Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fox Midseason Pilot Review: Surviving Jack - Premieres Thursday, March 27; Martin Lawrence on The Soul Man LIVE Tonight on TV Land

Surviving Jack

Surviving Jack - Thursdays at 9:30PM ET/PT on Fox
Premieres Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 9:30PM ET/PT


by Vincent

Surviving Jack is a new single-camera comedy set in 1990s Southern California. The series centers on Jack Dunlevy, an ex-military man and no-nonsense guy who becomes a full-time parent when his wife decides to go to law school. He takes an unorthodox approach to keeping his teenagers, Frankie and Rachel, in line.

Cast Details:

Christopher Meloni as Dr. Jack Dunlevy
Rachael Harris as Joanne Dunlevy
Connor Buckley as Frankie Dunlevy
Claudia Lee as Rachel Dunlevy

Christopher Meloni (Dr. Jack Dunlevy) is best known for his long-running role as Detective Elliott Stabler on Law & Order: SVU. He is also known for his work on dramas such as Oz and True Blood. Surviving Jack will be his first time headlining a comedy.

Rachael Harris (Joanne Dunlevy) has an extensive list of guest star credits, including Pushing Daisies, Desperate Housewives, Cougar Town, Archer, Happy Endings, New Girl, Party Down, The Office, Suits and Modern Family. Surviving Jack will be her first starring role in a series.

Connor Buckley (Frankie Dunlevy) has previously appeared in the film The Abduction of Zack Butterfield and in the series Mafia Diaries.

Claudia Lee (Rachel Dunlevy) is best known for her role as Magnolia Breenald on the CW drama Hart of Dixie. She also appeared in the films Kick-Ass 2 and the series Zeke and Luther.


Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" (Thursday, March 27 at 9:30PM ET/PT)

In the pilot episode of the series, Jack Dunlevy (Christopher Meloni) is left as the main caregiver of the Dunlevy household after his wife begins law school. While it seems simple at first, things become more complicated when his teenage son Frankie develops a crush, and his daughter Claudia gets a bit too far with her boyfriend. It's up to Jack to reel everyone in, the best way he can.

Analysis:

Surviving Jack is the latest in a wave of 80s/90s "nostalgia" sitcoms this season - the others being ABC's The Goldbergs and NBC's Growing Up Fisher. This is a trend that tends to pop up every so often, and with good reason - nostalgia is a powerful, powerful drug. Just look anywhere on the internet, and you'll be bombarded with endless reminders of just how amazing the '80s and '90s were and how much happier we'd all be if we could just live in that time period. Dating back to Happy Days' dominance, nostalgia-laced sitcoms have attempted to dig into this mindset, but the truth is that it's a hard thing for a sitcom to get right. There have been only a handful of sitcoms since Happy Days to successfully recapture its magic. This is because it's very easy for a sitcom set in the past to feel overly gimmicky and ultimately fast, especially since a sitcom isn't likely to delve into the complex fabrics of the era in a way a show like Mad Men can. When a show becomes more about the time period and less about the characters its placed in that time period, everything starts to look and feel artificial. For a show like this to work, the show has to place a stronger focus on the characters than it does on the "hey, look, it's 1990!" gimmicks. Otherwise, why go through the trouble of watching a half-hour sitcom when you can simply look at a list of gifs on Buzzfeed?

Luckily, the pilot episode suggests Surviving Jack is well aware of this. Helmed by veteran sitcom scribe Bill Lawrence (previous showrunner of Spin City, Scrubs and Cougar Town and current producer of TBS's Ground Floor), Surviving Jack boasts a handful of well-defined - if somewhat stereotypical - characters. Lawrence's experiences shows in the Surviving Jack pilot, which is bursting with the witty dialogue and subtle character moments that we've come to expect from his shows. The characters, as I noted, don't feel exactly original, and that goes for the plots, too - "hard-ass dad and his soft teenage son" is a situation we've seen time and time again, and the pilot uses a groan-worthy school dance plot that would've felt repetitive even back in 1991. But there's a level of earnestness to Surviving Jack that makes me think this is a show that will eventually allow its characters to rise above their stock types, and there are enough funny, charming moments through-out the pilot that it earns the pedigree of its producer. Surviving Jack is not the most interesting or refreshing new comedy of the season, but it's a simple pleasure, and there's always room for that on TV. As long as the show is able to rise above some of the assembly-line stock plots that existed in the pilot, it could become a solidly enjoyable family sitcom.

