John C. McGinley, Skylar Astin
The "upstairs downstairs" framework we've come to love on Downton Abbey translates fairly well to the world of corporate workplace romantic comedy in TBS's Ground Floor, a likable if decidedly modest bauble from sitcom vets Bill Lawrence (Cougar Town) and Greg Malins (Friends), working in the too-often-disparaged mode of traditional multi-camera comedy. (The first two episodes air back-to-back Thursday starting at 10/9c.)
Skylar Astin and Briga Heelen are fresh, funny discoveries as mismatched lovebirds Brody and Jenny. He's a metrosexual workaholic money manager, and she's a carefree maintenance worker who works in their office building's lower depths, where never the class-conscious twain is meant to meet. While his mercurial boss (John C. McGinley over-channeling his explosive Dr. Cox shtick from Scrubs) warns Brody against this downwardly mobile distraction, Jenny's quirky co-workers caution her against getting too attached to a potential tool.
It's an appealing though hardly groundbreaking set-up with some well-defined characters, especially among Jenny's crowd — as in Downton, our sympathies tend to lie with the working class — which includes a passive-aggressive IT malcontent (scene stealer Rory Scovel) whose yen for Jen sets him up as Brody's hapless antagonist. The central relationship is worth rooting for, and so within reason is the show. Don't sell this sleeper short. It's the best original comedy TBS has yet produced — which may not be saying much, but given the mostly lousy track record among broadcast sitcoms this fall, it's hardly bargain basement.
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COMEDY TONIGHT: On a higher-profile (if not necessarily higher-laugh-ratio) level, CBS's The Crazy Ones (9/8c) has settled into an agreeable but not quite must-see groove, this week enlivened by guest shots from seasoned sitcom vets: The Mary Tyler Moore Show's very own Lou Grant, Ed Asner, as an irascible old lech of a TV-commercial legend, "Mr. Finger," who can't keep his paws off of a rattled Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar); and Everybody Loves Raymond's towering Brad Garrett as Gordon Lewis, the business-side agency partner of "artistic monkey" Simon (Robin Williams). Their height disparity occasions some frisky riffs from Williams, as does Gordon's mercenary attitude toward clients, which Simon likens to "a truffle pig snuffing out joy." A few "juice cleanse" jokes aside, Gordon is also one of the least stereotypical gay characters we've seen on TV in a while. How crazy is that?
In even better news, CBS's The Big Bang Theory (8/7c) welcomes back Raj's timorous ex-girlfriend Lucy (Kate Micucci), who gets an earful from Penny (Kaley Cuoco). ... More happy news: NBC's best Thursday comedy, Parks and Recreation (8/7c), returns from temporary exile with back-to-back episodes involving a filibuster that pulls Leslie away from Ben's birthday party, and while we're not prepared for an unhappy outcome, it's time for Pawnee to hold its recall vote.
LOOKING BACK: Flashbacks fuel both of Shonda Rhimes' ABC hits: When Callie (Sara Ramirez) is hit with a malpractice suit on Grey's Anatomy (9/8c), details emerge about her marriage to Arizona (Jessica Capshaw); and first lady Mellie (the marvelous Bellamy Young) is the focus of Scandal (10/9c) as she decides to repair her public image with a hard-news interview, prompting glimpses of how she, husband Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and the indefatigable Cyrus (Jeff Perry) forged such a tight if fractious bond.
SAY IT AIN'T SO: Fox's Glee (9/8c) gives twerking a workout. Otherwise known as the what-hath-Miley-wrought episode. ... And on CBS's Elementary (10:01/9:01c), Sherlock's brother Mycroft (Rhys Ifans) tries to lure his master-sleuth brother back to London. Sorry, bro, that turf's already occupied by Benedict Cumberbatch, with new episodes of PBS's Sherlock set for January on Masterpiece Mystery!
THE THURSDAY GUIDE: Sundance Channel's creepy French import The Returned (9/8c) is easily the night's most unusual and compelling indulgence, with the complications mounting as the no-longer-dead try to adjust to their weirdly unsettled reunions with freaked-out loved ones. Arrested-adolescent Camille (Yara Pilartz) is especially stir-crazy, and adopts a new identity to be able to go out amid the curious populace. ... The fall run of USA Network's Covert Affairs (10/9c) is just about over already, and in the season's penultimate episode, the dream team of Annie, Auggie and Calder go off the books to Hong Kong in their pursuit of Henry's courier. But first, White Collar (9/8c) sends Neal undercover as a wealthy family's butler. Will he still get to wear a hat? ... The ongoing 50th-anniversary commemoration of President John F. Kennedy's assassination continues with one of the more unusual specials, as CBS Sports Network airs Marching On: 1963 Army-Navy Remembered (8/7c), a documentary account of the Army-Navy football game which took place 15 days after the tragedy and is seen as one of the events that helped a grieving nation move on. The Good Wife's Josh Charles narrates.
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