'Benched' and 'The McCarthys': TV Review

Sonja Flemming/CBS
Two late-fall premieres may find it hard to find an audience. Being funnier would help. 

Guy walks into a bar Tuesday night. Bartender tells him there's a new TV show premiering. Guy weeps, pleads for a drink.

That guy is a TV critic. And the same scene will be repeated Thursday night.

For the love of all things holy, can we have a week where we just watch what's already premiered? Stop with the new stuff, already!

Yeah, yeah, I know. Way back in the day we all dreamed of a year-round TV season so there wouldn't be any reruns, and shiny, new things would appear on our screens weekly. But nobody thought it was going to be this crowded.

Besides, in theory at least, the idea was we'd like everything that was new. Maybe we didn't think it through.

Tonight at 10 is the premiere of USA's Benched, a legal comedy that has a few big laughs, some groaners and a steady stream of that's-decent-enough jokery. (And yes, I know that's not a word.) And on Thursday at 9:30 p.m., CBS unveils The McCarthys, a new sitcom that's not very good at all, but like so many other not-very-good comedies on CBS, will probably get into syndication.

So, your official TV scorecard should read: "Benched — maybe something will happen there" and "The McCarthys — nope."

Not much to get excited about, to be sure, but on the bright side maybe you'll find one of them good enough to fill the void left by ABC's Manhattan Love Story being canceled. What's that? Like everyone else, you weren't watching that one?

Look, I'm trying to find the upside here, people. It's almost November, and new shows keep coming. Help me out a little.

Benched stars Eliza Coupe as Nina, a lawyer at a prestigious firm who gets passed over for a promotion and goes ballistic, and thus ends up so tainted she can't get a job anywhere except the public defender's office, where she is, predictably, a bad fit. Coupe, who starred in Happy Endings on ABC, is very funny, very talented and deserves a show that stays on the air long enough to showcase her skills. Maybe Benched will be that show, but early on it's not honed enough — despite some very funny moments with Coupe — to get anyone super excited about future episodes. Of course, being this close to November doesn't help. There's definitely a fatigue element about comedies that could be kinda, sorta good in time. We were all so much more patient in September.

That said, if you do have the bandwidth to keep up with Benched, there are certainly elements in place that offer hope — among them Jay Harrington as fellow defense lawyer Phil (Harrington's presence stirs such fond memories of his old, canceled series, Better Off Ted, also late of ABC, that it upstages the nostalgia for Coupe's old, canceled series, Happy Endings, and sets in motion a lot of seething about what the hell ABC has been thinking).

Unfortunately, most of the other characters on Benched remain unformed, so early offerings seem middling and temper that hope — but hey, maybe you have better batteries.

On the other hand, no amount of endurance is going to make me come back for more of CBS's The McCarthys, which manages to be unfunny, dated and stereotypical all in under a half-hour.

By the title you should know that this is a show about an Irish family, which of course means they drink and of course means they live in Boston. They also really love sports and are not above making jokes about having too many kids. The twist, apparently, is that one of the McCarthy kids is gay and ain't that a hoot. He's not into sports — of course not! — but gets to help coach with his dad, which will allegedly lead to laughs. Now, it should be noted that McCarthys creator Brian Gallivan, who is gay, based this show on his family (and yes, his dad did coach high school basketball). But it should also be noted that the filmed version of such a life doesn't automatically make it funny just because it was true.

The McCarthys is broad — very broad, like all CBS shows. It has solid main actors, another CBS mainstay, in Laurie Metcalf and Jack McGee as the McCarthy parents. Some people will be all in on the Irish/drinking/gay jokes and how a laugh track (or a goosed live studio audience) can chuckle away 22-odd minutes of their lives on such topics. But watching the show feels like being in a time capsule, whereas the problems inherent in something like Benched seemed vastly more tolerable and much likelier to be fixed.

Then again, it's almost November. It's hard to add new shows this late. Generosity with time and indulgence in half-laughing is sorely lacking. Maybe I'll DVR Benched, and then if it gets renewed in a few months, I'll drink to second chances.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com

Twitter: @BastardMachine

 

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