Long known for his downright obscene, yet always insightful stand-up routines, Chris Rock leaves behind at least some of his edginess to tackle his latest venture: the family sitcom in his semi-autobiographical UPN venture, “Everybody Hates Chris.” With a flair that only Rock’s tone and delivery could provide, the sitcom promises to become the new king of TV’s biggest night.
The show – narrated by Rock himself – begins when he turns 13. Chris is a naA_ve child looking to cash in on the rumored rewards of being a teenager. Reality strikes in a hurry though as Chris is given responsibilities and warnings that wipeout any chances of having fun. As Rock explains, he, as the eldest child in the family, was the “emergency adult” and much of the show’s comedy plays off this notion.
Chris’s family moves out of the projects and into Brooklyn, presumably because his parents want a better education for their children. With this goal in mind, they force Chris to take two buses each day over to a supposedly better school in a white neighborhood, though, as Rock points out, it was really the same – “just take away the gangs and bring in the mob.”
At school (called Corleone Junior High, interestingly enough), Chris’s misadventures continue with a bully he unwittingly tries to “out-black” and an epic schoolyard fight that Chris only barely escapes.
Newcomer Tyler James Williams is a perfect fit for the role of the young Rock. He has the same sharp tone, the characteristic eyes and lanky body that make Rock unique. With lines and advice straight from the man himself, Williams is likely to be the funniest character on TV this season.
Although the show is cutting – it’s Chris Rock’s life after all – it certainly has sentimental moments and is ultimately a story of a loving family striving to help each other, even though Chris is always arguing with his siblings.
His mother constantly reprimands him, but only because she wants him to turn out well. For example, when she scolds him for eating the “big piece of chicken,” it’s for the greater good of the family unit.
Inserting the young and unaccomplished “Chris” into TV’s most competitive timeslot (against goliaths like “Survivor,” “Alias” and “The O.C.”), UPN showed great confidence in the show, and it already has begun to pay off. The pilot became the highest-rated UPN comedy ever, and if the jokes and the colorful narrator stick around, this could prove to be just the beginning for a great new series.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars