NBC’s animated series “Sammy,” based on David Spade’s stand-up material about his emotionally and financially negligent dad, is about as appealing as old potato salad at a late afternoon picnic. Created by Spade and Drake Sather, the show explores the complex relationships in the dysfunctional Blake family. But unlike Fox’s “Titus,” which rides the razor edge of pain-inspired comedy, Sammy’s bitter tone makes better fodder for a therapy session than for a primetime comedy.
NBC, which originally slated the series for midseason, isn’t exactly putting up a big show of support by airing it as a summer burn-off. Too expensive to simply dump, the network scheduled the show and its 13 episodes at the least compromising time of the year.
Viewers are introduced to the Blake family when Hollywood star James Blake (Spade) tries to hide the news from his mother Marie (Julia Sweeney) that his delinquent father Sammy (also Spade, only with an extremely grating voice) is now living with him in L.A. and pilfering off his now-famous son’s opulent lifestyle (after having left when the kids were young).
Neither James nor his brothers Todd (Harlan Williams) and Gary (Bob Odenkirk) are quite sure what to do with Sammy, an unrepentant dune buggy driving cad, but they’re making a go at establishing a relationship with him, albeit a superficial one.
This type of semi-autobiographical parody is tricky to create, and director Jennifer Graves has the added burden of balancing James’ family life with that of his Hollywood career. Oddly enough, however, it is James’ work life, with his duplicitous agent Mark Jacobs (Andy Dick) and his comely assistant (Maura Tierney) that provide the show with most of its laughs.
But even a cadre of talented comedians lending their voices to the project can’t elevate the material from its nasty roots. The characters are ugly both figuratively and literally, which makes for few laughs in Justin Adler’s script.
At one point, James asks his mother how to deal with Sammy, now that the leech is back in his life, and she tells him, “You have to take what life gives you.” Fortunately, when it comes to TV, remote-control empowered viewers don’t.