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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