Filmed by Brillstein-Grey Communications and Mr. Willoughby Prods. Inc. in association with Columbia Pictures Television. Executive producers, Tom Anderson, Brad Grey, Bernie Brillstein, Maxine Lapiduss; producer, Steven Schott; director, Andrew Tsao; writers, John Pardee, Joey Murphy; Fifteen people with the word “producer” attached to their names, along with one creative consultant and a story editor, drew paychecks on this episode of “The Jeff Foxworthy Show,” so who says welfare as we know it has ended? Given the boot by ABC last season, picked up by NBC this season and already facing the replacement of creator and executive producer Tom Anderson with “Cybill” veteran Howard Gould, “Foxworthy” is the beneficiary of extraordinary life-support measures for a show that reveals no discernible pulse and which is to all appearances brain dead.
Hitching the spongy redneck humor of standup comic Jeff Foxworthy to a sitcom format wasn’t funny last season and it’s still not, despite the shift in locale to the title character’s little hometown.
Situation comedies tend to require compelling situations and sharply observant jokes in order to work; shows based on a style of comedy alone rarely do.
The basic situation, as it has applied through the first handful of episodes, finds Jeff praising the virtues of small-town life in the South to his wife Karen (Ann Cusack, gifts dulled beyond recognition), only to be brought up short himself by the limitations, with everything working out, as it must, in the end.
In this week’s episode, Karen commits the ultimate social indiscretion of inviting the ex-wife of Jeff’s best friend (Bill Engvall) to dinner. Karen commits further malfeasance by cooking a healthy meal, apparently unaware that fat-free Southern cooking is like unbillable legal work or non-orgasmic sex, which is to say pointless.
The laughs, such as they are, arise from Jeff’s discomfort in learning intimated details of his best friend’s married life. That’s about it.
To provide respite from the comic frenzy, there are appearances by Jeff’s dad (G.W. Bailey), a ladies’ man; and a neighborhood girl (Kathryn Zaremba) who manipulates the dim Foxworthy boys (Haley Joel Osment and Jonathan William Lipnicki) — up North, they’d be in remedial classes.
Andrew Tsao’s direction is as slack and uninspired as the writing. The taste-free Foxworthy habitat comes across on the small screen as tacky, so I suppose congratulations are in order for getting something right.
But you’d think that with 15 writers putting their heads together, odds favored the conjuring of at least a few funny lines. You’d be wrong.