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April 24, 2014

Crumbs: Pilot

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 13th 2006 8:58AM
Crumbs castCrumbs is a show that is trying really hard to be something different than your standard sitcom. The problem is, it's probably trying a little too hard.

Here's the gist: Suzanne Crumb (Jane Curtin) is just getting out of a mental health care facility after having a nervous breakdown. She's not quite all the way back but has decided to leave. Her son Mitch (Fred Savage), a famous "movie writer" who is in the closet -- he's even sleeping with his therapist -- comes home to Connecticut to help her ease back into everyday life. He's also returned to mend fences with his brother Jody (Eddie McClintock), who hasn't forgiven him for running away after their brother Patrick died in a boating accident, the basis for Mitch's hit movie. Why did Suzanne lose her marbles? Because her husband Billy (William Devane) left her for a younger woman -- a restaurant reviewer who is now having their baby --  and abandoned the restaurant he ran with Jody, who is the chef.

Got that? Well, the family situation is the most interesting part of this pilot episode. Otherwise, it contains a lot of standard sitcom-y jokes involving Suzanne's fragile emotional condition (there are gags about "Lollipops!", the safe word she uses when she goes "to the dark place", as well as gags about pill popping and various other instabilities), Jody's ability to bed anything that moves, and Billy's late-in-life escape from the world he once knew ("I'm learning how to be a past-life massage therapist!"). Of course, Mitch is supposed to be the voice of reason, but he ends up spilling the beans to his mom about Billy's girlfriend's pregnancy, mainly because Suzanne was coming a little too close to guessing that he was gay (heck, I can't believe it, either. I mean, Kevin Arnold -- gay!).%uFFFD The episode culminates in a "wacky" scene where Suzanne threatens Billy with a gun, which turns out to be a lighter, and everyone but Mitch laughs. After some emotional talk with the family, Mitch realizes that writing the movie wasn't a cure-all, and ends up staying in Connecticut to try to reconnect with the rest of the Crumbs.

This show is supposed to be based on a true story, but I'm wondering if they didn't take that true story and try to make it into Arrested Development with a laugh track. "It's a nutty, dysfunctional family that doesn't necessarily like each other! Just like AD!" is what I'm sure the ABC executives were saying to themselves as they lit each other's cigars. But the problem is, they saddled what could be a potentially interesting and off-beat sitcom with too many standard three-beat sitcom jokes, most of which fall absolutely flat. If you're going to make a family that's "out there," you have to make them clever, too; without that, they're just a bunch of unfunny nutcases.

It's not that the stars aren't game; Jane Curtin is especially adept at playing the fragile Suzanne, who barely contains the urge to to destroy anything and everything in her path (she went to the hospital after trying to run down Billy in her car), and seeing her, Devane, and Savage back in prime time is always a good thing. But right now, the show is a bit too "zany" for its own good. It does not bode well that the show is so generic in form, especially since it's up against CSI and The Office. But the family dynamic makes the show intriguing. Maybe the second episode will be better.

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Nip Tuck

Great new show, but it won't make it past the first 1/2 season.

February 07 2006 at 7:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brent McKee

Curtin is certainly the best thing about this show. The over the top style she adopts is perfect for the character. As for Devane, well I've never cared for him in comedy. Stick to dramas Bill.

January 13 2006 at 3:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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