I watched “Halfway Home” with two other people, and they both left the room within five minutes. That pretty much summarizes Comedy Central’s latest attempt to launch a unique show that maybe, just maybe, can match the popularity (and controversy) of “South Park.” But “Halfway,” like “Drawn Together” before it, tries too hard to be provocative and just ends up looking ugly and stereotypical.

“Halfway Home” is about five convicted felons living, appropriately enough, in a halfway house. The convicts are a parade of incarcerated stereotypes, from a burnt-out coke mule (Jessica Makinson, “South Park”) to a gay Latino man-whore (Oscar Nunez, “The Office”). Their supervisor Kenny (Kevin Ruf, “Fun with Dick and Jane”) is reminiscent of Jeff Foxworthy, but without the modest wit of the “Blue Collar” comedian.

“Halfway” is directed with an in-your-face philosophy similar to “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The show’s story feels equally claustrophobic. “Halfway” takes place entirely in a three-story rehab facility, and because of this limited space the viewer gets an uncomfortably close look at aspects of these convicts’ lives that would best be left off camera. Of course, this includes masturbation and poop humor by the barrelful. Convicted arsonist Alan Shepard’s (Regan Burns, “Oblivious”) description of his own “B.M.s” is graphic enough to make Eric Cartman blush, and watching Sebastian Yates (Jordan Black, “For Your Consideration”) spend the better part of an episode trying to get an erection is no one’s idea of fun – or funny.

The show’s worst attempt at humor, though, isn’t of the toilet variety but the racial variety. In a scene from the second episode, Shepard (Regan Burns, “Oblivious”) says “Everyone knows the black man was here first, but then man learned how to stand erect and stop climbing trees.” “Halfway” doesn’t use racial issues to critique society or individuals, but to make sure Shepard has enough dumb one-liners to say while playing chess. For the most part, the humor in the show is offensive, and it’s offensive for no good reason.

Perhaps the lack of humor in “Halfway” comes from the fact that the show is partially improvised in the same manner as “Curb.” Unfortunately, unlike “Curb,” the show is an amalgam of unknown actors, the best of which might make the Hollywood D-list. “Free Ride,” another semi-improvised show that aired briefly on Fox last year, failed because the actors couldn’t make up for the lack of script. “Halfway” suffers from the same problem. The show’s group of relatively inexperienced actors might fare well memorizing lines written by funnier people.

Unfortunately improvisation, if done badly, only amplifies the faults of a mediocre cast and concept. Comedy Central should look for more competent writers – not promising pilots.

Wednesdays 10:30 p.m.
Comedy Central

Rating: 1 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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