Friday, September 18, 2015

CBS Fall Pilot Review: Life in Pieces - Premieres Monday, Sept. 21; Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of September 21, 2015)

Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces - Mondays at 8:30PM ET/PT on CBS
Premieres Monday, September 21, 2015 at 8:30PM ET/PT


by Skees

As families grow old, sometimes lives also break into separate pieces, and Life in Pieces is the latest CBS sitcom to follow a family that is growing old both together and apart. The single-camera comedy follows Joan and John Short (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) as they approach their 70s, and their grown children as they reach milestones in their lives. It's a different type of sitcom that tells four short stories in one episode, each one following one branch of the family tree... in separate pieces.

Cast Details:

Dianne Wiest as Joan Short
James Brolin as John Short
Zoe Lister-Jones as Jen Short
Colin Hanks as Greg Short
Angelique Cabral as Colleen
Thomas Sadoski as Matt Short
Betsy Brandt as Heather Short
Dan Bakkedahl as Tim

Dianne Wiest (Joan) is an accomplished actress who has won numerous awards, including two Emmys, two Academy Awards, and a Golden Globe. She began acting as a student at the University of Maryland, and transitioned to film by the 1980s. Her first starring role in the movies came in Footloose. She is also known for her starring role in the Steve Martin film Parenthood. Despite all of her accomplishments, this marks her first appearance in a sitcom, though she has appeared in a regular role on the series Law & Order.

James Brolin (John) got his start as an actor in several guest appearances on TV series, but he bumped that up to a starring role when he was cast opposite Robert Young in the medical drama Marcus Welby, MD. Later, he starred in the ABC prime-time soap opera Hotel, and in the late 90s, he starred in the syndicated series Pensacola: Wings of Gold.

Zoe Lister-Jones (Jen) has appeared in several independent films, and gained TV prominence with a starring role in the NBC sitcom Whitney. She was also a regular in the short-lived Friends with Better Lives, and most recently, she had a recurring role on New Girl.

Colin Hanks (Greg) had his first TV appearance on the series Roswell. He has also appeared in Mad Men, The Good Guys, and most recently, Fargo. He is the son of Tom Hanks.

Angelique Cabral (Colleen) started out doing soap operas almost exclusively, including Guiding Light, All My Children, and One Life to Live. She eventually appeared in guest roles on several sitcoms, including a regular role on Fox's Enlisted.

Thomas Sadoski (Matt) got his debut in the film Loser. His television credentials include guest roles in multiple series in the Law & Order franchise and eight episodes of As the World Turns.

Betsy Brandt (Heather) is best known for her role of Marie Schrader in Breaking Bad. She also starred in The Michael J. Fox Show, as well as episodes of the TV series Parenthood and Masters of Sex.

Dan Bakkedahl (Tim) appeared as a correspondent on The Daily Show from 2005 until 2007. He had a regular role on the series Legit, and has had recurring roles on Veep, The Goldbergs, and The Mindy Project.

Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" (Airs September 21 at 8:30PM ET)

The Short family is living life in pieces. Joan (Dianne Wiest) and John (James Brolin) are the elders, adjusting to getting old, as best as they can. Son Greg (Colin Hanks) and his wife Jen (Zoe Lister-Jones) are adjusting to life as new parents. Daughter Heather (Betsy Brandt) and Tim (Dan Bakkedahl) are adjusting to life as old parents, facing their own children ready to fly from the nest. And son Matt (Thomas Sadoski) is just trying to find romance with Colleen (Angelique Cabral), that is, if she can get rid of her ex-boyfriend who happens to own her house (cameo appearance by Jordan Peele). They're going to have to find a way to get through it all together.

Analysis:

This is not at all a sitcom made for traditional television. Sitcoms on broadcast (and even cable) have been consistent in their format of having their "A story," the one that is the main focus of the episode, then a "B story," and occasionally a "C story" and a "D story." This series seems to try to cram four "A stories" into one episode, and it is virtually impossible to make that work consistently in 20 minutes each week, particularly when the four stories are being isolated into a five minute block (think of those cartoons that you watched in the 80s, where each episode had multiple unrelated stories). In watching the pilot, I couldn't really get a good feeling for who the characters really were or learn anything about their personality, with the exception of perhaps James Brolin's character. Most of them were just two-dimensional with little or no personality. They did somewhat tie all of the stories together in the fourth story, which I'm not sure if that will be a regular feature, but even that didn't do a whole lot. By and large, I felt like I was watching four different shows... with a lot of nothing happening in each of them.

For that reason, I think that this series probably would have been a better fit for something like Netflix or Hulu, where the episodes could be a bit longer than the standard sitcom length, and they would be able to use as much time as needed to actually tell four individual stories. In fact, in the review version of the pilot that I watched (which came with the disclaimer that it wasn't a final broadcast version, and I'm sure it wasn't) seemed to be designed for something other than network television, with some language and a lot more sexual discourse than I have come to expect from network television. It is almost as if the pilot was written and even produced with something other than CBS in mind. I don't know whether or not that is the case, though, because all of the information that I've found about it online shows it being tied to CBS all along.