Conclusion:

Surviving Jack is a little too familiar for its own good, and some of the early '90s gimmicks are a bit too overdone. But with solid writing, strong performances, and a clear sense of direction, Surviving Jack still comes out looking like a pretty decent family sitcom. If the show allows itself to break out of its shell and experiment with some character types that don't feel straight out of 1991, it could grow into something even more.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3.5/5
Funniness: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • Fox.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Surviving Jack Photo Gallery

    Preview:




  • The Soul Man Live on TV Land

    Comedic legend Martin Lawrence and hip-hop artist B.o.B will round out The Soul Man guest cast for the LIVE season premiere TONIGHT (Wednesday, March 26) at 10:30pm ET/PT. Previously announced guest stars include singer/actress Brandy Norwood (Moesha) and Betty White, who will cross over to The Soul Man following the live episode of Hot in Cleveland. The LIVE season three premiere will simulcast on TV Land, BET and CENTRIC, as we mentioned. Martin Lawrence (Martin) will appear in the LIVE episode as Rudy, Boyce's (Cedric "The Entertainer") scatterbrained drummer pal who helps to bring Boyce's band back together. At the end of the night, GRAMMY-nominated artist B.o.B hits the stage live to close out the show with a performance that will include The Soul Man himself, Cedric "The Entertainer." In the LIVE season premiere episode, Brandy Norwood will play Rita, one of Boyce's old back-up dancers who's hiding an obvious secret; Betty White appears as Elka Ostrovsky, her Hot in Cleveland character whom Boyce counted as a former parishioner; and Kellee Stewart, returns as Lolli's (Niecy Nash) sister, Kim, who takes her relationship with Stamps (Wesley Jonathan) to the next level. Tune in LIVE for the The Soul Man premiere and also for the Hot in Cleveland LIVE episode, all starting at 10|9c on TV Land!


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Wednesday, October 28

    The Goldbergs - "It's All About Comptrol" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Geoff and Erica come to a point in the relationship where they realize they are in different places in college; and Geoff makes an important decision while Beverly tries to find a new purpose in her life as she seeks political office as the city comptroller.

    American Housewife - "Graudation" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    Katie goes to great lengths to appease Principal Ablin (Jerry Lambert) in order to ensure Taylor graduates high school. Meanwhile, Greg finishes ghost writing the final chapter of Lonnie’s (Matt Shively) book. And while Oliver is devastated to learn Cooper’s (Logan Pepper) family will be moving out of Westport, Anna-Kat tells Franklin (Evan O’Toole) she is ready to venture outside her comfort zone and plans to attend sleep-away camp during summer break.

    The Conners - "Halloween and The Election vs. The Pandemic" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    Mary is devasted that Halloween has been canceled by the city, so Darlene and Becky enlist Jackie and the rest of the family to create an unforgettable experience. Meanwhile, Mark goes toe-to-toe with another kid at school who doesn’t believe in wearing a mask on “The Conners.” Michael Fishman, who stars as D.J. Conner, makes his directorial debut.

    black-ish - "Dre at Home Order" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    Dre underestimates how hard of an adjustment operating during a pandemic will be for the Johnsons. Meanwhile, Junior’s attempts to bring his girlfriend closer to the family are stymied by the new realities of social distancing.

    Tyler Perry's House of Payne - "Been a Long Time" (BET, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    House of Payne is the hilarious comedy about Retired fire chief Curtis Payne and his lovely wife Ella. Together the loving couple navigate the problems of life with their quirky modern day family.

    Tyler Perry's Assisted Living - "A Huge Debt" (BET, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    Leah tries tracking Sandra's cell phone when she comes up missing.

    Family Time - "Notorious D-O-G" (Bounce TV, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Lisa brings home a stray, despite Tony's aversion to dogs; Lisa's and Vivian's Soul Sisters Catering secure their biggest gig yet.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 26)

    Wednesday, October 28

    • Gillian Jacobs (Community/Love) - Watch Gillian on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Ken Jeong (Community/Dr. Ken) - Ken appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
    • Bette Midler (Bette) - Bette is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. She also talks about New York Restoration Project’s Hocus Pocus Hulaween on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
    • Chelsea Handler (Are You There, Chelsea?) - Chelsea will be on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS. She chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
    • Anna Faris (Mom) - Anna appears on a repeat of A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll) - Natasha is a guest on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • D. L. Hughley (The Hughleys) - D. L. appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Rickey Smiley (The Rickey Smiley Show) - Rickey will be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Thomas Middleditch (B Positive/Silicon Valley) - Thomas is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Mario Cantone (Sex and the City) - Mario appears on The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
    • Emma Roberts (Scream Queens/Unfabulous) - Emma will be on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
    • Phil Rosenthal (Creator of Everybody Loves Raymond) - Phil is a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your loca listings.
    • Michael Fishman (The Conners/Roseanne) - Michael talks about the season premiere of The Conners, directing his first episode and why he has become a mental health advocate on Tamron Hall, so check your local listings.
    • China Anne McClain (Tyler Perry's House of Payne/A.N.T. Farm) - China will be on Tamron Hall, so check your local listings.
    • Ilana Glazer (Broad City) - Ilana is a guest on ABC's GMA3: What You Need to Know at 1pm.
    • Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) - Jameela talks about TBS's The Misery Index on Access Daily, so check your local listings.
    • Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project/The Office) - Mindy will be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (July/August/September/October)

    Will & Grace - The Revival -Season Three - The Farewell Season Young Sheldon - The Complete Third Season Mom - The Complete Seventh Season The Flintstones - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Head of the Class - The Complete Second Season

