Hoping to tap into the lucrative "Blue Collar Comedy" vein, this sitcom featuring BCC member Bill Engvall is so relentlessly ordinary it feels designed for that audience longing for more episodes of "Still Standing."
Hoping to tap into the lucrative “Blue Collar Comedy” vein, this sitcom featuring BCC member Bill Engvall is so relentlessly ordinary it feels designed for that audience longing for more episodes of “Still Standing.” As stand-up-centered comedy goes, Engvall’s married-guy shtick draws heavily from the fading echoes of Tim Allen’s profitable grunts, as if the goal was to create a new show indistinguishable from the reruns surrounding it. Yet even with likable Nancy Travis as his wife, this is decidedly slim and rarely funny fare — which, admittedly, hasn’t prevented “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” from being a hit for TBS.Bill Pearson (Engvall) is a family counselor who — now brace yourself for this part — occasionally struggles to enforce order at home, whether it’s controlling his teenage daughter (Jennifer Lawrence), inspiring his slacker son (Graham Patrick Martin) or finding the snake lost by his youngest (Skyler Gisondo). In the premiere (originally the second episode, with the pilot having perhaps wisely been pushed later into the run), the daughter decides she wants a piercing, prompting Bill to say, “God gave you all the holes you’re gonna ever need.” His older boy gets a chance to play quarterback, hastening concerns that he might need a demonstration in how to use a condom. Bill also has a podiatrist pal (“Seinfeld’s” Steve Hytner), while Tim Meadows is scheduled to join the show, but not featured in any of the episodes previewed. It is, quite simply, painfully flat, almost studiously old-fashioned stuff — where Bill suggests that he and his wife “argue naked” and the studio audience obligingly howls. During another installment, most of the story centers on the family’s ailing dog, a cheap heart-tugger if there ever was one. Think of Engvall as Jeff Foxworthy with a less-pronounced drawl — generally pleasant, but basically just another middle-aged stand-up weaving bits of his regular-guy act into multicamera mirth. Foremost, though, the series has the sense of being cynically pitched directly to the blue-collar crowd — a demographic that presumably hates Hollywood and will watch pretty much anything where the jokes are loud, folks drive pickup trucks and families conspicuously say grace before meals. As a strategy that might work, but it’s utterly at odds with TBS’ “My Boys” — the surprisingly good comedy about a sportswriter that returns for its second season this month — fostering confusion about what the Turner-owned network wants its profile to be. Sure, the channel’s slogan is “very funny,” but would that be “stupid funny” or “smart funny”? Whatever the verdict, place Engvall’s show squarely in the former category, albeit mostly minus the “funny” part.