Hi, I’m Mike TV
Sullivan and Son
** (out of ****)
In defense of the genre of multi-cam sit coms, I need to take a stand. Many people, myself among them, talk a lot of shit on the entire medium. If a new multi-cam is announced, the majority of the populace rolls their eyes and waits for it to be cancelled or get insanely popular for no known reason. Either way we’ll all complain about the state of the television industry and wait for the next 30 Rock, Community or Louie to come along. Form doesn’t dictate quality, but in the last decade or so single-cam has been absolutely destroying multi-cam in quality and content. There’s a level of cheese that seems inherent to the multi-cam that doesn’t automatically get attached to the streamlined single-cam style. Canned or live laugh tracks announcing exactly when a joke happens is offensive to those of us who treat TV more than just a distraction to turn our brains off. I’m sure there’s an argument that obsessing over entertainment is somehow sadder than just tuning out while watching it, but that’s neither here nor there. Maybe eventually I’ll write that when I want to be introspective instead of pointing my finger at the jerks who made Two and a Half Men so stupidly popular.
My point in all of this is multi-cam doesn’t automatically mean a show is a huge piece of shit, but it does seem like the minute people hop on board a multi-cam the effort goes out the window. That didn’t used to be the case. Some of the greatest television shows were multi-cam sitcoms: Cheers, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Roseanne, Seinfeld and Friends all used the traditional format pioneered by Desi Arnaz and some non-famous guy on I Love Lucy. I could list even more good shows that used the format, but don’t want to waste more time doing that. I swear to you if you leave a dickheaded comment about me listing the only good ones, all I will do is email you a good multi-cam sitcom a day for the next year. Fucking test me. Also, I’m not saying those shows were all amazing their entire run, but they had solid writing and decent acting even when falling into the sitcom cliché traps. They wandered into the hack territory sure, but most shows that are around for more than a few seasons end up falling in quality. My problem is these days all multi-cams seem to start off at Friends Season 10/Roseanne Season 9/According to Jim Season 1 territory. The people behind the scenes have figured out the general public will swallow the same shit over and over again if they start tweaking little details, so this fat funny guy is now with that attractive wife, and the wacky neighbor is now wacky in a different way, and now the jokes are just references or sexually explicit statements instead of being fucking jokes. Old ladies saying they love cock isn’t a joke anymore, and has pretty much never been executed in manner that would make it one.
Sullivan and Son certainly isn’t the horse I’d bet on to bring multi-cam back to quality. It’s a new TBS show, which should tell you the kind of quality you’re going to get. Spoiler Alert- TBS doesn’t make good shows. They’re the folks that brought us Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and Are We There Yet? (and yes they gave Conan a home when he needed it most, and for that I’ll think about forgiving them for their transgressions).
Honorable mention goes to How I Met Your Mother. It’s the only modern multi-cam that comes to mind that isn’t absolute dreck. It’s suffered in later seasons, but the first 3 are quality comedy. It’s a show built around a grounded group of friends (at least at first), and depends heavily on the actors’ chemistry. Other shows attempt this, they just fail because A-the actors can’t have chemistry if it seems like they’re reading all of their lines, and B-you still need solid writing to back your ass up. Look at the aforementioned Sullivan and Son for examples, along with most other multi-cams out there.
Sullivan and Son is the story of a big city lawyer giving up his life to run his dad’s shit bar in the shit small town he shit came from before wising up in the big city. Steve Byrne is the titular son, named Steve Sullivan, because this is the kind of show where most of the characters are just named what the actors’ first names are, like Ahmed Ahmed playing Ahmed. Steve has to deal with his overbearing Korean mother, and his Irish resigned father (played by Dan Lauria, or the Dad from the Wonder Years!), his sister who hates him for being the favorite, and the boredom of small town life. I assume internally he’s also dealing with being a coward and a fool for running away from New York and being a lawyer. The show tries to portray the charm of small small town life while still mocking the losers who quaintly live there, but nothing comes off charming and they all definitely come off as losers. Sullivan and Son wants to be Cheers for the new millennium but has none of the heart or comedy that made Cheers great. -MG