September 27, 2009

TV: Brothers (FOX, Fri 8)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the worst new show of the season!

The brothers of the title are Mike (Michael Strahan) and Chill (Daryl "Chill" Mitchell). Mike is a former NFL player forced to move in with his family in Houston after a crooked manager makes off with all of his money; Chill was perhaps an even better athlete when they were boys, but as a result of a drunk driving accident, now uses a wheelchair. Their father, "Coach" (Carl Weathers), is the local high school football coach, and mother Adele (CCH Pounder) runs the household with an iron fist.

The show gets most of its jokes from its characters' infirmities; the wheelchair and Coach's apparent case of early-onset Alzheimer's are at the top of the list, but the gap between Strahan's front teeth is the subject of far more jokes than you'd think possible.

Strahan actually is a former NFL player, and this is his first significant acting role; somewhat surprisingly, he's not the worst thing about the show, and if given a smaller role in a show with better writing, he might develop into a perfectly competent sitcom actor.

No, the worst thing about the show -- and it pains me to say this -- is the normally reliable CCH Pounder, who has done fine work in shows like The Shield and ER. But this is her first major sitcom role, and she seems to think that being funny means being loud; she clubs the audience over the head with every punchline.

That's not entirely her fault, I suppose, since the entire program -- writing, directing, acting -- lacks any sense of subtlety. There is one scene, in which we learn that Chill blames Mike for that auto accident, that comes tantalizingly close to real emotion, but it's certainly not enough to redeem the show, which is a trashy and obnoxious mess.

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