A Canadian import roughly as inspired as the pun in its title, “Working the Engels” is a beyond-flat NBC comedy about a family of ne’er-do-wells who improbably take over their deceased father’s cut-rate law practice. With the show heavily narrated by a central character who’s ostensibly the normal one in the brood — the daughter who became an attorney, but leaves the big firm where she’s been languishing — think of this as a very, very poor woman’s “Arrested Development,” and as thematically tired as a half-hour comedy can get.
The family matriarch (SCTV alum Andrea Martin) is informed that her late husband has left the family $200,000 in debt — bad news, indeed, since her son (Benjamin Arthur) is a law-breaking thug and one of her daughters (Azura Skye) has substance- and anger-management issues.
Fortunately, there’s daughter Jenna (Kacey Rohl), who seizes the opportunity and winds up essentially bailing out the family, before the pilot’s over enlisting the others to help her as she tries to make a business out of dad’s ambulance-chasing practice.
Of course, the cases don’t have all that much dignity — in the third episode, Jenna must masquerade as a stripper in order to glean information from one, hoping to recover the antique ring a client gave her — but they do create an excuse for the family to hang out together, which is the real point of all this, to the extent there’s a point at all.
Speaking of families working together with questionable results, sisters Katie Ford and Jane Cooper Ford created the series, which betrays its Canadian lineage every time someone says “about” or “sorry.” And after watching several episodes, it doesn’t utter the latter nearly enough.
As if developed via a time machine during the 1990s, the most distinctive element in the show turns out to be “Odds Are,” a jaunty Barenaked Ladies song that plays over the credits. Alas, once the Ladies have sung, there’s precious little reason to continue “Working the Engels.”