The series was a bit lacking on the laughs as well. There were a few minor chuckles, but a lot of the things that were supposed to be funny were just about sex, sex, and more sex. You could either laugh at those moments, or not, and if you don't, there are two real reasons: either you are offended by it or it just isn't all that funny. I honestly have to say, I just thought it wasn't all that funny. At other times, the series didn't feel like a comedy at all, but more like a drama... except there wasn't any real drama going on (the 70th birthday funeral themed party was about as dramatic as it got, and that was all in fun).

The real misfortune, though, is that the casting and stars that they managed to get for the series are pretty good. But what good is a cast when the series itself is lacking? That isn't to mention that none of the cast members seem to be able to shine with the size of the cast.

Conclusion:

This show is in pieces... literally. I see what CBS was going for here. Basically, they wanted a clone of what ABC has with Modern Family (which is a bit odd considering that Modern Family, while still a popular series and a reliable hit for ABC, is by not even close to being the pop-culture phenomenon it was when it debuted), and are attempting to run it on a network that hasn't really seen any success with comedies like this one. Having The Big Bang Theory as a lead-in will help in the ratings, I suppose, but I can't help but to wonder how much that will even do. There is always a possibility that lead-in could in fact help it float into a second season, but I still can't imagine this series being thought of as anything more than "that show after The Big Bang Theory." Given that status of being "that show after The Big Bang Theory," anything is possible with this show. Without that status, though, I think it could probably just as easily be the first cancellation of the season. And personally, I can't really say that I particularly look forward to watching it as the season goes on.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3/5
Funniness: 2/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Monday, September 21, 2015 at 8:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • CBS.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Life in Pieces Photo Gallery


  • Preview:





    It's Friday, so it is time for "Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows" for the coming week. This is where we list what sitcom stars are appearing on talk shows for the coming week, the stars are both current and past sitcom stars, so this is for all sitcom fans of all eras!
    For the week of September 21-25, 2015, we have many current sitcom stars and past sitcom stars on TV talk shows! All times listed are Eastern. So get your DVRs (or whatever you use) ready! Ready? Here is all what you need to know for the coming week!


