Broad and silly, “Guys With Kids” appears to exist largely on the basis of one sight gag — the image of three guys in a bar exulting over a game, high-fiving while wearing baby carriers. Counting Jimmy Fallon among its producers, it’s another attempt at a throwback, easy-to-market concept — harmless, but about as inspiring as any forgotten sitcom from the Reagan Era. “I love you kids, but you’re making daddy stupid,” a sleep-deprived father moans at one point. The series, alas, has no such excuse.
Using an old device — and seeking to tap into the vein “Up All Night” mostly missed — “Guys” features three characters at different stages of parenthood: Chris (Jesse Bradford), divorced and reticent about braving the dating world as a single dad; stay-at-home father Gary (Anthony Anderson), who has so many kids he and his wife (Tempestt Bledsoe) can only dream of sneaking quickies in the bathroom; and Nick (Zach Cregger), who prods Chris to get back into circulation, while making missteps dealing with his wife (Jamie-Lynn Sigler — not, unfortunately, as a grown-up version of Meadow Soprano, which would be way cool).
The premiere hinges on a sort-of domino effect as Chris tries to schedule a date, while his manipulative ex (Erinn Hayes) falls back on saying the baby “grew inside of me” to escape watching it. That leaves him desperate for baby-sitting help, drawing Gary and Nick into the madcap mix-ups.
Written by “The Office’s” Charlie Grandy, who shares story credit with Fallon and Amy Ozols, the backdrop is obviously meant to be relatable, but the execution brings such a stale approach to sexual politics as to feel dated by the first act break. Wait, men help out with child-rearing these days? Get outta here!
Then again, both this show and companion “Animal Practice” appear to have been sold largely because NBC was hoping to get lucky with something big, broad and capable of selling itself. (One might want to ask ABC how that worked out for “Cavemen” and “In the Motherhood,” but never mind).
Granted, turning toward lighter comedy in tough times is understandable, and the show has assembled an appealing cast — particularly among the female roles, which — given the title, tone and focus on the guys — could easily have wound up being more cartoonish than their menfolk.
NBC will launch the show following “America’s Got Talent” before asking this comedic toddler to walk on its own. Nevertheless, as these characters could attest, spare time is precious for harried parents — probably too important to squander on a date with “Guys With Kids.”