupy such opulent real estate. How many grandparents had to die, lord, just to furnish all those apartments on “Friends?”

Despite a near-perfect girlfriend, Ben chooses to share the new digs with his lifelong buddies: Barry (Seth Green), who constantly resents Ben’s good fortune; Jason (Todd Grinnell), a wry, up-and-coming exec; and Bobby (Shane McRae), a half-baked stoner who’s only slightly smarter than a table leg.

Accepting that this unlikely foursome should be such committed pals is one of the sacrifices viewers are expected to make in their pursuit of comedy, but there’s a decidedly retro feel to the group’s shenanigans. Indeed, Jason and Bobby’s inane, childlike competitions (which include pummeling each other) recall Drew Carey’s doofus buddies on his eponymous sitcom, though they were both older and considerably funnier.

The bitter Barry, meanwhile, is dating an older woman with twin daughters who constantly tease him about his height. In subsequent half-hours, Ben, a magazine writer, tries to master the art of the one-night stand and endeavors to fix up Barry, who refuses to believe his attractive date isn’t a ruse to humiliate him.

Given how familiar the premise is, the show’s modest appeal hinges entirely on the cast’s marginal chemistry and the rapid-fire jokes, making for at best a hit-miss proposition. As is, the series already feels slightly pigeonholed into its Ben-Barry and Bobby-Jason pairings, creating parallel versions of “The Odd Couple” and “Dumb and Dumber.”

“Let’s do this while we still can,” Ben says of the guys living together, the thought being that the opportunity represents a last hurrah before marriages and other responsibilities begin to intrude on such carefree tomfoolery.

“Four Kings” isn’t a total dud, and as with “Will & Grace,” its unrelenting silliness occasionally catches you off guard; nevertheless, it’s the kind of nondescript half-hour that won’t do much to re-establish NBC’s “Must-See” credentials.

Granted, NBC has to start somewhere in trying to reclaim what’s been lost and resurrecting its comedy four-stack, but the foundation won’t hold for long built on a house of cards.

Four Kings

NBC, Thu. Jan. 5, 8:30 p.m.

Production

Filmed in L.A. by KoMut Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, David Kohan, Max Mutchnick; producer, Tim Kaiser; director, James Burrows; writers, Kohan, Mutchnick;

Crew

Camera, Tony Askins; production design, Glenda Rovello; editor, Peter Chakos; music, Scott Clausen; casting, Jeff Greenberg. 30 MIN.

Cast

Barry - Seth Green Ben - Josh Cooke Jason - Todd Grinnell Bobby - Shane McRae
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