January 20, 2011

TV: Retired at 35 (TV Land, Wed 10:30)

This is TV Land's attempt to come up with a companion for Hot in Cleveland. They have failed. As old-fashioned as Cleveland is, it offers reasonably funny writing and a cast of old pros who know to sell every punchline for all it's worth; I can usually count on a few good laughs from every episode. Retired at 35 didn't make me laugh once.

Johnathan McClain stars as David, who lives in New York, but has come to visit his parents (George Segal and Jessica Walter) in Florida for his mother's birthday. He finds that he likes the laidback lifestyle more than he did as a kid, and when his obnoxious boss makes one too many demanding phone calls, he quits. And so David will be trying to settle into his old hometown, with lots of generational conflicts (there are way too many jokes in the pilot about how funny and/or disgusting it is that old people still think about or -- god forbid -- actually have sex) and old sibling rivalries.

One of the show's problems is that it's not clear what this place in Florida is. It's David's hometown -- we meet his best friend and an old high school girlfriend -- but it feels more like a retirement community than a regular all-generations kind of town.

The biggest problem, though, is the writing. Most of the younger cast members aren't terribly well known, but Segal and Walter have been doing this for long enough that by now, you don't have to give them much for them to get a laugh. But you have to give them something, for god's sake, and they are absolutely floundering here for lack of anything funny to say or do. Segal hauls out his banjo a few times; Walter displays her latest painting, a full length nude of a hunky young guy -- and these things are done as if they are inherently funny. They aren't.

McClain is a pleasant enough, albeit rather bland, leading man, or maybe he just seems bland in the face of such dull material. Casey Wilson is unforgivably shrill as David's sister, pounding the "mom and dad like you best" drum with her every line. If there is a silver lining to be found here, it's Christine Ebersole, who comes frighteningly close to getting a laugh or two as an older woman with whom David winds up in bed.

But that's awfully meager pickings. Retired at 35 is a mess, which you may cheerfully ignore without fear of missing anything.

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