CMT — the latest acronym for a “formerly known as” network (in this case, Country Music Television) — is joining sister Viacom net TV Land in the original sitcom game, airing back-to-back episodes of “Working Class.” Unfortunately, the program manages to be a misnomer twice over: Nothing about the show really works, and classy it’s not. While this recession-tinged reboot of “Grace Under Fire” seems like it might be well-timed, other than the single-mom protagonist’s hair color, any similarity ends there. All “Class” ought to do is make CMT viewers pine for more “Hee Haw” reruns.
“Reba” alum Melissa Peterman stars as Carli, who is raising three kids and struggling to make ends meet by working at the local market. Paying the bills is tough enough that she tries to divert her brood’s attention so she can water down the milk.
Carli’s brother Nick (Steve Kazee) lives with them, but when it comes to assisting her, he’s basically the equivalent of a fourth child. Meanwhile, Carli swaps one-liners at the market with a grizzled old employee (Ed Asner, approximating the live-action version of his “Up” character) who keeps referencing his war record; and flirts with Rob (Patrick Fabian), who turns out to be — awkward! — the boss’ son.
Created by Jill Cargerman, every beat of the show proves woefully flat. Matters do improve slightly in the second episode, but that’s thanks mostly to Ryan Stiles’ guest turn as a love-starved dentist, with Carli pondering how far she’ll lead him on to get a price break on filling her son’s cavities.
If “Working Class” allowed itself a real moment here or there about Carli’s financial plight, the show might have some heart. As is, the plucky heroine simply tosses out one tired joke (sample: “I got hit pretty hard with the three-kid stick”) after another.
On paper, structuring a show around the recession must have felt bold, though several series (“Hung” and “Shameless” among them) beat CMT to the punch. Ultimately, this is a comedy for people who find Jeff Foxworthy’s material too intellectually demanding.
CMT has acknowledged the series is being produced on a shoestring relative to network fare, which only invites a notation that the channel got what it paid for. And while the premise, talent and scheduling might be the right formula for the cabler, creatively anyway, “Class” dismissed.