Back to the Basics

BY
BY NIAMH SLEVIN
Daily Arts Writer
Published December 9, 2003

Let’s face it, friends: NBC is getting desperate. As the
mid-season marker approaches, more and more critics across the
nation are hounding the network with complaints of its new-series
stinkers. Even the quality of old favorites has quite obviously
declined. The programming executives must have had no choice but to
yank a few shows, send them to an early grave and quickly find
decent replacements. Fortunately, they found Tracy Morgan.

Mira Levitan
Astronaut Jones. (Courtesy of NBC)

Unlike other comic-turned-sitcom-star rejects, NBC’s
latest venture, “The Tracy Morgan Show,” attempts to
bring back some semblance of cheesy family programming with style,
and its simple humor only adds to its charm.

The show’s premise is admittedly unoriginal. Morgan plays
a father of two, trying to run his own mechanic business and teach
his boys a few lessons along the way. The two kids (Bobbe Thompson
and Marc Jon Jeffries) are of course, loving rapscallions, who
occasionally cause trouble, but always do the right thing in the
end. Mom (Tamala Jones) intervenes when necessary and tries to
maintain her image as the hip, young mother and understanding
wife.

 

But it is precisely because the plotlines are so unoriginal that
the series shows any promise at all. Perhaps the downplayed plot
serves to emphasize the SNL favorite Brian Fellows’ flair in
Morgan’s caricature-like expressions and seemingly random
jokes. Perhaps the irresistible smile of a young child sucks the
audience in just like the Cosby and Keaton kids did for past
generations. Or perhaps the show’s simplicity only seems
tolerable in contrast to the outrageous alternatives on the air.
Who knows? The point is it works. The show has the potential to
draw a brief laugh from even the harshest critic.

Of course, “Tracy Morgan” has its share of faults as
well. Freddie, played by Kat Williams, ranks among the most
annoying characters in television history (although his Prince
impression is pretty sweet). The family feel of the show can grate
on one’s nerves if served in doses any longer than its
allotted 30 minutes, and dear old Mom is about as fake as they
come. Yet, the series achieves a level of mediocrity severely
lacking in NBC’s current lineup.

While “The Tracy Morgan Show” cannot save
NBC’s tarnished reputation, it certainly can’t hurt. If
a couple of cute kids, goofy punch lines and an over-the-top sketch
comic will do the trick, go for it.

Rating: 3 stars.