NBC has floated various excuses for delaying this long-on-the-shelf sitcom past Memorial Day, but, with apologies to “The Critic,” “It stinks!” would have sufficed. Bland when it isn’t annoying, it’s hard to figure what motivated this show into existence other than the fact that there’s a comic named Tom Papa whose last name creates a sort-of pun. About the best you can say for “Come to Papa” is that it would probably be the sixth-best sitcom on ABC.
Created by Papa and Greg Malins, the show is almost completely lacking a story. Indeed, with this kind of sitcom development last year, it’s no wonder NBC retreated to four comedies come fall and tapped an unscripted show as the linchpin of its Thursday lineup.
Papa plays a newspaper grunt who wants to be a comedy writer, living in New Jersey with a wife (Jennifer Aspen) as nondescript as he is. Tom also has a wacky boss (“The Daily Show’s” Steve Carell, essentially doing a modified version of his part in the new NBC series based on “The Office”), and a slacker best friend (Robert Patrick Bendict) still determined to nail the one girl he missed in high school science class.
Not to over-think things, but the pilot features Tom interviewing a local retailing legend who’s lost his mojo, so Tom offers to start writing the guy’s commercials for him. There might be reason to fret about how viewers will see this breach of journalistic ethics, but it’s hard to imagine many hanging around that long.
The other recurring thread involves some coffee peddlers who think Tom is mildly retarded, as well as the boss’s inability to get a straight black cup o’ Joe — evidently, even the characters need help keeping both eyes open.
Papa is one of those standups better left onstage, exhibiting little here in the way of acting chops. Of course, that hasn’t prevented others from making the leap, but he’s surrounded by such poorly delineated characters there’s not much support, including former NBA player John Salley as the world’s tallest mailman.
Much has been made of the networks’ commitment to fresh summer programming, but so long as a significant portion of the warm-weather contingent consists of stale leftovers, it’s going to be hard to swallow such pronouncements with a straight face. Then again, after “Come to Papa,” even a dismissive chuckle might come as a relief.