The Bill Engvall Show -- An early look
I don't think I would be stretching the truth too much if I said that the family sitcom is pretty much dead on network television. I mean, with the exception of According to Jim and perhaps Two and a Half Men, there has been a dearth of successful family comedies on the air since the departure of Everybody Loves Raymond and Arrested Development a few years ago.
Now, notice I said the family sitcom is dead on network television. On cable the family comedy thrives. In addition to constant reruns of shows like The Andy Griffith Show, The Cosby Show, Full House, Rosanne and Everybody Loves Raymond there are a number of original family comedies packing the schedules of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Programs like Hanna Montana, That's So Raven, Drake & Josh, and Just Jordan. True, many of these shows focus on the kids in the family rather than the grown-ups, but there is always a parent or two around to provide solace and wisdom when things turn bad.
So, it's no surprise that the next generation of family-centric situation comedies would begin to premiere on some of the cable networks that are commonly known for their ever-airing reruns of classic shows. It's even less of a surprise that a network like TBS has taken the reins on this task. For, while its sister station TNT is known for its original dramas, TBS, which is home Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement and Still Standing, wants to be known for its first-run comedies.
It began last year with late-night comedies 10 Items or Less and the surprise hit My Boys. Now, they are working on the prime-time market. The first sitcom to premiere was Tyler Perry's' House of Payne -- a series about a multi-generational, working-class family. On July 17th they roll-out of new family comedy with the premiere of The Bill Engvall Show.
Many of you know Bill from his appearance on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, where he performed his family-based stand-up comedy routine with the likes of Jeff Foxworthy (who had his own family sitcom once) and Larry the Cable Guy. Now, Bill is taking that experience and putting it into a honest-to-god three camera, live studio audience situation comedy. And, guess what? The show isn't that bad. It's certainly not the greatest situation comedy that has graced the television screen since its invention, but it has its moments.
Engvall stars as Bill Pearson (can't these guys think of any original names that don't start with their own first name?), a family counselor who lives in a Denver suburb. His wife, Susan (played by the lovely Nancy Travis), is a stay-at-home mom who keeps her children in line while amusingly tolerating her husband. The children are your typical sitcom kids. There's good-looking teenage daughter Lauren, sort-of slacker teenage son Trent, and ultra-smart youngest son Bryan, who seems like the adopted child in the entire group.
Plenty of stereotypical sitcom territory is stepped upon in this show. Like his predecessors in other sitcoms, Bill is shown as someone who thinks he has control over what goes on in the family, even though his wife is the one who really runs the house. Granted, he's not totally emasculated like, say, Tim Taylor was on Home Improvement, but he does act like a puppy who's peed the carpet in a few scenes. He's also a bit overzealous when it comes to helping his children with their issues. One example of this is when he wants to teach his eldest son how to wear a condom, which was one of the funnier scenes of the show.
But, there are some things that you normally don't see. For example the family is shown sitting down and actually having dinner together. There's also the fact that Lauren, the eldest daughter, isn't shown as a typical ditsy teenage girl. She shows common sense in her decisions, which is refreshing to see (and provides me a bit of comfort as a father of three young daughters who will one day be teenagers). Then there's the naked arguments between Bill and his wife. Don't ask!
Overall, there is more good than bad in The Bill Engvall Show. The cast is strong, the acting is solid, and the writing is definitely not cringe-inducing. While it will definitely not please everyone, it is a show that you and your (older) kids can watch. And, that's pretty important in today's world of television. So, I recommend giving it a shot and seeing what you think.