    07/07 - Will & Grace - The Revival - Season Three - The Farewell Season
    07/21 - Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Tenth Season
    07/21 - The Thundermans - Season 1 / Season 2 / Season 3 / Season 4
    07/21 - The Unicorn - Season One
    07/28 - The Thundermans - Season 1-4 Bundle
    08/04 - Last Man Standing - The Complete Eighth Season
    08/04 - The Neighborhood - Season One
    08/11 - Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens - Season 1
    08/11 - Final Space - The First and Second Seasons (Blu-ray)
    09/01 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Season 14
    09/01 - What We Do in the Shadows - The Complete Second Season
    09/01 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
    09/15 - Mom - The Complete Seventh Season
    09/15 - South Side - Season 1
    09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Second Season
    09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Third Season
    09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Fourth Season
    09/22 - Man with a Plan - Season Three
    09/29 - The Bob Newhart Show - The Complete Series (2020 Release)
    10/13 - The Jetsons - The Complete Series (Diamond Collection)
    10/13 - Our Cartoon President - Season Two
    10/27 - The Flintstones - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    10/27 - Head of the Class - The Complete Second Season (WBShop.com)
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

    10/28 - COZI TV Halloween Marathons of The Munsters & Roseanne; Apple TV+ Orders Another Comedy, This Time with Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen
    10/27 - Freeform's The Clock Is Ticking Special with Yara Shahidi; Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Ends on New Year's Eve
    10/26 - TBS Orders 3rd Season of Miracle Workers; SNL Extended to 6 New Episodes in a Row - A Record!
    10/25 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 26, 2020)
    10/24 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Another Addams Family Reboot in the Works?; Quibi Says Goodbye After Six Months
    10/23 - Fri-Yay: Archer Goes Back to Its Roots for Season 11; Everybody Loves Raymond Cast Reunion Tonight
    10/22 - CBS Announces More Fall Premieres; REELZ Books Jennifer Aniston Special
    10/21 - MeTV Network Acquires Looney Tunes and More Classic Cartoons; Kaley Cuoco HBO Max Series Announces Nov. 26 Premiere
    10/20 - Antenna TV Officially Announces Returns of The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time; Holiday Movie Reunites Family Matters Siblings
    10/19 - Disney+ Says "Simpsons Forever"; TBS Orders 4th Season of The Last O.G.
    10/18 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 19, 2020)
    10/17 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Fried Green Tomatoes Series Starring Reba McEntire in the Works at NBC; Last Man Standing to End After Nine Seasons
    10/16 - Fri-Yay: COVID-19 Storylines on TV, Will Viewers Watch?; Antenna TV's 70 Episode Jack Benny Marathon for 70th Anniversary
    10/15 - Last Man Standing to Conclude After Season 9 in 2021; CBS Announces Fall 2020 Premiere Dates
    10/14 - TBS Brings Out Halloween Sitcom Episodes on Halloween; Remembering Conchata Ferrell of Two and a Half Men
    10/13 - Freeform's 'Kickoff to Christmas' Schedule; Celebrate 20 Years of Curb on HBO Max
    10/12 - TNT Airing The West Wing Reruns on Fridays; Kate Mulgrew Joins Star Trek Animated Comedy
    10/11 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 12, 2020)
    10/10 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Seinfeld's Newman Returns in PSA to Encourage Mail-In Voting; Showtime Cancels On Becoming a God in Central Florida
    10/09 - Fri-Yay: One Day at a Time Makes Broadcast Debut As a Continuation of the Series' Unlikely Journey; Dickinson Season 2 Premiere Date and Renewal for Season 3
    10/08 - Hallmark Drama Adding Cheers, Happy Days and The Brady Bunch; Chelsea Handler HBO Max Special Gets Date
    10/07 - NBC Fall Pilot Review: Connecting... - Premieres Thursday (Oct. 8); Supernatural Gets Marathons on TNT as Series Finale Airs Nov. 19 on The CW
    10/06 - Cobra Kai Season 3 Premiere Date, 4th Season Renewal; Busy Philipps Joins Peacock Comedy Girls5eva
    10/05 - Apple TV+ Launches The Snoopy Show in 2021; Antenna TV Celebrates 70th Anniversary of The Burns and Allen Show
    10/04 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 5, 2020)
    10/03 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Saved by the Bell Reboot Debut Date Set; South Park Pandemic Special a Ratings Hit
    10/02 - Fri-Yay: The Return of Sitcoms: black-ish & Superstore; Bounce Acquires Everybody Hates Chris & Greenleaf
    10/01 - NBC's Young Rock Announces Cast; OWN Gets Digital Comedy
    09/30 - Saved by the Bell Reboot Launching November 25; HBO Orders Weekly Talk Show with Sam Jay
    09/29 - The Addams Family Coming to FETV; Netflix Developing Korean Sitcom
    09/28 - 2002-2007 Sitcom George Lopez Coming to TBS; Guests Announced for black-ish Election Special