As Conan O’Brien often likes to point out in his own, off-the-wall sort of way, “NBC is in the gutter.”
Once the source of the best comedies on television – especially on Thursday nights with now-classic series such as “Cheers,” “Seinfeld” and “Friends” – the network has been reduced to contrived, formulaic and downright lame attempts at recapturing the comedy crown.
With its new Thursday-night lineup, anchored by the generally well received “My Name is Earl” and “The Office,” the network hoped to once again become “Must-See TV” on Thursday nights. But its latest addition to the Thursday lineup, the forced yet feeble “Four Kings,” will get no new eyes for the ratings-starved network.
If by some far-off chance you haven’t caught one of the 514 promotional spots NBC has run the past few weeks, “Four Kings” follows four childhood friends who become, well, grown-up friends. If the show is to be believed, they order drinks at the same coffee house at the same exact table about every 10 minutes. Eventually, one of their grandmothers dies, leaving them a house in Manhattan and they decide to move in together. Amateurish fat jokes, underwear humor and stock relationship problems ensue.
Imagine every post-collegiate stereotype. Then suck the anxious humor and stalled emotional development and put in some dated jokes and insults. You’re getting warmer.
The “Kings” themselves consist of Barry (Seth Green, “The Italian Job”), Ben (Josh Cooke, star of another NBC failure “Committed”), Jason (Todd Grinnell, “The Dangling Conversation”) and Bobby (Shane McRae, “All Over Again”). Their collective experience amounts to little. For all their comedic grace and chemistry, the characters might as well be four random guys pulled off the street.
At first glance, “Four Kings” is very similar to “Friends,” but oddly enough, that’s the problem. In a way, “Friends” was the beginning of the end for NBC. While that show certainly had a large fanbase, its general formula, which has been copied several times, is rather weak: A gathering of inane archetypes perform the same, stupefying routine every episode. What sold “Friends” was not especially strong storylines or writing, but the characters and their delivery. Unfortunately, “Four Kings” only inherits the prototypical setup of “Friends” and recycles jokes that carry no weight when coupled with the show’s poorly conceived characters and everyday delivery. This is abysmally bad stuff, ramshackle dialogue and shallow settings abound.
It’s funny that almost half a decade ago pundits predicted the death of the sitcom, and even today the parade of reheated scripts marches on. But still, shows like “Four Kings” are brought to life like zombies, plodding around with their blatant deficiencies nakedly visible to studio executives and fans alike.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.