New ABC comedy not 'Big' on laughs

BY DOUG WERNERT
Daily TV/New Media Editor
Published April 8, 2004

There was a time when TGIF — the name given to ABC’s
Friday night comedy lineup — was can’t-miss television.
With family fare such as “Family Matters,” “Boy
Meets World” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” the
network offered wholesome programming that appealed to many ages.
Five years after disbanding the programming block, ABC has
resurrected the TGIF moniker, and now offers more adult-oriented
comedies. Newcomer “The Big House” continues this
trend, and the result is another show with no clear identity and no
real entertainment value.

TV/New Media Reviews
TV/New Media Reviews
TV/New Media Reviews

Smooth-talking, well-off Kevin (Kevin Hart) has moved to
Philadelphia from California to live with his aunt and uncle after
his father is jailed for embezzlement. Aunt Tina (Arnetia Walker)
is a no-nonsense woman who quickly lays down the rules of the house
and Uncle Clarence (Keith David) is her quick-witted husband who
follows her parental lead. Kevin is dumfounded at first, especially
when he finds out he has to live in a grimy basement with his
off-the-wall cousin Warren (Faizon Love).

Luckily, things get better for Kevin as he meets an attractive
young lady during his first day of college, the premise for the
pilot. In typical sitcom fashion, he lies in order to convince the
woman to go out with him and is forced to cover his tracks by lying
to the family. Naturally, the girl is tutored by Eartha (Yvette
Nicole Brown), Kevin’s other cousin who would like nothing
more than to make him leave. When the truth comes out, the girl
exits and the family is very disappointed, leaving Kevin alone to
try and fix everything.

The show seems harmless enough, but the adult edge is evident as
one of the main jokes is in reference to the mentally handicapped.
The characters are also not clearly defined, as the parents change
from zany and obnoxious to normal and stern with no rhyme or
reason. Warren, as the fat comic relief, is always good for a laugh
and Eartha’s disdain for Kevin is funny as well, but when the
show can’t decide what audience to focus on, the humor
doesn’t pack a strong punch.

With no clear direction, “The Big House” is a
typical midseason replacement that quickly shows why it should not
be included in the fall schedule. With programs such as this, it is
evident that TGIF no longer provides the quality entertainment it
once did. Is it too late to bring back “Step by
Step?”

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars