Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TV premiering tonight: Help Me Help You

I suppose it was inevitable after the boom in single-camera, laugh-track-free sitcoms that some producer would come along and decide their lame, predictable traditional sitcom could be made hipper by shooting it in the single-camera style and getting rid of the laugh track. And that's pretty much what's happened here. This is, in almost all ways, a creaky, familiar, formulaic sitcom, with Ted Danson doing a slight variation on his standard persona and a bunch of one-note supporting characters. It's even got one of my least favorite actresses, Jane Kaczmarek, as Danson's ex-wife, doing her typical shrill, overbearing thing. I have no idea why this woman gets so much acclaim and all those award nominations.

The format wouldn't matter if the show were funny, which is of course what these producers fail to understand. It's not just the format that makes shows like My Name is Earl, The Office and Arrested Development work; it's the creativity in the writing and performances. So tired old devices like the psychiatrist who has more problems than his patients (which is the concept of this show) don't cut it, no matter how you shoot them. And it's not like they even make very many allowances for change - you can practically hear the pauses where the laugh track would be, only there aren't any laughs. ABC, Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m.

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