×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Grace Under Fire

Grace Under Fire" has several factors in its favor: the blue-collar setting (generally underrepresented on TV), the know-how of production company Carsey-Werner and a great timeslot. Because of these, the sitcom looks like a solid hit, even though it shows more potential than polish.

With:
Cast: Brett Butler, Dave Thomas, Julie White, Charles Hallahan, Casey Sander, Walter Olkewicz, Kaitlin Cullum, Dylan & Cole Sprouse, Noah Segan, Becky Thyre, Dave Florek, Bryan Clark, Thom Vernon, Skye Bassett, Phil Buckman, John Goodman (uncredited).

Grace Under Fire” has several factors in its favor: the blue-collar setting (generally underrepresented on TV), the know-how of production company Carsey-Werner and a great timeslot. Because of these, the sitcom looks like a solid hit, even though it shows more potential than polish.

The new series stars standup comic Brett Butler as Grace Kelly, an abused wife from Alabama who leaves an eight-year marriage to raise three kids herself. Meanwhile, she works as one

of two token women –“quota babes,” as she calls them — in a low-paying job at an oil refinery.

So the setup offers the opportunity for laughs at work, laughs with the kids and laughs with the recently divorced pharmacist (Dave Thomas), whom her best friend (Julie White) has set her up with.

As a standup, Butler is a little scary: With her clenched jaw, flat delivery and undercurrents of anger, it seems that if anyone crossed her, she could pin their shoulders to the ground in aboutthree seconds.

However, the producers, director Michael Lessac and writer-creator Chuck Lorre have done a good job in softening that persona. Butler has not fully made the transition from standup to actress, but she acquits herself adequately in the pilot, looking especially relaxed and funny in scenes with Thomas.

That “SCTV” vet gives the best performance in the show and — a big relief — kid performers Kaitlin Cullum and Noah Segan are natural and likable. (However, after the premiere, Jon Paul Steuer takes over for Segan as the older son. Why ask why?)

As Grace’s 8-month-old, it’s impossible to tell at this point if Dylan and Cole Sprouse are the Olsen twins of tomorrow.

However, while Carsey-Werner’s “Roseanne” has found the balance between humor and taboo/offbeat topics, “Grace” isn’t there yet. Several asides are tasteless but funny, while others — including one about the real Grace Kelly — are just tasteless.

And there’s an odd scene in the refinery, as a supervisor tries to explain to the goonish male workers exactly what is acceptable behavior toward the newly arrived women. Grace jokingly undercuts him by asking the slobbering men to refer to her simply as a “throbbing mattress kitten” and jokes about taking showers with them. (When told by the other female that her jokes demean all women, she responds simply, “Honey, shut up.”)

That scene, and a thoughtless swipe at lesbian mothers, indicate that maybe the writer and producers have mistaken the working-class setting as an invitation to regressive humor. Hopefully as the skein progresses, they’ll learn how to be outrageous without being careless.

Tech credits, especially Garvin Eddy’s production design, are nice. And one of the skein’s other big pluses is its theme: Lennon-McCartney’s “Lady Madonna,” sung by Aretha Franklin.

Grace Under Fire

(Weds. (29), 9:30-10 p.m., ABC)

Production: Taped at CBS Studio Center, Studio City, by the Carsey-Werner Co. Exec producers, Chuck Lorre, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Caryn Mandabach; supervising producers, Bob Dolan Smith, Wayne Lemon, Dava Savel; producer, Joanne Curley-Kerner; co-producer, Brenda Hanes-Berg; exec in charge of production, Rita Burton; writer-creator, Chuck Lorre; director, Michael Lessac; lighting design, Daniel Flannery.

Crew: Editor, Henry Chan; production designer, Garvin Eddy; sound, Thom Wilson; music, Dennis C. Brown.

Cast: Cast: Brett Butler, Dave Thomas, Julie White, Charles Hallahan, Casey Sander, Walter Olkewicz, Kaitlin Cullum, Dylan & Cole Sprouse, Noah Segan, Becky Thyre, Dave Florek, Bryan Clark, Thom Vernon, Skye Bassett, Phil Buckman, John Goodman (uncredited).

More TV

  • ‘Hitsville: The Making of Motown’ Acquired

    ‘Hitsville: The Making of Motown’ Acquired by Showtime for U.S.

    Polygram Entertainment, Universal Music Group’s film and television division, along with Capitol Music Group, Motown Records and Fulwell 73 announced today that “Hitville: The Making of Motown” has been acquired by Showtime for release in North America with plans for a fall premiere, and Altitude for theatrical release in the UK and Ireland. The feature-length [...]

  • Game of Thrones Cast

    What's Next for 'Game of Thrones'' Cast Members

    Eight years and eight seasons later, the “Game of Thrones” cast finally has some downtime to relax or move onto other projects. Some stars, like Kit Harington, who told Variety that he doesn’t plan on taking another role as physically demanding as Jon Snow, certainly deserve a break, but others have wasted no time getting back on [...]

  • 'Fleabag' Season 2 Review: How Its

    'Fleabag': Season 2’s Top 10 Breaks From Reality, Ranked (Column)

    The searing first season of “Fleabag” felt like a complete story in and of itself. As adapted from Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show, the series expanded on the world of a woman wild with lust and grief with such expert ease that by the time it ended, even Waller-Bridge herself was sure that it was the [...]

  • Richard Madden Says 'Game of Thrones'

    Richard Madden Says the 'Game of Thrones' Cast Deserves a Medal

    Richard Madden is thankful for his time on “Game of Thrones,” but is also happy to have been able to move on when he did. The “Bodyguard” star sat down with “Sharper Objects'” Amy Adams for Variety’s Actors on Actors, where he expressed some incredulity at the idea of spending so long with just one [...]

  • MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r)

    Submissions Now Welcome for Third 'Meet the Press' Film Festival

    Chuck Todd’s quest to bring “Meet the Press” to the movies continues. The third annual Meet the Press Film Festival, held in collaboration with the American Film Institute, will take place on October 6 and 7 in Washington, D.C., and remains a haven for issue-focused documentary shorts. Todd believes the event serves a critical mission: [...]

  • Winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song

    Netherlands' Duncan Laurence Wins 2019 Eurovision Song Contest

    Madonna’s controversial performance may have grabbed the headlines, but Duncan Laurence won the nearly four-hour-long 2019 Eurovision Song Contest for the Netherlands with the song “Arcade,” which he cowrote with Joel Sjöö and Wouter Hardy. Laurence won a total of 492 points from the expert juries and televoters in a contest that was touch and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content