The Bill Engvall Show
Empty9-9:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 17
"The Bill Engvall Show" is very much a throwback to a different time, when gently making light of family issues was all a sitcom aspired to -- and could carve a hit out of it. Of course, that was then and this is now: Comedy is dead, remember? Well, not really, but the kind of blue-collar domestic humor that passes for edge here feels dated on arrival. This doesn't mean that stand-up Engvall's show doesn't have some snap, crackle and pop; it does. He has nice chemistry with TV comedy vet Nancy Travis as his wife. Also, the fact that "Bill Engvall" shows up on TBS rather than CBS or NBC gives it a fighting chance, given that it only need appeal to a smaller basic cable target. All that said, the show isn't particularly funny, which should be the point, after all. We'll see just how much it matters.
"Blue Collar Comedy Tour" veteran Engvall stars here as Bill Pearson, your basic incredulous family counselor by day and put-upon husband and dad by night. Wife Susan (Travis) is vivacious and sassy in that unreal sitcom way. She's long-suffering and yet fully in charge of things, just as her husband tries to give the impression he has everything under control when in fact he's utterly clueless. But she lets him think he's running the show -- again, shades of family comedies past. They live in a Denver suburb with fussbudget teenage daughter Lauren (Jennifer Lawrence), video game enthusiast son Trent (Graham Patrick Martin) and neat freak son Bryan (Skyler Gisondo). There's also Bill's crazy best pal, Paul (Tim Meadows), the kind of guy who seems to suspect conspiracies around every corner.
So let's see ... in the opener, Bill winds up writing a school paper for Trent and runs afoul of his teacher because, well, he wrote it, and the teacher busts him. The usual madcap mix-ups ensue, if not exactly laughs. We also learn that Bill and Susan have developed a penchant for arguing in the nude on account of the fact that it tends to shorten the arguing time -- which leads to embarrassment when daughter Lauren walks in on them in the act of ... discussion.
Oh yes, and the family's pet snake gets loose, which spurs a whole other potential crisis of dysfunction. This is all part and parcel to Engvall's actual act, which the Galveston, Texas, native honed onstage and via such shows as "Blue Collar TV" and the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour." He also serves as co-writer, exec producer and creator of his namesake series, which is being hyped as sort of Jeff Foxworthy-lite. The sales pitch for "Bill Engvall" surrounds the idea that families around America will watch the show and declare, "Wow! Those people are just like us, only funnier!" More likely, they'll say, "Those people are nothing like us, like most other families on television!" Again, there is nothing inherently awful here, and it does embody a certain retro charm. But you fear somebody at TBS forgot to read the memo about how shows like this simply don't resonate anymore.
THE BILL ENGVALL SHOW
TBS Welladay Inc., Parallel Entertainment and Very Funny Prods.
Executive producers: Michael Leeson, Bill Engvall, J.P. Wlliams
Producer: Melanie Patterson
Teleplay: Bill Engvall and Michael Leeson
Director: James Widdoes
Director of photography: George Mooradian
Production designer: Garvin Eddy
Costume designer: Emily Draper
Editor: Andy Zall
Music: Jonathan Flood
Casting: Sally Stiner, Barbie Block
Bill Pearson: Bill Engvall
Susan Pearson: Nancy Travis
Bob Spoonerman: Steve Hytner
Lauren Pearson: Jennifer Lawrence
Trent Pearson: Graham Patrick Martin
Bryan Pearson: Skyler Gisondo
Paul DuFrayne: Tim Meadows