You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Life in Pieces’

Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, Zoe Lister-Jones, Colin Hanks, Angelique Cabral, Thomas Sadoski, Betsy Brandt, Dan Bakkedahl, Niall Cunningham, Holly J. Barrett, Giselle Eisenberg

In his zany standup days, Woody Allen told a joke about F. Scott Fitzgerald announcing he had written “Great Expectations,” after which Allen observes that it was wholly unnecessary, since Charles Dickens had already written it. It’s hard not to feel that way about “Life in Pieces,” a multigenerational, multi-point-of-view family comedy, which CBS went ahead and ordered, even though it’s really just “Modern Family” under a different name. Although the show features a topnotch cast, and marks a departure from Chuck Lorre’s multi-camera dominance on the network, “Life,” charitably, feels like one of those shows best watched while you’re making other plans.

Like “Modern Family” (and just attach that disclaimer to practically every paragraph here), the series squeezes a lot of story into each half-hour, with multiple plots involving the related characters, who, in the pilot, eventually unite for a rather morbid event: The family patriarch, John (James Brolin), decides to celebrate his 70th birthday with a mock funeral, sipping a cocktail while friends and family eulogize him.

This is all taken with surprisingly good humor by his wife (Dianne Wiest), while the assorted kids all have their own problems. They include youngest son Greg (Colin Hanks), who, along with his wife (Zoe Lister-Jones), are flailing around in trying to handle their new baby; son Matt (“The Newsroom’s” Thomas Sadoski), who has a rather complicated romance brewing with co-worker Colleen (Angelique Cabral); and daughter Heather (“Breaking Bad’s” Betsy Brandt), who, with her husband Tim (Dan Bakkedahl), is struggling with the notion of her son going off to college.

That’s a very talented roster of folks (plus a guest shot by “Key & Peele’s” Jordan Peele), and there are some amusing moments scattered throughout the premiere, written by Justin Adler and directed by Jason Winer. Still, if that’s going to be the template going forward, beyond engineering a trade to ABC for “Black-ish” and a player to be named later, it’s hard to see how this fits with Monday-night running mate “2 Broke Girls.” (And although “Pieces” and “Modern Family” air on different networks, they do hail from the same studio, 20th Century Fox Television.)

Then again, CBS’ expectations have been systematically lowered by its struggles to build on the success of “The Big Bang Theory,” and after serving as a lonely bastion of traditional sitcoms, the network has largely decided to swim with the tide. As a consequence, both its new fall comedies (the other being “Angel From Hell”) are single-camera affairs, without the laughter cues associated with appreciative studio audiences.

With so many talented players — and a “Big Bang” lead-in initially, while NFL football holds down Thursday nights for CBS — “Life in Pieces” shouldn’t be summarily dismissed. Still, if the pilot is indicative of what’s to come, this is one series that doesn’t add up to the sum of its pieces.

TV Review: 'Life in Pieces'

(Series; CBS, Mon. Sept. 21, 8:30 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Kapital Entertainment in association with 20th Century Fox Television.

Crew: Executive producers, Justin Adler, Aaron Kaplan, Jason Winer, Jeff Morton; director, Winer; writer, Adler; camera, David Jones; production designer, Claire Bennett; editor, Tony Orcena; music, Rob Simonsen; casting, Juel Bestrop. 30 MIN.

Cast: Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, Zoe Lister-Jones, Colin Hanks, Angelique Cabral, Thomas Sadoski, Betsy Brandt, Dan Bakkedahl, Niall Cunningham, Holly J. Barrett, Giselle Eisenberg

More TV

  • Content-is-King

    Top TV Execs Tackle New Distribution Landscape in Rome

    ROME – In an increasingly complex TV market, with a host of new big-ticket streaming services preparing to enter an already crowded arena, both buyers and sellers are rethinking some of the fundamentals of the TV business as they grapple with the best way to reach global audiences. A host of top producers, network executives, [...]

  • MIA-MARKET-2019_Europe-Producers-Club_4

    European Producers and Broadcasters Debate How to Weather Streaming Storm

    ROME – The impending rollout of Disney Plus, HBO Max, and other new streaming services promises a new era of uncertainty—and opportunity—for broadcasters and producers in an industry already disrupted by the likes of Netflix and Amazon. At a panel hosted by the European Producers Club Friday afternoon during the MIA market in Rome, executives [...]

  • Kevin-Beggs

    Lionsgate TV Chairman Kevin Beggs on Streamers and TV’s ‘Platinum Era’

    ROME – Over the course of two decades in the industry, Lionsgate Television chairman Kevin Beggs has witnessed the ups and downs of a business that has frequently found itself confronting both dizzying new possibilities as well as existential threats. But these days the veteran exec, who oversees the development of all scripted and non-scripted content [...]

  • MAKING IT -- Season: 1 --

    TV News Roundup: NBC Announces 'Making It' Season 2 Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, NBC announced the “Making It” Season 2 premiere date and HBO Max greenlit a new docuseries from Brad Goreski and Gary Janetti. DATES Hosts Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman will return with the second season of “Making It” on NBC Dec. 2. After the show’s holiday season premiere, the show [...]

  • Luis Fonsi Erika Ender Latin Grammys

    The Second Latin Explosion: How 'Despacito' Ushered in a New Generation of Stars

    Music is an ever-evolving art, and for the Latin Recording Academy, that’s meant riding multiple waves of attention. The most recent arrived with the stratospheric success of “Despacito,” which kicked off a second Latin Explosion with full force in 2017. The Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee hit, later featuring verses by Justin Bieber, made Latin [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content