No one sells second-banana insurance, but perhaps networks should try applying for it. Brad Garrett was a hoot tossing one-liners from the sidelines on "Everybody Loves Raymond," but he's less appealing thrust to the center of this by-the-numbers sitcom about unhappily wedded bliss, which has one or two moments but generally hews toward the overly broad.
No one sells second-banana insurance, but perhaps networks should try applying for it. Brad Garrett was a hoot tossing one-liners from the sidelines on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but he’s less appealing thrust to the center of this by-the-numbers sitcom about unhappily wedded bliss, which has one or two moments but generally hews toward the overly broad. Put it this way: Any comedy that milks multiple jokes from a character being named “Woodcock” is pretty much running on fumes.Garrett’s Philadelphia suburb dweller Eddie is hitched to Joy (Joely Fischer), who, we are told, are on day 8,743 (almost 24 years, for the math-challenged) of their marriage. Next door, meanwhile, move newlyweds Jeff (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Steph (Kat Foster), who have been hitched a mere 12 days and are still in that can’t-keep-their-hands-off-each-other phase. And so it begins: Will the gnarled, bitter Eddie teach Jeff cynicism about where his marriage is inevitably heading, or will Jeff — who coos at Steph and waxes eloquent about “make-up sex” after the most minor spat — rub off on Eddie in a warming way? Created by “King of Queens” alums Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa, the series attempts to create a second comedic front by having both Eddie and Jeff (or Mr. Woodcock, to the kids) work at the nearby high school. The producers also add a little “Kids Say the Darndest Things”-type pick-me-up by garnishing the show with interviews featuring real kids discussing love and marriage. Not surprisingly, the banter and bickering between Garrett and Fischer is the most interesting and potentially fertile comedic terrain, and there’s one semi-amusing sequence where Eddie — with the benefit of married-guy hindsight — predicts how an exchange between Jeff and Steph (just saying it makes your teeth ache) about a pool table will play out. Still, there’s nothing remotely fresh here, the younger couple is painfully vanilla, and Eddie actually says there’s “a reason why china rhymes with vagina.” Moreover, in any normal world, it’s hard to imagine these two mismatched fellows spending significant amounts of time together, barring the requirement of delivering 22 minutes of weekly mirth. CBS couldn’t pull together a “Raymond” spinoff that would have featured Garrett in his established role, though even that would likely have been a longshot. Garrett was so perfectly cast as Robert it’s difficult to imagine another vehicle suiting him as well — yet there’s still a significant difference between carrying a series and merely augmenting one. As is, ” ‘Til Death” might command enough curiosity to avoid instant annulment, but it appears to lack the requisite magic for a long and prosperous union.