Sons of Tucson -- TV Review

"Sons of Tucson"
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One might call Fox's "Sons of Tucson" a blended family comedy. In this case, it blends three boys, the sons of a banker doing prison time, with a schemer and con artist.

The boys, new arrivals to Tucson, Ariz., need the scammer to pretend to be their father, thus helping them avoid possible placement in separate foster homes. The scammer needs them to supplement his meager income as a slacker store clerk. In the premiere, he also needs help escaping a no-nonsense debt collector.

This might make a better premise for a movie than a series, but Fox is giving it a shot amid its Sunday animated comedies. It could pay off thanks to above-average writing, a winning performance by Tyler Labine and an understanding by the producers that this series must walk a tightrope to avoid becoming too sweet or cynical.

Labine plays Ron Snuffkin, the fast-talking, what's-in-it-for-me conniver who lives out of his car when he's not working at a large sporting-goods store. This, with only minor changes, is the same character Labine honed to perfection as Sock on the CW's "Reaper."

The boys, in order of age, are Brandon (Matthew Levy), the popular, social one; Gary (Frank Dolce), the streetsmart clever one; and Robby (Benjamin Stockham), the emotional and least devious of the trio.

If any of this suggests similarity to "Malcolm in the Middle," it's no coincidence. Executive producer Todd Holland was a co-executive producer and director for that series and directed the "Tucson" pilot. Justin Berfield, another exec producer of "Tucson," played older brother Reese throughout "Malcolm's" six-year run.

In the pilot, written by Greg Bratman and Tommy Dewey, the boys take Ron for a patsy, and he assumes they are naive and gullible. Initially, at least, neither side gives the other sufficient credit for duplicity. Soon, though, there is a grudging realization that everyone stands to benefit from perpetuating the charade.

In two of the three episodes Fox provided for review, Natalie Martinez guest stars as Robby's teacher, Maggie Morales. Her presence as a potential threat from authority and a love interest for Ron creates interesting story wrinkles. Here's one vote for making her a regular.

Neither the pilot nor the other episodes account for the absence of the boys' mother, other than to state the obvious fact that she is out of the picture. The character is, for now, a wild card that, if played wisely, could give the series a boost at the right time.

Airdate: 9:30-10 p.m. Sunday, March 14 (Fox)
Production: J2TV and Walking Bud in association with 20th Century Fox Television
Cast: Tyler Labine, Frank Dolce, Matthew Levy, Benjamin Stockham, Natalie Martinez, Kurt Fuller, Keegan-Michael Key, Angela Paton, Jake Busey
Executive producers: Matthew Carlson, Todd Holland, Justing Berfield, Jason Felts, Harvey Myman
Supervising producers/creators/writers: Greg Bratman, Tommy Dewey
Producer: Jimmy Simons
Director: Todd Holland
Director of photography: Joaquin Sedillo
Production designer: Dawn Snyder
Editor: John M. Valerio
Score: John Swihart
Set decorators: Cherie Ledwith, Daryn-Reid Goodall
Casting: Ken Miller, Nikki Valko
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