'Angel From Hell': TV Review

Courtesy of CBS
A good cast makes the show better than it might otherwise be.
1/7/2016

Jane Lynch and a stellar cast gives this light comedy more punch, but does it have a purpose that will make you want to continue watching?

CBS should probably give a little bonus to whoever cast Angel From Hell, the network's new sitcom that premieres tonight. There are a lot of actors in the show that make decent jokes funnier than they might otherwise have a right to be. And, since we're talking compensation, CBS might want to give Jane Lynch an immediate raise.

Having watched the two episodes CBS made available, it’s nice to get behind a single-camera comedy from the network that so loves its multicams. Created by Tad Quill (who also wrote the pilot), Angel From Hell puts the raunchy and typically insouciant Lynch in the role of a guardian angel named Amy (with a drinking problem) sent down to look after Allison (Maggie Lawson), who shares a dermatologist practice with her father (Kevin Pollak) while her brother, Brad (Kyle Bornheimer), inexplicably lives in her garage. At first you’re not sure whether Amy is an actual angel or just a stalker, but the second episode ties up that loose end, “re-piloting” the pilot premise with a little more clarity.

There’s a lightness to Angel From Hell (well lit, upbeat, chirpy score, Lawson’s being ever so easy on the eyes, etc.), but it's able to cut some of that with Lynch nailing her lines in a manner that can best be described — after she’s been perfect in pretty much everything — as “Lynchian.”

This is ostensibly her show, of course, but it’s a very solid ensemble that helps carry the day. Lawson is both funny and sweet enough (and spazzy enough when asked to be) that Quinn and his writing staff can involve her in a number of misadventures that she handles deftly. Bornheimer, an engaging actor with expert timing, has never really been able to find a vehicle that turns into a hit while showcasing his talents, though this could be the one. Pollak is a pro who plays the dad here and, frankly, doesn’t get enough lines in the first two episodes but will no-doubt be solid when called upon.

The series is funny enough, however, with Lynch appropriately delivering the best lines, such as when Amy the guardian angel first convinces Allison she’s real (“You got your first period at Red Lobster, which is super ironic. Remember your first orgasm when you farted just a little bit?”). The trouble for Angel From Hell comes in the construct. Though you can give Lynch coarse jokes and snarky asides and also allow her to play the “weird friend” dispensing sincere life lessons to Lawson’s Allison, the question remains: Is there a reason for her character to be there at all? When the series fumbles, it’s because Amy is trying to impart some lesson to Allison. But from all indications she’s a very successful, bright, beautiful woman who maybe picked a bad boyfriend (fixed) and upsets a friend now and then (fixed), but is that really a character in desperate need of a guardian angel?

In other words, what’s going so terribly for Allison that a guardian angel had to suddenly arrive? Angel From Hell never really makes that clear nor, after two episodes, is it likely to — it’s just the show. Again, the cast is terrific and there’s enough humor to spirit away 23 minutes, but it hardly seems, in this early going, purposeful or magnetic.

Studio: CBS Television Studios
Cast: Jane Lynch, Maggie Lawson, Kyle Bornheimer, Kevin Pollak
Creator-showrunner: Tad Quill

Airs Thursday at 9:30 ET/PT on CBS

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