Sherri -- An early look
by Kona Gallagher, posted Oct 5th 2009 9:00AM
Sherri, premiering tonight on Lifetime, is a very confusing show. It has flashes of genius, with several lines that made me laugh out loud ("Screw me once, shame on you. Screw a white woman -- we done"). At other times, however, it's bogged down with over-the-top dialogue and atrocious acting.
The premise behind Sherri is basically Sherri Shepherd's actual life. Both the real and fictional Sherri has held down jobs at a law office while working as a comedian and an actress, with bit parts on television shows. They both got married and had a son, only to find out that their husband was cheating on them.
The premise is actually a lot of fun -- especially since they play with Sherri Shepherd's actual career. For instance, there's a great scene between Sherri and her dad, Redmond (James Avery) in which he doesn't understand why she isn't more famous. He tells her that next time she's on 30 Rock, she should have Alec Baldwin write her a letter of recommendation for her resume. It's just the kind of hilarious, clueless thing that a father would tell his struggling-actress daughter.
Sherri came about because Shepherd started doing stand-up about her divorce, and it shows. Many of the funniest parts don't really work in a sitcom format, because they just feel too "stand-up." It often feels like Sherri is just doing her routine in an office break room instead of on stage.
It should be remembered that Shepherd, for all of her missteps as a host on The View, is a talented performer. The writers and producers on Sherri need to be more confident in this fact. They need to believe that they don't have to go completely over-the-top in order for people to get the jokes. With a cast that in addition to Shepherd and Avery includes Malcolm Jamal-Warner, as well as Michael Boatman from Spin City, you can trust the actors to deliver more subtle material in a funny way.
The material is fun, irreverent, but also quite serious at times, and Sherri Shepherd can handle it. The show just needs to find its groove and allow Shepherd to interact more with the characters instead of performing to them. This would also help solve Sherri's other big problem, which is that the supporting cast are little more than props for reaction shots or joke set-ups. Sherri could be a successful sitcom for Lifetime. They just need to let it.