Monday, June 13, 2016

ABC Summer Pilot Review: Uncle Buck - Premieres Tuesday (June 14); The Brady Bunch Joins Pop Lineup

Uncle Buck

Uncle Buck - Tuesdays at 9:00PM & 9:30PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 9:00PM ET/PT


by Skees

In 1989, the late John Candy played the title role in the memorable (though not exactly critically acclaimed) film Uncle Buck. Buck, a chain-smoking, beer-guzzling, unemployed guy, came to stay with his brother's kids after an emergency left him as the last option. Now, a slightly different Buck, who isn't quite as abrasive, is debuting on the small screen with ABC's newest sitcom, Uncle Buck.

Cast Details:

Mike Epps as Buck Russell
Nia Long as Alexis Russell
James Lesure as Will Russell
Iman Benson as Tia Russell
Sayeed Shahidi as Miles Russell
Aalyrah Caldwell as Maizy Russell

Mike Epps (Buck Russell) is a stand-up comedian who is best known for his film appearances, particularly in the Friday franchise. He has also been seen in The Hangover and many other movies. While he has had a voice role on The Boondocks, this is actually his first regular role in a live-action sitcom.

Nia Long (Alexis Russell) has had roles in several series, including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Third Watch, and the first 13 episodes of The Cleveland Show playing the voice of Roberta. She has also appeared in movies such as Friday, Soul Food, and Big Momma's House.

James Lesure (Will Russell) made his television debut in guest roles on several successful 90s series before landing a starring role in For Your Love. He later went on to star in Las Vegas, and most recently, he has appeared in Mr. Sunshine and Men at Work.

Iman Benson (Tia Russell) is a young actress from Atlanta who makes her debut to television (and to everybody, for that matter) with this series.

Sayeed Shahidi (Miles Russell) was born in Minneapolis, and is already somewhat known on the small screen, from his role on the syndicated sitcom The First Family.

Aalyrah Caldwell (Maizy Russell) has appeared in an episode of The Fosters and Key and Peele. She has also done modeling for several major retail brands.


Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" (Airs June 14 at 9:00PM ET)

The Russell family is going through a lot of changes lately, as both parents are now working and they have three children at home to take care of. When both Alexis and Will are forced to take business trips at the same time, they need somebody to take care of their kids, and it isn't easy given all of the "tests" the kids give to potential babysitters. When it appears all options have been exhausted, there is one last option: Will's habitually unemployed slacker brother, Buck.

"L'il Scarface" (Airs June 14 at 9:30PM ET)

Maizy has to sell cookies for a fundraiser, but sales aren't going too well for her at all. Not only is it hard to find people to sell the cookies to, but her people skills aren't exactly that great. But Buck is there to help, and his hustling skills quickly make an innocent little girl's fundraiser become something much different. Meanwhile, a hole in the wall is causing big headaches for Tia and Miles.


Analysis:

The pilot episode of the series was familiar to me and should be familiar to many people. Quite literally, the pilot is just a slight rewrite of the John Candy film script, with some minor alterations to the plot and of course, it was condensed into about 20 minutes from the film length of 99 minutes. For example, in the film, Buck comes to stay with the family because the grandfather had a heart attack and Cindy Russell (renamed Alexis Russell in this series) wanted to be with him. On the pilot episode, things are a lot less dramatic, as Buck comes to stay with the family because Alexis has to go on a business trip. Also, the character of Tia is a lot less abrasive than she was in the film. In the pilot, she seems to only be somewhat annoyed by Buck, whereas in the film, she seemed to completely despise him throughout much of the film. And of course, the movie had a happy ending for Buck as he left the family and went off with Chanice to live happily ever after... obviously you can't make an entire series if you end the pilot that way.

The episode "L'il Scarface" allows the series to take on an identity of its own, and moves away from the film plot. In particular, the presence of the parents in the house, along with Buck, makes things a bit different. In the movie, the parents were a distant thing. Now, they are actively getting involved in the shenanigans that Buck brings to the family. The character of Tia, particularly, seems to evolve as a much different (particularly, a softer and gentler) character in this episode.

It isn't a bad series, but part of me can't help but to wonder: why make a series based upon this film, and why now? The film is sort of memorable among John Candy fans (and he had plenty of them, for sure), but it isn't exactly a film that defined the era in the way that many of the other John Hughes productions of that same era (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone, Planes Trains and Automobiles, National Lampoon's Vacation, and others) did. As for the timing, the movie is 27 years old. I guess it is fair to say that they aren't necessarily going after an audience who remembered and loved the film, and want to create something of their own here. Still, it is peculiar that they are reusing the same idea now.

One point worth making is that this is the second time that this movie has been attempted to be made into a series. The first aired in 1990 on CBS and starred Kevin Meaney. It survived though a little over half a season before being canceled due to competition from Full House, which was airing on ABC in the same timeslot. But that doesn't mean that the second time can't be a charm, as was realized with the film Parenthood. It, too, had a failed sitcom based upon it debut in 1990 on NBC, but it managed to have a second series reboot in 2010 as a family drama and ended up running for six seasons. So a series based upon a film isn't exactly guaranteed to fail.

Conclusion:

Everything about this series just screams "limited run," particularly since it didn't debut until summer and they are airing two episodes per week. It is as if they are mostly just burning off a series that the network wasn't really sold on. As expected, it isn't on the fall lineup either (it wouldn't have made any sense to "bring back" a series that has yet to start). That doesn't mean it is a terrible series, but it is easy to get a sense that it probably isn't expected to go far. Perhaps if it can prove to be a breakout hit, and the pilot isn't going to help with that since it is just a rewrite of the film, there is hope for it going forward. In the meantime, it is worth checking out the episodes that are scheduled to air. It is refreshing to have new episodes of a sitcom in the summer, and this one really is a decent one. It is just that it lacks that "wow" factor that it would need for it to truly succeed.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 9:00PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Uncle Buck Photo Gallery



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