Comedies were soaring ... then sort of crashed


This is an updated version of the TV comedy round-up, one piece of the six-part season preview I sent to papers. The updates involve "Murphy Brown" and "Forever," which weren't available previously. Scroll down and you'll see the stories on mini-series and on non-fiction; scroll up and you'll see the others.

 

By Mike Hughes

For a moment, fans
of traditional comedies – the kind done with a studio audience –
were delighted.

“Roseanne” and
“Will & Grace” were back and funny. They joined other top
returning shows – led by “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mom” --
with new ones (including “The Cool Kids”) on the way.

Then it all crashed.
Roseanne Barr was dropped from “Roseanne,” which became “The
Conners.” Also, “Big Bang” announced this will be its final
season. And many of the comedy newcomers are so-so.

Still, there's hope
– and there's a new “Murphy Brown.” Here's a comedy preview:

The best

-- “The Kids Are
Alright” (8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Oct. 16, ABC). In real life, Tim
Doyle grew up in an Irish Catholic family, surrounded by six
brothers. Now he turns that into a vibrant comedy, centering on the
one boy who wants a stealth life in theater. Mary McCormack and
Michael Cutlitz avoid all cliches as the bright and caring, if
overwhelmed, parents.

-- “Hold the
Sunset” (arrived Sept. 12, Britbox). After triumphing with “Fawlty
Towers,” John Cleese managed to wait 39 years before doing another
sitution comedy. Now, at 78, he's one piece of this British delight.
He and his neighbor, both widowed, are ready to marry; then her grown
kids manage to crumble in loud and funny ways.

-- “Forever”
(Sept. 14, Amazon Prime). A husband and wife (Fred Armisen and Maya
Rudolph) make a drastic decision: This year's vacation will involve
skiing, not fishing. The result is done with quiet, offbeat charm;
it's Armisen's third cable gem, alongside “Portlandia” and
“Documentary Now.”

-- “The Cool Kids”
(8:30 p.m. Fridays, Fox, Sept. 28). Here is a throwback comedy –
broad, silly, noisy and surprisingly appealing. Martin Mull, Leslie
Jordan and David Alan Grier figure they're the cool ones in this
retirement community ... then are reluctant to let Vicki Lawrence
share the turf. Jordan's brash style is the perfect counterpoint for
the droll approaches of the other skilled pros.

The rest

-- “Rel” (9:30
p.m. Sundays, Fox, Sept. 30, but debuted Sept. 9). Borrowing from his
real life, Lil Rel Howery plays a divorced dad. This is broad –
sometimes too broad – humor, sometimes stabilized by Sinbad as
Rel's dad.

-- “Single
Parents” (9:30 p.m. Wednesdays, ABC, Sept. 26). At an upscale
school, one guy (Taran Killam) wants to be a superdad; others (Brad
Garrett, Leighton Meester, Jake Choi) just want to get by. Then they
decide to convert him, with fairly funny results.

-- “Murphy Brown”
(9:30 p.m. Thursdays, NBC, Sept. 27). This is no match for the great
comedies, ones where laughs flow naturally from dialog; instead,
“Murphy” is too often a series of disconnected one-liners. Still,
some of those lines are sharp and smart; there are enough to keep us
watching.

-- “Last Man
Standing” (8 p.m. Fridays, Fox, Sept. 28). OK, this isn't
completely new; it had six successful seasons, before ABC canceled
it. After a year off, it's back, recasting some of the kids. We're
rooting for it ... but the opener is fairly stiff and only mildly
funny.

-- “The
Neighborhood” (8 p.m. Mondays, CBS, Oct. 1). Calvin (Cedric the
Entertainer) is happy with this mostly black neighborhood in Los
Angeles. Then his new neighbor (Max Greenfield) seems too friendly,
too suburban ... and way too white. It's an erratic comedy, but one
that tries hard.

-- “Happy
Together” (8:30 p.m. Mondays, CBS, Oct. 1). For a year, Harry
Styles – a hot pop star, fresh from One Direction – secretly
lived in the quiet home of Ben Winston. Now Winston (who produces
James Corden's shows) has exaggerated this for a comedy. These
middle-class folks (Amber Stevens West and Damon Wayans Jr.) are very
likable; the show is merely OK.

-- “I Feel Bad”
(9:30 p.m. Thursdays, NBC, Oct. 4, but debuts 10 p.m. Wednesday,
Sept. 19). Emet (Serayu Blue) has a great career, a nice husband
(Paul Adelstein), good kids ... and zero time. Is she really happy?
Is she supposed to be? It's an intelligent comedy, if not always an
entertaining one.

And more

There are some other
comedies we haven't seen yet. Two of the most notable are:

-- “Camping” (10
p.m. Sundays, Oct. 14, HBO). Jenni Konner and her former “Girls”
star, Lena Dunham, have written and directed this tale of families
trying to have fun in the wild. Kathryn (Jennifer Garner) is
organized and enthusiastic; her husband (David Tennant) is not.

-- “The Kominsky
Method” (Nov. 16, Netflix). Chuck Lorre, the comedy master of “Big
Bang” and “Mom” and more, has Oscar-winners Michael Douglas,
73, and Alan Arkin, 84. They play Hollywood veterans, which they are.