The premise of the well-meaning father in constant conflict
with his irksome relatives on network sitcoms has been done before.
CBS’s “Center of the Universe” follows that long
line. The storylines and characters are often predictable, but
still good for a laugh. John Goodman is John Barnett, the owner of
a security company and a devoted family man. He and his wife Kate
(Jean Smart, “Garden State”) constantly run into the
problems of daily life, most notably those within their family.

John’s father-in-law, Art (Ed Asner), is an aging and
sex-crazed. His mother-in-law, Marge (Olympia Dukakis), constantly
pursues attempts to feel younger, — copying Kate’s
hairstyles and clothes — to John’s extreme discomfort.
John is also at odds with his brother, Tommy (Diedrich Bader,
“The Drew Carey Show”), a slacker whom John is guilted
into hiring, and John’s sister, Lily (Melinda McGraw,
“Nutty Professor II: The Klumps”), is a mentally
anguished therapist. Miles (Spencer Breslin, “The Cat in the
Hat”), John and Kate’s son, has the potential of
carrying on the family legacy of eccentricity, wearing the family
crest and kilts to school.

In the pilot, John plans a wedding so he and Kate can renew
their vows. While John tries to make the preparations for the
perfect celebration, the family’s problems get in the way
right before the ceremony. John has to handle these annoyances,
including Art’s newfound obsession with a Malaysian
anti-impotence drug. John tolerates them and tries to be a good
husband. While he realizes that for all his family’s
insanity, without them in his life, he would be lonely and
boring.

“Center of the Universe” has its moments. It is
refreshing to find a new sitcom with jokes that elicit at least
some chuckles. The always affable Goodman and Asner provide the
chemistry of uneasy in-law relations, trying to make the best of
the family around them. Kate is suitable in the role of the anchor
in John’s turbulent life, and the rest of the cast —
even in their diminished roles — are nutty enough to stand
out on their own.

While “Center of the Universe” provides a good
number of laughs, the formula of an average Joe with a crazy family
has been done several times before. Still, the characters and
writing make it worth a look. Viewers will not be disappointed by
making this show part of their universe.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

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