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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
GUYS WITH KIDS (NBC)
(teleplay by Charlie Grandy; story by Jimmy Fallon, Charlie Grandy & Amy Ozols; directed by Scott Ellis; TRT: 22:22)
The network's description: "From Emmy winner and executive producer Jimmy Fallon comes a new comedy about three thirty-something dads trying to hold on to their youth, while holding onto their new babies' hands. Easy, right? Thankfully, Chris (Jesse Bradford, "The West Wing"), Nick (Zach Cregger, "Friends with Benefits") and Gary (Anthony Anderson, "Law & Order") have each other to help navigate their survival as new dads, while still trying desperately to remain dudes. Balancing work or staying at home, painfully married or happily divorced, they know that taking care of the little ones while maintaining a social life is a daily challenge. Whether it's hosing the little squirt down in the kitchen sink or hitting the bar strapped with a baby björn, these guys are on a roller-coaster adventure - parenting like you (and they) have never seen before.
Also starring are Jamie Lynn Sigler ("The Sopranos") and Tempestt Bledsoe ("The Cosby Show"). Someone once said it is much easier to become a father than to be one. These three guys are about to find out just how true that is. "Guys with Kids" is produced by Universal Television and Holiday Road. Fallon ("Late Night with Jimmy Fallon") serves as executive producer/creator along with executive producer/creator/writer Charlie Grandy (NBC's "The Office") and executive producer/creator Amy Ozols ("Late Night with Jimmy Fallon") as well as executive producers Rick Wiener and Kenny Schwartz ("Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place," "American Dad"). Emmy-nominated director Scott Ellis ("Modern Family," "30 Rock") is the director."
What did they leave out? Courtney Henggeler was originally cast as Chris's ex Sheila but was replaced by Sara Rue for the pilot. Rue however had to drop out for the series due to her first position status on ABC's "Malibu Country." Erinn Hayes has subsequently signed on to take over the role. That and the project's original title was "DILFs."
The plot in a nutshell: Thirtysomething best friends/neighbors Chris (Jesse Bradford), Nick (Zach Cregger) and Gary (Anthony Anderson) are all in the early stages of parenthood. Chris, newly divorced from his henpecking ex Sheila (Sara Rue), is fastidiously focused on his son Ernie. Nick, who's happily married to stay-at-home-mom Emily (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), conversely has a more laissez-faire attitude with his daughter Violet. And Gary, well, Gary just wants some sleep as he's overwhelmed by his four kids while wife Marny (Tempestt Bledsoe) works to support them. Their only respite from the aforementioned parental foibles: visits to their favorite bar (with their babies in tow via björn) and haranguing Chris's newfound single status.
Said exploits get an extra boost when Chris scores a date to a Knicks game with a cute patron (Alex McKenna), allowing Nick and Gary to live vicariously through him. Small problem though: Chris is supposedly to watch Ernie this weekend and Sheila doesn't allow babysitters. Rather than grow a spine, Chris lies and hires one behind her back. From here, well, you don't need to be the Oracle of Delphi to see how things will unspool as the babysitter cancels, forcing Nick to cover it up, but Sheila calls, and so forth. Meanwhile, Nick has his own troubles at home as he's oblivious to Emily's cravings for a night on the town while Gary - as mentioned above - still just wants a moment of peace.
What works: The opening joke - our heroes cheering on a game at a bar, revealed to be wearing baby björns - tells you everything you need to know about what the next 21 minutes will entail. If that's up your alley, you're golden, otherwise...
What doesn't: ...it's a long 21 minutes. Whether it's hackneyed kid foibles (Gary to his offscreen son: "Clarkie, don't you put that in your underwear! Don't... well, looks like I'm buying a tie."), shout-it-to-the-world sarcasm (Marny: "You remember fun, that thing we used to have before all this 'magic' came into our lives.") or general eye-rolling silliness (Gary: "Why do you only ever ask Nick to solve your parenting dilemmas? He's got two kids. I've got... like four."), all the jokes are big and obvious, happily churned out from its clumsily predictable plot. It also has that strange, sitcom-y sheen to it where the show looks and feels like it could have been sitting on a shelf for a decade, its milquetoast humor as timeless then as it is now (a facet embodied by a cameo from a certain 1970s basketball star).
In other words, there's no real point of view or perspective to their adventures beyond "hey it's three guys in a bar wearing baby björns, isn't that hilarious!" That's not to say Bradford, Cregger and Anderson aren't funny cats in their own right, it's just they toe the line of the lowest common denominator, from laugh-track approved riffs on dinosaur chicken nuggets to story connivances that make the Miller-Boyett shows look timely to banal declarations like "sons before buns." I can appreciate being silly for the sake of being silly but here it's just endless iterations of the same vaguely outlined joke. You know, guys with kids.
The bottom line: Seriously, the joke is it's guys with kids.