Big Lake -- TV Review

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Much can be said about "Big Lake," Comedy Central's new original sitcom, but no one can accuse it of being untopical.

"Lake" is the story of Josh Franklin, former Wall Street whiz kid with "a sweet job and a very tall girlfriend" whose financial finagling got him fired. He's now sleeping on his parents' couch, having vowed that he won't leave until he pays Dad back all the retirement money he lost on said schemes. (That he probably would have speedier success back in a coastal city among his fellow wizards is an obvious but ignored point.)

All of this sets up the pilot, one of the oddest mishmashes of amateur TV-making -- including cable-access programming -- to grace the dial.

Yes, "Big Lake" comes with a solid pedigree that includes executive producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, and it does feature Horatio Sanz as the sidekick and James Rebhorn as the dad, but someone must owe a very big favor to have signed on to this project; those talents are far better than the material would suggest.

In addition, they're acting against charisma-free newcomer Chris Gethard, as Franklin, who gesticulates as if he's doing stand-up. In the pilot, Gethard's Franklin drags Sanz around trying to scrounge up money by selling a valuable baseball; suffice it to say that when John the Baptist shows up in a hallucination, things go awry. There's one good laugh here, and it comes via the "tall girlfriend" joke in the opening three minutes. The rest is filler.

Content aside, "Lake" has a strange tonal quality. It presents as an utterly conventional sitcom: living room-based, golly-gosh-gee nuclear family, laugh track/live audience guffawing along. But the oddly retro setting clashes with the random insertion of bleeped swear words and modern subject matter. The pace also is disjointed; at times, the actors appear to have done separate readings that were edited together later. It's off-putting and barely coherent.

It would be nice to think that the geniuses behind "Lake" were in on a big joke -- one in which an old-fashioned sitcom can be parodied by dragging it into the present, a la "The Brady Bunch Movie." But that's be too much to ask here. Instead, just sit back and wait for "Lake" to finish swirling and go gurgle gurgle down the drain, making room for something that's actually funny.

Airdate: 10-10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17 (Comedy Central)
Production: Gary Sanchez Prods., Lew Morton, Debmar-Mercury, Lionsgate
Cast: Chris Gethard, Chris Parnell, Horatio Sanz, Deborah Rush, Dylan Blue, James Rebhorn
Executive producers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Chris Henchy, Lew Morton
Creator-writer: Lew Morton
Co-executive producer: Don Scardino, T. Sean Shannon, Mike Schwartz. Consulting producers: Al Higgins
Supervising producers: Alysse Bezahler
Producer: Owen Burke
Director: Don Scardino
Director of photography: Bill Berner
Production designer: Nicholas Lundy
Costume designer: Tom Broecker
Casting: Jennifer Euston
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