    Sunday, September 20, 2015
    • Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (The Big Bang Theory/8 Simple Rules) - Catch Kaley on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
    • Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Andy is a guest on People.com Chatter.
    Monday, September 21, 2015
      Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy (The Muppets) - Watch Kermit and Miss Piggy on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat) - Randall visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He will also be on HuffPost Live at 2pm and on the AOL Build Show.
    • Allison Janney (Mom/Mr. Sunshine) - Allison is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family/The Class) - Jesse stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Keke Palmer (Scream Queens/True Jackson, VP) - Keke appears on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
    • John Hodgman (Married) and Ron Funches (Undateable) - John and Ron are guests on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
    • Scott Bakula (Eisenhower and Lutz/Murphy Brown) - Scott will be on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am and on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
    • Dianne Wiest and James Brolin (Life in Pieces) - Dianne and James discuss their new CBS comedy Life in Pieces on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Debra Messing (Will & Grace) - Debra talks about The Mysteries of Laura on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 9am hour. She will also be on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
    • Steve Harvey (The Steve Harvey Show) - Steve is a guest on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
    • Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Dirk and Joel are guests on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
    • Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly) - Billy joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
    • Pamela Anderson (Stacked) - Pamela talks about her new book Raw on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and on The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
    • Nat Wolff (The Naked Brothers Band) - Nat talks about Ashby on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
    • Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show) - Wilmer talks about Minority Report on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
    Tuesday, September 22, 2015
    • Anthony Anderson (black-ish/Guys with Kids/All About the Andersons) - Catch Anthony on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. He will also be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
    • Emma Roberts (Scream Queens) - Emma is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Kristen Schaal (The Last Man on Earth/Bob's Burgers/30 Rock) - Kristen appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Seaton Smith (Mulaney) - Seaton drops by Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Ron Funches (Undateable) - Ron is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
    • Donald Glover (Community) - Donald stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory) - Kunal discusses the ninth season premiere of The Big Bang Theory and his new book on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Pamela Anderson (Stacked) - Pamela talks about her new book Raw on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings. She will also be on The Howard Stern Show.
    • Jake McDorman (Manhattan Love Story/Are You There, Chelsea?/Quintuplets) - Jake will be on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
    • Skyler Samuels (Scream Queens/Wizards of Waverly Place) - Skyler talks about her new show Scream Queens on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT. She will also be on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
    • Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens/Anything But Love/Operation Petticoat) - Jamie joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT. She also talks about Scream Queens on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour and on People.com Chatter.
    • Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother/Stark Raving Mad/Doogie Howser, M.D.) - Neil talks about Best Time Ever on NBC's Today on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
    • Margaret Cho (All-American Girl) - Margaret talks about Psy-Cho on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
    • Keke Palmer (Scream Queens/True Jackson, VP) - Keke talks about Scream Queens on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on The Real, so check your local listings. She will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
    • Nat Wolff (The Naked Brothers Band) - Nat is a guest on People Now.
    • Malcolm-Jamal Warner (The Cosby Show/Malcolm & Eddie) - Malcolm-Jamal talks about his Selfless album on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
    • Charles Esten (The Crew/The Brian Benben Show) - Charles will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
    Wednesday, September 23, 2015
    • Andrew Rannells (Girls/The New Normal) - Watch Andrew on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. He also talks about The Intern on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
    • Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth) - Will stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory) - Kunal appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Ron Funches (Undateable) - Ron is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
    • Tim Allen (Last Man Standing/Home Improvement) - Tim drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Sandra Bernhard (2 Broke Girls/Roseanne) - Sandra appears on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
    • Portia de Rossi (Arrested Development) - Portia is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Nat Wolff (The Naked Brothers Band) - Nat talks about his new film The Intern on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings. He will also be on the AOL Build Show and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
    • Morris Chestnut (Nurse Jackie/Out All Night) - Morris hangs out on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings. He also talks about his new medical drama Rosewood on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
    • William Devane (The Grinder) - William talks about his new show The Grinder on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
    • Holly Robinson Peete (For Your Love/Hangin' with Mr. Cooper) - Holly is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
    • Cloris Leachman (Raising Hope/The Facts of Life/Phyllis) - Cloris talks about This Is Happening on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
    • Anthony Anderson (black-ish/Guys with Kids/All About the Andersons - Anthony chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. He will also be on the AOL Build Show.
    • Jaleel White (Family Matters/Grown Ups) - Jaleel talks about Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
    • Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs/Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Wendi McClendon-Covey (The Goldbergs/Rules of Engagement/Reno 911!) - Jeff and Wendi are guests on People.com Chatter.
    • Hilary Duff (Younger/Lizzie McGuire) - Hilary and her sister, Haylie, are guests on People Now.
    • Melissa Fumero (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Melissa will be on People Now.
    • Sofia Vergara (Modern Family/The Knights of Prosperity/Hot Properties) - Sofia appears on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am and chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
    Thursday, September 24, 2015
    • Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun) - Watch Joseph on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
    • Micky Dolenz (The Monkees) - Micky sits in with The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
    • Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show/My Boys/Welcome to New York) - Jim visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Jerrod Carmichael (The Carmichael Show) - Jerrod stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Ron Funches (Undateable) and Chris D'Elia (Undateable/Whitney) - Ron and Chris are guests on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
    • Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly) - Billy drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Kristen Schaal (The Last Man on Earth/Bob's Burgers/30 Rock) - Kristen appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Pamela Anderson (Stacked) - Pamela visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
    • Scott Foley (The Goodwin Games/A.U.S.A./Scrubs) - Scott is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Zachary Levi (Less Than Perfect) - Zachary talks about Heroes Reborn on NBC's Today in the 9am hour. He will also be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show (check your local listings), on the AOL Build Show and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
    • Rita Moreno (Happily Divorced) - Rita will be on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
    • Debra Messing (Will & Grace) - Debra talks about the new season of The Mysteries of Laura on The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
    • Keke Palmer (Scream Queens/True Jackson, VP) - Keke is a guest on People Now.
    • Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth) - Will chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
    • Morris Chestnut (Nurse Jackie/Out All Night) - Morris appears on The Real, so check your local listings.
    Friday, September 25, 2015
    • Fred Savage (The Grinder/Working/The Wonder Years) - Watch Fred on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. He will also be on the AOL Build Show.
    • John Stamos (Grandfathered/Jake in Progress/Full House) - John is a guest on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Tina Fey (30 Rock) - Tina appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • Nick Jonas (Jonas L.A.) - Nick will be on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • Wanda Sykes (The New Adventures of Old Christine/Wanda at Large) - Wanda is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Keke Palmer (Scream Queens/True Jackson, VP) - Keke appears on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
    • Joel McHale (Community) - NBC's Today has the Best of Celebrity Games in the 10am hour.
    • Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun) - Joseph appears on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
    • Connie Britton (Spin City/The Fighting Fitzgeralds/Lost at Home) - Connie will be on Morning Joe on MSNBC sometime between 6-9am.
    All listings are subject to change. Visit our blog and main site for daily updated listings. Leave us comments on our message board or Tweet/Facebook us to let us know what you think of this Friday feature! We do listen!


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    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of June 1)

    Monday, June 1

    • Keegan-Michael Key (Friends from College/Playing House/Gary Unmarried) - Watch Keegan-Michael on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Lisa Kudrow (Space Force/The Comeback/Web Therapy/Friends) - Lisa appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun) - Joseph is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Kristin Chenoweth (Trial & Error/Kristin) - Kristin will be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Amanda Peet (Brockmire/Togetherness/Bent) - Amanda appears on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
    • Candace Cameron Bure (Fuller House/Full House) - Candace is a guest on Access Daily, so check your local listings.


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