November 02, 2012

TV: Malibu Country (ABC, Fri 8:30)

And the fall TV rollout finally comes to an end
Reba (who has apparently abandoned "McEntire" for one-name billing) stars as Reba McKenzie, who gave up a promising career in country music to support her husband, who is also a singer. But now he's been caught cheating, and after the divorce, she's moved to Malibu in hopes of re-starting her career.

She's brought along her mother, Lily Mae (Lily Tomlin), who quickly takes a liking to Southern California's medical marijuana lollipops; and her teenage kids, Cash and June (Justin Prentice and Juliette Angelo). There's a perky trophy wife next door (Sara Rue, who has lost a heckuva lot of weight in the years since I last remember noticing her) with a gay son who becomes June's new best pal; and there's the obligatory sassy gay secretary (Jai Rodriguez, devoid of the charm he had during his Queer Eye years, and badly hamming up the Latin accent) at the record company where Reba is trying to be noticed.

The writing is bland and not terribly funny, but Reba, Tomlin, and Rue are doing their damnedest to sell it, and there are moments when they almost get away with it. Rue is rather miscast -- she's too smart a presence to be playing the big-boobed bimbo -- but she brings the character more life and sparkle than the script does. Tomlin has relaxed nicely into seniorhood, and is having a blast playing most of her scenes in a marijuana haze.

And Reba has charm and personality to spare. She doesn't have the widest acting range in the world, or a sophisticated style, but she's learned to do this sort of old-fashioned sitcom acting quite well, and delivers her punchlines with crisp timing.

Rodriguez is an embarrassing stereotype, and the kids are generic bland TV kids, but the three primary actresses occasionally come so close to making this mediocrity work that you'll find yourself longing to see them reunited in a better show.

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