Comedy Central’s stab at a multicamera sitcom, “Big Lake,” isn’t merely bad. It’s “Wow, how did that happen given who’s involved?” bad. From the basic premise — a guy forced to move back home with his parents after losing millions, including their retirement nest egg in an ill-defined investment scheme — to jokes at their feeble best dealing in non sequiturs, this comedy from the folks responsible for “Funny or Die” utterly misses that first category and ought to pretty quickly be jettisoned to the second.
Produced under Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s shingle and featuring “Saturday Night Live’s” Horatio Sanz and Chris Parnell in supporting roles, the series stars the Upright Citizens Brigade’s Chris Gethard as Josh, the aforementioned schlemiel. He is greeted none too happily by his father (fine character actor James Rebhorn, who deserves much better) and ditsy mom (Deborah Rush) when he shows up on their doorstep, vowing to win back the $385,000 of theirs he lost.
So like, think “Wall Street” if Charlie Sheen’s character had to move in with his dad after the company went belly up — and it’s every bit as hilarious as that sounds.
Quickly dispensing with this back story, the premiere finds Josh planning to sell a valuable baseball to pay off the debt, while reuniting with school chum Glenn (Sanz) and former teacher Mr. Henkel (Parnell), who has gone from inspirational to surly. The second installment involves a house that Lee Harvey Oswald might have lived in, presumably under the “Tragedy plus time equals comedy” theory.
Beyond the marquee producer names Comedy Central is promoting, the real disappointment is that writer Lew Morton (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”) and director Don Scardino (“30 Rock”) helped birth this mess, which is overplayed and obvious (except perhaps for Gethard’s dismally uninteresting straight man) on every level.
As the press release notes, the Debmar-Mercury project is “modeled after previous successful ground-breaking Tyler Perry sitcom ventures” in its deal points, with Comedy Central initially committing to 10 episodes and holding an option for 90 more — 100 episodes representing the magic number for stripping the property in syndication.
Having endured two installments, it’s frankly hard to imagine anybody wading through “Big Lake” 98 more times. Although in keeping with the program’s theme, perhaps Bernie Madoff should be forced to.