We're knee deep in November sweeps for the TV industry, so a good time to resume The Comic's Comic's ongoing series of new sitcom reviews from the fall 2008 season. Next up: Gary Unmarried.
Sitcom: Gary Unmarried (CBS) 8:30 p.m. ET/PT Wednesdays
Premise: Show originally titled Project Gary centers on Gary Brooks (Jay Mohr), newly divorced painting contractor, and his ex-wife, Allison (Paula Marshall) as they deal with moving on after 15 years of marriage and two kids they share: an awkward 14-year-old son and a politically old beyond her years 11-year-old daughter. Allison already has gotten engaged to the couple's marriage counselor (Ed Begley Jr.)? And Gary jumps into bed with one of his customers (Jaime King).
Early impression: Meh. Is this supposed to be an oafish alpha male version of The New Adventures of Old Christine (the show which precedes Gary on CBS Wednesdays)? With younger kids.
Can you judge a show by its pilot: Not if you want to keep watching because you'll probably be in disbelief. How is Allison's engagement to the couple's marriage counselor OK even to laugh about? Also, don't get too attached with the family daughter, because she got recast after the pilot.
Comedy pedigree: Mohr proved there is life after Last Comic Standing, didn't he, moving to guest-star roles in primetime to a recurring role on CBS in Ghost Whisperer (somewhere, Jamie Kennedy was taking notes). Begley Jr. plays so smart he's dumb. There's also another comedian in the cast with Al Madrigal playing Mohr's painting buddy. And James Burrows (Cheers, Will & Grace) is on board as executive producer and director.
Verdict: I watched all seven episodes (episode #8 airs tonight) and you can, too, online at the CBS site. If you do, patterns emerge. The first few episodes all open the morning after Gary and his new girlfriend have had sex, which is an interesting maneuver, I suppose, for the 8 o'clock family hour. The show is loaded with divorce jokes, which in this day and age, hits a wide swath of the potential viewing audience. Despite the premise, Gary and Allison have great chemistry and don't seem that mad at each other, so you wonder why they got divorced. And you never get a good reason why Gary's new girlfriend even liked him. That, plus the obvious weirdness of the marriage counselor who breaks up the couple and marries the ex. Obviously. The kids are sitcom kids, which means, in other words, not realistic. That said, Mohr and Co. manage to make the show watchable. I even found myself laughing out loud during one episode. It's very by the numbers, but the numbers add up to a mainstream audience. Last weekend, CBS ordered what's known as "the back nine" of a full season (original 13 episodes plus 9 = 22), with a seven-episode pickup and two additional scripts. It averages 7.4 million viewers, not quite the pull nor charisma of Bones over on FOX, but certainly better than Knight Rider at NBC, and not competing for viewers at all with ANTM on the CW. And who knows if Pushing Daisies will still be around to compete on ABC? All of which makes Gary good enough to keep around for now. Initial ruling: No longer a project.