Every good sitcom has a goofball. Self-absorbed, out of touch or just eccentric, it’s accepted that TV comedies – preferably awash in the frantic spurts of outrageous antics – benefit from simple characters who break down large comedic themes to simple quips and quirks. For example, that last sentence was pretty dense, but Kramer from “Seinfeld” – king of goofballs – could easily convey the same message with an overplayed, ironic grimace. Perhaps he’d even throw in a slight gasp and his patented full-body swerve.
But even if they’re always sure to include a goofball, most sitcoms won’t chance it with more than one – probably because the act can easily become desperate if allowed even one frame too many. So what can you say about a show like “The Knights of Prosperity,” which features, more or less, an entire cast of goofballs? Believe it or not, it fits nicely into the show’s premise; a few nobodies with their heads in the clouds vow to take what life never gave them – by robbing 63-year-old rock icon Mick Jagger.
The ringleader of the Knights of Prosperity is Eugene Gurkin (Donal Logue, “Blade”), a janitor who’s tired of paying his dues. Along with his janitor buddy Francis (Lenny Venito, “War of the Worlds”), he recruits a handful of local misfits and sets a plan in motion to break into Jagger’s New York City apartment to steal whatever they need to make their dreams come true.
Among the crew comprised entirely of endearing incompetence: a hawkish cab driver, an ex-Colombian militant-turned-waitress and a gigantic Jewish supply warehouse security guard. Of course, all reputable operations must have an intern and the Knights have Louis, a communications major who joins them after being denied an internship at “The Montel Williams Show.” Bummer.
Though the Knights have a defined leader, there isn’t a central character to dominate the plot. Instead, the story is a collaboration in buffoonery – albeit orchestrated by ambitious, scheming fools looking to accomplish a task so inane and absurd it’s impossible not to appreciate their cunning attempt.
They go through the most convoluted procedures imaginable to secure the key to Jagger’s luxe apartment, and in their simplicity assume that a multi-million dollar facility is protected by one simple lock. The last scene in the pilot reveals how very wrong they are: Jagger’s crib is protected by fingerprint scanners, security guards, metal detectors and a whole lot more – all awaiting our bold, beloved Knights, who will try that key very soon.
The light air that pervades every scene is remarkable, considering this careless feel is what all sitcoms shoot for but only rarely manage. As the audience, we love these people because they’re willing to try anything, yet don’t get hung up on anything. In the ingenious absurdity of it all, should these guys fail, they’d see no problem in saying, “Nice try guys, let’s do Donald Trump next.”
“Knights” does lack an overall sense of purpose, and while that plays well into its carefree theme, it also takes away from its watchability. There are many empty moments when the show seems like nothing more than another “Arrested Development” wannabe, but these should get few and far between as the series hits its stride. It’ll take at least a season to get into that department, but, driven by precise, incisive writing and benefiting from the charm of the ensemble cast, “Knights” should become among the better sitcoms on television – and is far and away ABC’s best comedy.
The Knights of Prosperity
Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars