Sunday, September 18, 2005

TV Review: The Yawn at Home

Sunday nights, Fox, The Yawn at Home. Dried mashed potatoes, twenty years too late, served up as comfort food and starring two losers, The War At Home will amuse racists, homophobes and nerds who giggle everytime the words "boobs" or "rack" are said aloud.

Anita Barone is a career loser. Dadio alumni, she's had more shots to fail than than Elizabeth Taylor's had husbands. But along with her many short-lived shows, she's also forever infamous as Carol on Friends . . . for one episode. She was in, she was out. 1994, the year the show started. Until 2004, the year the show ended, viewers knew the Carol played by Jane Sibbett.

Barone? Who? Exactly.

Michael Rapaport is more than a career loser. True, he had a stint on Friends where he mumbled a lot and Lisa Kudrow tried really hard to make Phoebe seem in love with him. He must be loveable to some. His wife (they're "seperated") bore him a child. But maybe starring the guy who pled guilty to "aggravated harassment" of then girlfriend Lili Taylor in a series called "The War At Home" wasn't such a bright idea? Maybe the one time court ordered Rapaport shouldn't be first choice for a domestic sitcom?

But this is Fox so taking the nobody who came closest to a hit as a voice in Dr. Dolittle 2 and casting him in the lead makes perfect sense -- in a "only on Fox!" kind of way.

This show's badly written but even if it had a good line in it, even one, Mumbles Rapaport would bury it with his wooden expressions and and monotone voice. This is a man who can make Steven Wright seem animated. Rapaport appears to be attempting a snarl in some scenes but it comes off more like he's about to sneeze.

Here are the basics. Rapaport's Dave is married to Barone's Vicky. They have three standard issue kids. Which means the sole female looks nothing like her stocky parents and is required to strut around sporting cleavage. (She'll be 19 next week.) The boys? One, the youngest, is a Bud Buddy clone because . . . apparently someone misses him. Or some exec thinks he's missed. The other, Larry, (16 next week, the day after the actress turns 19 -- party on the set!) is . . . He's sixteen. We'll move on.

The kids exist for Rapaport to react to. Ed Burns (if he was going after TV sitcom work) could essay the role with no problem. He knows how to do the slow burn, he knows how to put an archness in his voice. Rapaport's reactions are no reactions other than the fact that sometimes he mumbles louder and he waves his hands a lot.

The show's disgusting trash. We're not going to pretend there's anything nice that can be said of it. There's not. (Our apologies to a mutual friend working on the show.) But worse than trash badly acted, it's rip-off trash. It wants to be Fox's new Married With Children. "Peg" has a job and there's a third kid to play the combined role of Steve & Marcy. To say that Rapaport makes you long for Ed O'Neill is really, really saying something.

We're not really sure this would have been fresh in the eighties. Frankly, the reactions of Dave to African-Americans, African-American males, isn't funny and wouldn't have been, to us, in the eighties. At one point, Dave says it's not that he objects to their daughter dating an African-American, it's that he's objects to her dating a guy nicknamed "Bootay." That assertion is quickly put to rest when he learns that wife Vicky has slept with African-American men. (That's a chronology problem that no one noticed, by the way. If the show lasts, you'll see what we mean.)

Dave's problem with his son Larry is that Larry may be gay (he isn't) and that he may be a drag queen (ditto). Seriously, Ed Burns could pull this off. It might not be any funnier but it's not funny now; it would be believable as played by Burns who has strong similarities to Caroll O'Connor. (Note to Burns, lay off the pastries.)

The scenes themselves aren't funny. So to "spice" them up, we get shots of paramedics working on Dave. Repeatedly. Ah, that's funny. (That was sarcasm in case any of the creative "geniuses" behind The War At Home read this and are confused.)

Eight minutes and seven seconds into the half-hour, they're getting (canned) laughter over the bleeping out of profanity. This isn't a mock reality show. This is supposed to be a sitcom. The show opens with Rapaport's Dave insulting Mary Tyler Moore's Mary Richards ("bitch"). In his prime, O'Connor couldn't have pulled that off. Rapaport doesn't stand a chance.

It doesn't help that the writers are idiots. Mary Richards wasn't "TV's first career gal." Eve Arden might have claim to that title. Certainly Marlo Thomas' Ann Marie stands in line (and pre-dates Mary Richards). But you've got idiots writing "jokes," idiots who don't even know what they're writing about.

The "bit" is during Rapaport's monologue about males under attack. Again, considering his guilty plea and his court order, it's not really funny. It wouldn't be funny if he could do more than toss his arms stiffly around to emphasize words. It's not funny coming from Rapaport period.

The only talent coming out of this show is the look-alike of Green Day's Billie Joe, Rami Malek, who plays Kenny. Kenny comes off as too smart for this show. Supporting characters have emerged as leads on many sitcoms. Henry Winkler's Fonzi is but one example. The few scenes Malek's in are actually funny. That's because Kenny seems to be holding something back. It's scary to think Rapaport and Bruno are "giving their all" but that's apparently the sad reality.

Dave wins prize pig at this county fair by making "boob" and "rack" jokes three times. Once to the audience, once to his 12 year old son and wife, and once at the dinner table in front of his daughter. What a prize Dave is.

We'd love to be funny but this show is just disgusting. We felt like we were dragged into the pig stye just by watching. Dave's problem, the big beef from the beefy guy, is that the "rules" aren't clear anymore. His father was a prize as long as he didn't beat his kids but poor Dave's out of cereal and his wife works. Oh boo hoo. Despite his real life rap sheet (or because of it), Rapaport's really not the "prize fighter" for the "battle" of the sexes.

At one point, Vicky's mother shows up. Not to mix with the characters. She's shown in one of those talking shots to the audience that the show uses to cover up the fact that the situations in this situation comedy just aren't funny. We've never seen her before she starts talking to the camera (and we don't see her after) so it's probably a good thing that the caption on the screen informs you of who is she. But here's a tip for The War At Home genuises who think they're making a comedy, when you're resorting to bringing on a character not in the scene to get a laugh, you're scenes just aren't funny.

We didn't laugh at the stale, pedistrian sex jokes. We didn't laugh when Rapaport marked time waiting to explode as he asks his son if he's a drag queen. (Truly, he was so out of character he looked like he was telling himself, "Okay, after Barone says ___, it's my turn!") We didn't laugh once at this piece of crap. (And we're using "crap" in place of much stronger words we're saying out loud as we write this review.)

It's just not funny. It's disgusting. It's not disgusting enough to make for a gross out comedy. It's the blandest piece of bad trash we've ever seen, populated by performers who never should have gotten a call back, written by "writers" who should return their WGA cards before they disgrace the union further.

Watching Barone, we found ourselves thinking how Leah Remini (Leah Remini!) could have played the role of Vicky with more flair. Watching Rapaport, we found ourselves thinking, "This is what it would be like if The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man had starred in a sitcom."

This piece of filthy bile seems to exist to say to Fox's Sunday night audiences, "Oh, Arrested Development was too classy for you? Well then how about this pigpen disasterpiece?"

The canned laughter has more life than the actual show, that's how bad it is.

This is your show if you like old jokes delivered badly. If you like a little less "sit" and a little less "com" in your sitcoms. This plays like the death of sitcoms, as though the guff were empty and the first souless one was born.

Will Fox kill the undead? Pray. Pray very hard.

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