'Clipped': TV Review

Clipped Still - H 2015
Danny Feld

Clipped Still - H 2015

A broad and familiar-feeling workplace comedy.

The creators of 'Will & Grace' helm TBS' new Boston-set barbershop sitcom.

Clipped, TBS’ new scripted comedy about a Beantown barbershop, is one of the few Boston-set sitcoms to crop up since Cheers. Is that a risky idea? Perhaps, but this show has a secret weapon: Norm.

Created by Will & Grace EPs David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, Clipped features a young, bubbly ensemble cast, though it’s likely many viewers will tune in to see George Wendt’s TV return. (This is his first regular series role in 20 years.)

While the city hasn’t changed, this time Wendt trades his barstool for a barber chair and wife Vera for boyfriend Tommy (played by another sitcom vet, Family MattersReginald VelJohnson). Wendt’s character, Buzzy, doesn’t dominate the plotline, but he’s certainly the glue that holds the fresh-faced gang together.

The shop is staffed by a group of 20-somethings that knew each other in high school: blond dreamer Danni (Ashley Tisdale), aw-shucks athlete A.J. (Mike Castle), abrasive shop owner Ben (Ryan Pinkston), streetwise stylist Charmaine (Diona Reasonover), oddball Mo (Matt Cook) and do-gooder Joy (Lauren Lapkus). As with most workplace comedies, unrequited love, unrealized dreams and friendly friction abound. However, Kohan and Mutchnick are skilled at twisting these TV tropes into a world that feels comforting and friendly, if not completely new.

Even though the show opens with a bummer — Ben says he needs to fire a staffer — one suspects the stakes never will be terribly high on Clipped. Danni pines for A.J., Mo pines for Joy, Buzzy pines for Matthew McConaughey. And sure, a few dark clouds loom overhead: Joy’s marriage is dissatisfying, Danni is paying her dad’s medical bills, and Buzzy has a gambling problem. But they manage to laugh about it, so why can’t we? Everything is awesome, even when it’s not, and especially when it’s shared in a thick Boston accent.

As for that accent, it’s worth noting almost every character fully commits — with varying skill levels. I haven’t heard a “park the car in Harvard Yard” joke yet, but I guarantee it’s coming — especially since VelJohnson plays a parking attendant.

While Tisdale and Castle seem to get the most screen time, much of Clipped’s charm lies in distinctive performances by Lapkus and Cook. Just as Wendt and Tisdale will attract their own admirers, so will these two comedians, whether it’s for Lapkus’ Orange Is the New Black role or the actors' respective podcasts.

Clipped is a broad comedy that harkens back to the ‘80s and ‘90s sitcoms that, well, still enjoy a lot of airtime on TBS. Ben’s character comes straight out of the Louie De Palma handbook. A.J. is a modern-day Mike Seaver, Mo is Skippy Handelman all over again, and Buzzy is the new Norm.

Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with that.