This summer’s blockbuster independent romantic comedy makes the leap from the big screen to the small screen in CBS’ new series “My Big Fat Greek Life.” Writer/actress Nia Vardalos transformed her one- woman show into a hysterical film that became the most successful independent film in history. Most of the main players return in the spin-off, but they left the humor in the theaters.

Todd Weiser
Courtesy of CBS

The show picks up when Nia (Vardalos), known as Toula in the film, and Thomas (Steven Eckholdt), replacing John Corbett’s Ian, return from their honeymoon in Athens. In addition to the minor character changes, the final few minutes of the movie are disregarded as the honeymooners arrive to find that Nia’s overbearing father has bought them a home. The plot of the pilot revolves around the decision of whether or not to accept the generous gift, and hilarity is supposed to ensue. Instead, the story deteriorates into a run of the mill sitcom, eliminating the tone and humor found in the feature film version.

The sincere comedy and familial bonds made the original film charming but, while most of the family returns to reprise their roles, the actors are now playing caricatures of the motion picture characters. Michael Constantine’s Gus, Nia’s father, simply acts in an overbearing manner throughout the entire episode, while his wife (Lainie Kazan) is always trying to feed her daughter.

Without three dimensional characters, the jokes become increasingly obvious and lose what little wit they might have had. The jokes and characters are so forced that it seems as if the actors are trying too hard to elicit laughter, especially Aunt Toula’s (Andrea Martin) constant sexual references.

Unlike most unfunny and uninteresting new sitcoms, “Greek Life” does have some potential. The actors involved are extremely likable, especially following in the footsteps of such a beloved film. Surprisingly, Nia Vardalos seems to be the worst offender of forced acting. With more time, hopefully the sitcom will better mimic its successful precursor, but until then, the DVD version of the movie will have to suffice for viewers at home.

2 Stars

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