Oh, sorry, I momentarily mistook TBS' new sitcom for something funny. Like Cheers — echoes of which kept ringing in my TV memory bank as I slogged my way through the back-to-back episodes of the instantly forgettable Sullivan & Son (Thursday, 10/9c), the channel's latest attempt to produce something as amusing as the popular sitcom repeats that pepper the TBS schedule.
Sullivan & Son certainly feels like something you've seen before. Only done much better. At times it feels as if someone unearthed the failed first draft of Cheers. (Show-runner Rob Long is a Cheers veteran, which is no excuse.) While there's nothing inherently wrong with comfort-food retro sitcomedy, this cringe-inducing collection of broad barroom clichés has the effect of being served endless rounds of flat beer.
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Instead of Boston, Sullivan takes us to a working-class Pittsburgh neighborhood, where golden-boy son Steve (Steve Byrne, apparently borrowing biographical details from his stand-up act) has returned from the Big Apple, where he's a big-shot corporate attorney about to get a promotion. As he revisits his half-Irish, half-Korean roots, bonding with his doofus barfly buddies, his snooty materialistic girlfriend looks on aghast while the laugh track wipes away tears of delight.
When his dad (The Wonder Years' Dan Lauria, mugging more than he needs to) announces at his 60th-birthday bash that he's retiring and selling the bar, how long do you think it takes for Steve to rethink his destiny? Way before episode 2, which isn't so much a spoiler as a tired-premise alert.
Byrne provides an agreeable but bland center to the wacky bar antics, which include rants from your typical braying racist (Brian Doyle-Murray) and saucy asides from the boozy old floozie (a waste of the wonderful Christine Ebersole) who at one point announces, "Scotch and soda, martini and a draft — or as I like to say, breakfast."
Having milked all of the Irish drinking clichés thoroughly, the show also exhausts Korean stereotypes by presenting Steve's sister (Vivian Bang) as disgruntled and competitive and his emotionally remote mother (Jodi Long) as an all-out dragon lady. It would be offensive if it weren't all such a yawn.
"Lot of people out there making bad decisions," declares Steve's longtime crush, a female paramedic (Valerie Azlynn) who quaffs a brew before going on her shift. Here's how to avoid making your own bad decision: Skip Sullivan & Son and flip over to FX's Louie (10:30/9:30c), which begins a two-part episode featuring Parker Posey (her best role in ages) as Louie's mercurial new love interest. That's as good as cable comedy gets this summer.
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