Nothing in “Welcome to the Captain” is particularly fresh, but there’s nevertheless a genial charm to this CBS comedy, whose main drawback is that it focuses on the wrong characters. Still, it’s an amusing enough “Echo Park”-like premise: a Hollywood apartment building occupied by an assortment of not-ready-for-(or past their)-primetime players, including a former soap star (Raquel Welch) and one-time “Three’s Company” writer (Jeffrey Tambor). That said, the series might be an awkward fit for the Eye network, feeling more like a logical companion to “Entourage” than “How I Met Your Mother” reruns.
In an obvious bow to younger demos, the series focuses on its least-interesting players, which fall squarely within the 18-34 age bracket. Josh (Fran Kranz) won an Oscar for short film, but five years later he’s no longer a wunderkind and ready to slink back to New York with his statuette between his legs. Only an invitation from his easygoing, ladies man pal Marty (Chris Klein) convinces him to stay, moving into El Capitan, an old-time Hollywood complex teeming with colorful personalities.
Presiding over it all is eccentric building manager Uncle Saul (Tambor), who name-drops constantly about his “Company” days; and blabbermouth desk attendant Jesus (Al Madrigal), who insists on the English pronunciation of his name. Stumbling through the first two episodes in wide-eyed wonder, Josh has his world rocked by encountering dream-girl Hope (“Reba’s” Joanna Garcia), who hits him like the proverbial thunderbolt.
As introduced by series creator John Hamburg (whose writing credits include the “Meet the Parents” pics), Josh’s crush and Marty’s carnal adventures are the show’s most conventional elements, yet they garner most of the screentime. On the plus side, their antics are garnished by a showbiz-savvy mix of wannabes and has-beens, from Welch’s one-time star of “Falcon Crest” or “Dynasty” (nobody can seem to remember) — who, as Uncle Saul accurately observes, still has “a tush like a buttery chardonnay” — to Valerie Azlynn as a bubbly ingenue.
Tarted up a bit, “The Captain” (the building’s nickname, hence the title) would likely be more at home in the narrower confines of cable, where the ins and outs of Hollywood have traditionally survived longer than in the broadcast realm. Granted, there’s a broad romantic comedy theme in the Josh-Hope situation, but as various series have demonstrated, that sort of pining isn’t easily sustained over the long haul.
For CBS, the more pressing logistical concern is how to get a relatively nondescript comedy sampled with its Monday-night anchors forced into strike-related reruns. So while there’s enough here to recommend checking out “Welcome to the Captain,” let’s just say reservations are warranted regarding whether the show will be checking in for an extended stay.