Kirstie: TV Review

TV Land
The allure of familiar faces does not save the show from a disappointingly tired sitcom rubric.

Far less innovative or ambitious than Kirstie Alley's Showtime series "Fat Actress," her new TV Land sitcom goes for old formulas and easy pickings.

Many things about TV Land's new sitcom Kirstie, starring Kirstie Alley, feel like a reunion show. It reunites Alley with her Cheers co-star Rhea Perlman, Michael Richards with his old Seinfeld co-star Jason Alexander (set to appear in an episode arc later this season), and viewing audiences with an old-school sitcom. 

The show revolves around Alley's Madison "Maddie" Banks, a snobby and clueless Broadway diva, whose close connections are limited to her snappy personal assistant (Perlman), and her spacey and shady chauffeur (Richards), whose lives revolve around her. Things are shaken up when the schlubby Arlo (Eric Petersen), the son Maddie gave up for adoption 26 years ago, finds her in New York. She doesn't believe she has motherly instincts, he just wants a connection but finds her hard to handle, and the writers hope comedy will ensue.

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The sets, the jokes and the audience laughter are all standard sitcom fare, with the first few episodes focusing on Maddie trying to figure out how to accept Arlo into her lavish but lonely life. Arlo, whose adoptive mother recently passed away, seems like he doesn't have much else to do than hang around Maddie (like those she employs) and try to give her hugs. Instead of embracing the sweetness, Maddie's irritation begins to feel justified. 

Alley seems to be restraining herself to this sitcom format to see if it will stick, unlike her Curb your Enthusiasm-style show Fat Actress, which ran on Showtime in 2005, and her 2010's docuseries Kirstie Alley's Big Life on A&E. After something of a comeback from a comeback by appearing on ABC's Dancing With the Stars last year, Alley appears to be giving another shot to a series built around her -- this time, in a tried and true format. However, Alley seems stiff and a little restless in Kirstie, like she's just itching to bust out of this restrictive format and do something more irreverent, and more fun. 

Kirstie is created and written by Marco Pennette, who has also been an executive producer for hits like Desperate Housewives, and flops like Animal Practice. Kirstie is somewhere in between. The show isn't terrible, it's just tired. It wouldn't necessarily be out of place on the lower rung of a slate of broadcast comedy pilots, but the setup lacks any innovation (though that's not really TV Land's game, as a network built on reruns). Quality can transcend some of these bumps, but unfortunately, Kirstie doesn't get anywhere near that level. 

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If viewers are drawn to the familiar faces of the cast members individually (Alley has a number of celebrity friends set to appear this year) and are happy to see them back on TV, then the show is a late-evening diversion at best. At worst -- and more likely -- it might end up as another genre struck off from Alley's valiant list of big efforts to return to the small screen.