Almost certainly the most promising newcomer — and U.K. format import — of the fall, “Worst Week” only tempers enthusiasm because the opener is so intricate it’s difficult to envision what the series can do for an encore, much less an entire season. Nevertheless, Kyle Bornheimer makes for an appealing lead, while Kurtwood Smith is a candidate for knighthood for his latest cranky dad. Although not cut from CBS’ familiar sitcom mold, the pilot is certainly funny enough to capitalize on its “Two and a Half Men” lead-in; how many good weeks will follow remains the tricky part.
Derived from a British program, “Week” brings to mind “The Heartbreak Kid,” if only because of the strained relationship between Sam (Bornheimer) — who is eager to endear himself to his girlfriend’s parents — and said parents, Dick (Smith) and Angela (Nancy Lenehan).
Sam gets a little nervous, we’re warned, around her folks, so there’s some trepidation about telling them that she’s pregnant. In the build-up to dinner, however, things don’t just go wrong; they go disastrously, wildly wrong, with each new crisis triggering another misunderstanding, beginning with a drunken co-worker who vomits in Sam’s lap, ultimately forcing him to show up at Dick and Angela’s place dressed only in a resourcefully assembled diaper.
The preposterousness is leavened, slightly, by the nice interplay between Sam and his sympathetic girlfriend Melanie (Erinn Hayes, not far from the role she played in Fox’s short-lived “The Winner”), though it’s hard to imagine that tolerance lasting if future episodes maintain the level of chaos established here. In fact, “Worst Week” would probably work best if each episode stood on its own, more the equivalent of an old Roadrunner cartoon than a semi-serialized storyline marching toward the altar, which appears to be the plan.
That said, as adapted by Matt Tarses, there’s something refreshing about seeing an utterly screwball comedy mounted on an episodic scale. Bornheimer, meanwhile, comes across as the kind of likable schlub who can’t figure out why these awful things keep happening to him — especially under the disapproving gaze of Smith, who is capable of doubling you over with one hostile glance or arched eyebrow, much less asking Sam to “explain to me the context in which punching my daughter in the face is funny.”
The cautionary note remains one of skepticism regarding how long the producers can sustain this formula — one key difference that characterizes the short-order, auteur approach practiced in the U.K., which has tripped up many a U.S. adaptation. Yet while one strong pilot might not translate to a declaration of victory, given the dearth of first-rate comedies broadcasters have produced the last couple of seasons, CBS’ very good “Week” is still an accomplishment worth celebrating.