×

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

  • Luna Nera Netflix Italy

    Italy's Women Filmmakers Set to Make Waves

    The Berlinale in recent years has been a prime launching pad for Italian films directed by women, which though fewer in number to their male counterparts, make up a considerable portion of the country’s representation on the festival circuit — Alice Rohrwacher (“Happy as Lazzaro”) at Cannes, Susanna Nicchiarelli (“Nico”) at Venice, and Berlin regular [...]

  • Love Me Scandinavian Cinema

    Scandinavia Ups Its Game With So Many Markets for Its Fare

    When the Nordic entertainment group, one of Scandinavia’s largest media groups, announced last month during the Goteborg Film Festival that it was pulling out of non-scripted content to focus on scripted drama, and film production and distribution, it underscored two market trends in the Nordics: Subscription-based services, whether local or global, are driving the region’s [...]

  • Louis Hofmann in Prélude

    Berlin: Louis Hofmann Cast in Damian John Harper's 'Fresh' (EXCLUSIVE)

    German star Louis Hofmann is set to topline Damian John Harper’s upcoming drama “Fresh,” a German-language adaptation of Scottish writer Mark McNay’s novel of the same name. Hofmann plays a young man who must emancipate himself from his tyrannical older brother. Unlike the book, which is set in the outskirts of Glasgow, the film’s story [...]

  • Steve Stark

    Steve Stark Named President of Newly Formed MGM/UA Television

    The newly formed MGM/UA Television label has found a president in Steve Stark, who previously served as MGM’s president of scripted television production and development. MGM Worldwide Television Group chairman Mark Burnett made the announcement late Friday, adding that Stark has extended his contract with the studio as part of his new role. “We are [...]

  • Bad Education

    TV News Roundup: HBO Sets Premiere Date for Hugh Jackman's 'Bad Education' (Watch)

    In today’s TV News roundup, HBO Films set the premiere date for “Bad Education” starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney and “Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda” tapes Chris Harrison and Sage Steele as hosts. CASTING “The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison will host “Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda” alongside co-host Sage Steele of ESPN, ABC announced. [...]

  • Randall Park Ed Helms

    Randall Park, Ed Helms to Host Hybrid Alternative-Scripted Series 'True Story' for NBC

    Ed Helms and Randall Park are attached to co-host a hybrid scripted-alternative series titled “True Story” at NBC. The hour-long show has received a six-episode order. It is based on the Australian series “True Story with Hamish & Andy.” In the series, everyday Americans sit down with Helms and Park to share their most extraordinary [...]

  • Annie MurphyGlamour Women of the Year

    'Schitt’s Creek' Star Annie Murphy Cast as Lead in AMC's ‘Kevin Can F— Himself’

    “Schitt’s Creek” star Annie Murphy has been cast as the lead in AMC’s upcoming series “Kevin Can F— Himself.” The dark comedy centers around Murphy’s Allison, Kevin’s wife, who escapes her confines and discovers her rage. “Kevin Can F– Himself” probes the secret life of a type of woman we all grew up believing we [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content