[07/17/12 - 08:05 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Friday Night Dinner" (NBC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]

(written by Greg Daniels; directed by Ken Kwapis; TRT: 20:46)

The network's description: No official description was released.

What did they leave out? It's based on Robert Popper's comedy for the U.K.'s Channel 4 of the same name starring Tamsin Greig, Paul Ritter, Simon Bird, Tom Rosenthal and Mark Heap. In addition, David Koechner was originally tapped as the family's neighbor, a role which ultimately went to Gary Anthony Williams.

The plot in a nutshell: It's Friday night at the Fisher household, when sons Gary (Gil Ozeri) and Paul (Kevin Bigley) return home for their weekly dinner with their parents, hospital volunteer/slightly looney Barbara (Allison Janney) and retired food scientist/hard of hearing Gene (Tony Shalhoub). And while they profess to be annoyed by the experience (Gary: "Did you call this week?" Paul: "No, if I call then we talk and I've got nothing left to day at dinner."), they instantly become eight-years-old upon entering the door, endlessly lobbying for attention and trying to make the other look worse in their parents' eyes.

This week however is a little different as Barbara informs them their step-cousin Lizzy (Aya Cash), who just moved to town for grad school, will be joining them as her mother refuses to co-sign her lease in the big bad city. Her arrival - and the subsequent reveal she's far from the chubby girl they once knew - nevertheless does little to dull the Fisher's various idiosyncrasies, as Gary creepily hits on his not technically related cousin, Gene is increasingly flustered by a hornet sting he received on his penis while peeing in the yard (don't ask) and Barbara tries to avoid the unwanted attention she receives from their peeping Tom neighbor Mark (Gary Anthony Williams). Ultimately, Lizzy finds she enjoys the Fishers or perhaps is just grateful they'll co-sign her lease.

What works: Yeah, so that was....

What doesn't: ...let's go with bizarre. The show plays almost like a live-action cartoon (and not in a good way) as aside from Lizzy, none of the characters seem to pass as human beings. While I guess that's kind of the point, in practice it's as if they figuratively put on jet packs and blast off into space. Everyone just says and does bizarre things for the sake of it, whether it's freaking out if there's going to be enough crumble dessert now that they have a guest, Paul blowing into his mother's feminine hygiene products while looking for a radio (again, please don't ask) and everyone improbably piling into Gary's hybrid to hear a commercial jingle he wrote (only to be met with an ear-drum shattering "Did It On Em" by Nicki Minaj).

I could go on ad nauseum - Barbara asks Lizzy "if you do have any nice friends [her sons] could sleep with we'd really appreciate it"; Mark writes Barbara a poem thanking her for waving to him through the window; Gene, after observing Gary's incestual overtures to Lizzy, remarks that "genetically speaking we're on solid ground here if you inseminate her" - as it's all just bundle upon bundle of crazy. I'm not familiar with the source material so maybe I'm missing the point of all this, but either way...

The bottom line: ...it's still not funny.

  [july 2012]  


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