Television Reviews: Modern Family, Cougertown, The Jay Leno Show

Last night, I didn’t feel like futzing around on the Internet, so I watched the premieres of the new situation comedies on ABC. These have been hailed as saviours of the sitcom form, a return to the sitcoms of yore. That they are not. All morning these reviews have been brewing in my head, so I figured I’d take time at lunch to share with you my impressions:

Modern Family, which stars Ed O’Neill and a bunch of folks I didn’t recognizes, uses the documentary style that I detest. At least it doesn’t keep shaking the camera for effect, as other fake documentaries do, but it has periodic interviews with the characters. The premise appears to be to present three families that someone should relate to: a “normal” family of a mother, father, and three cute but annoying children; an older man married to a much younger woman with a son from a previous marriage; and two gay men adopting a Vietnamese baby. The kicker is that they are all related somehow. The problem with this show is it fell to rapidly into cliches: the old man can’t get up, the mother is overprotective of her daughter, the dad wants to be friends with the kids and thus can’t be an effective parent, one of the gay men loves overdrawn scenes and is slightly effeminate. As such, it was rarely laugh-out-loud funny (the current bests for laugh-out-loud funny are Big Bang Theory, Two-and-a-Half Men, and occasionally, How I Met Your Mother). Although the premise could be workable, the writing needs significant improvement for this to survive. However, I do have to say that at least the humor didn’t drop to the level of the crude.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Cougertown, which stars Courtney Cox as a 40-year old divorcee and single-mom looking for a man, while her ex-husband, who seemingly lives two doors down, gets as many young babes as he wants. Supposedly, this is a comedy that today’s older viewers should relate to, but in reality is a view of a pathetic divorcee on the prowl. Hasn’t that already been mined to death in The New Adventures of Old Christine? This episode started with Cox stepping out of her shower and examining her wrinkles, the flab of her belly, and her otherwise sagging body. Not a good start. It also featured an assistant who put up signs advertising Cox’s clevage that jr. high boys supposedly stole to lust over, her bringing a man home from a bar on the first date, having sex three times, and then giving him a BJ while her son walks in on them… well, you get the idea. Now, I’m not a prude by any means, but I don’t find this funny, nor do I find it appropriate for a supposed family comedy. Pathetic is really the word, but I’m so drawn to this train wreck I might just watch it next week to see if it gets worse. Again, the fault is bad writing – a writing team raised on the crude only recognizes the crude as funny.

Speaking of funny, I’d like to talk about one more show: The Jay Leno Show. I’ve actually watched this every night it has been on — it is wonderful to go to sleep to. Perhaps that is a joke NBC should use. Anyway, again the premise for this is reasonable: a low-cost funny show using known talent. The problem, again, is the writing. The quality of Jay’s writing team has gone down since his Tonight Show days (which raises Writers Strike questions, as he claimed he was writing his material then, and it was funny… it isn’t now). The monologue isn’t funny, and is striking me as mean and derogatory. I have no problem with him making fun of the administration, but the humor seems to be something I’d see on Fox News these days. It is also a lot cruder… even cruder than he was during his 11:30p stint. That’s a problem for middle-america acceptance. I understand his ratings have gone way down from the first week, and I think the monologue is a main reason. NBC will probably stick with him for a few months, simply because the show is so cheap to produce and they would have to pay his contract anyway… but if his writing team does not improve, I’ll go back to watching the news.

On the plus side, at least the new season of Heroes seems to be starting off well…