Making no pretense of setting the comedic bar particularly high, “Brothers” is more notable for its cast than anything coming out of their mouths. The starting lineup includes former NFL star Michael Strahan and wheelchair-bound comic Daryl Chill Mitchell as the program’s squabbling siblings, CCH Pounder as their imperious mother and the inspired choice of Carl Weathers as their slightly daft dad. There’s actually a modicum of chemistry among that quartet. If only the laugh lines in the show’s playbook yielded an actual laugh.
Bringing only sportscasting experience from Fox’s NFL pregame show to the party, Strahan stars capably enough as Mike Trainor, who is summoned home to Houston after a pro football career to again take up residence with his folks. They own a local bar, and Mike’s celebrity will theoretically help generate traffic as the venture faces tough times.
The prodigal son’s return, however, doesn’t sit well with brother Chill (Mitchell), who resents Mike — a hostility he expresses, repeatedly, via a series of tired one-liners. Mitchell delivers them reasonably well, but other than the gag about his mom testing his paralysis by jabbing his thigh with a fork, most viewers will be able to intercept the jokes well before he delivers him. (The character was injured in a car accident; Mitchell — whose sitcom credits include “Veronica’s Closet” — was paralyzed in a 2001 motorcycle crash.)
Pounder keeps the peace as their mother Adele, and given her association with various dramas (most recently “The Shield”), dives right into this comedic part, putting that trademark glower to as much use as she can.
Everything about “Brothers” speaks to its modest ambitions, including a second episode (the two will air back to back to create a one-hour launch) in which Mike’s one-night stand yields a predictable tirade about violating “house rules” — even though he purchased said house for the family with his football-gotten gains.
It’s been awhile since a comedy has made any headway on Friday night — or for that matter, a live-action sitcom has gained any Nielsen yardage on Fox. From that perspective, this qualifies as a recession-era choice, driven as much by marketing as creative concerns: Fox clearly hopes that a modest urban audience might be available and looking for something undemanding heading into the weekend, while the football component offers obvious tie-ins and the potential for guest shots by other Fox Sports personalities.
While the idea doubtless looked good on the chalkboard, “Brothers” turns out to be all game plan, and no game.