“The McCarthys” premiered on CBS last Thurday, Oct. 30. As the network’s only new fall comedy this year, the multi-camera sitcom has a funny premise and some strong actors that give it the potential to be a new channel favorite, despite some weaker writing and flippant clichés.

The McCarthys

B
CBS
Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.


The pilot opens with Arthur McCarthy (Jack McGee, “The Fighter”) and three of his adult children, Gerard (Joey McIntyre, “The Heat”), Sean (Jimmy Dunn, “Stuck on You”) and Jackie (Kelen Coleman, “Fired Up!”) animatedly watching a basketball game on television when Ronny, (Tyler Ritter, “An Evergreen Christmas”) the other sibling, walks in. It’s clear this member of the Bostonian family doesn’t fit in — his greeting of “So, who’s winning the sports today?” is met with exasperated disbelief from his siblings and basketball coach father. In a hackneyed move, Ronny — who is openly gay — prefers to watch “The Good Wife” with his mother Marjorie (Laurie Metcalf, “Roseanne”). The family’s banter is interrupted by the news that Arthur’s assistant coach, Fatty, has died. In true sitcom fashion, the McCarthys decide that the best way to honor his memory would be to finish the game, as that is no doubt what he would have wanted, and order pizza.

Within the first five minutes of the episode, the family dynamic is set up and the plot driver is introduced: Arthur needs to pick a new assistant coach. Everyone in the show, if not everyone watching it, is shocked when he announces at Fatty’s wake that he’d like it to be Ronny. Arthur later admits he does so because a talented prospective player can join his team only if his mother, who happens to be a lesbian, feels that he is playing for a tolerant team. This sheepish reveal is well-constructed, deliberately highlighting Arthur’s unabashed self-interest and Ronny’s long-suffering reaction to it: “I’m sure I’m not the first gay man whose father used him to try to recruit a basketball player whose mother is a lesbian,” he deadpans.

Ronny’s siblings are incredulous that Arthur chose him, while Ronny himself is a little annoyed — he was about to accept a job as head guidance counselor at a high school in Providence. At twenty-nine years old, he feels it’s time for him to distance himself from his family and “find someone.” His mother is surprised he’s still “pursuing it,” — “it” meaning being gay — while his brother, in reply to Ronny’s assertion that Providence has a vibrant gay community, quips, “Aren’t all gay communities vibrant?” In an effort to get him to stay, Ronny’s family hosts a “gay bar party” in their house — obviously a tragic failure, yet somehow the perfect setting for melodramatic Jackie to announce she’s pregnant with Fatty’s baby. The writers of the show seem determined to prove they aren’t ignorant by making some of the characters only semi-ironically so; while Ronny’s sexuality isn’t the central issue of this episode, it functions as the main source of wisecracks, many of which fall flat. The episode wraps up with Ronny accepting his dad’s offer and happy family feelings all around.

While the actors aren’t spectacular by themselves, they have a comfortable rapport as a cast. Ritter and Metcalf are easily the funniest and strongest actors and their interactions carry the show. Ritter has the ability to make people laugh with displays of humor that are subtler than the those of the rest of the cast, and Metcalf delivers lines as naturally as if she wrote them herself. Though the premise is interesting, some of the writing is weak, a compilation of too many clichés and punchlines delivered with too much precision, anticipating laughter that’s often weary at best. It relies on throwaway one-liners and stereotypical family archetypes rather than creative and clever writing, and whether you find the show actually amusing depends on whether you enjoy being able to predict every punchline before the joke has been delivered.

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