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Monday, September 19, 2016

PILOT REVIEW: Kevin Can Wait


Starring: Kevin James, Erinn Hayes, Taylor Spreitler, Ryan Cartwright, Gary Valentine, Lenny Venito, Leonard Earl Howze, James DiGiacomo, Mary-Charles Jones

Created by Kevin James, Rock Reuben and Bruce Helford
Written by Kevin James, Rock Reuben & Bruce Helford, Directed by Andy Fickman

Kevin Can Wait is a new sitcom that brings Kevin James back to TV for the first time since The King of Queens went off the air in 2007. In a premise that will certainly remind people of his former show, James plays a lovable man-child with a hot wife, only this time with kids instead of a dad. James plays Kevin Gable, who takes an early retirement incentive from his career as a cop and is now adjusting to his new retired life. His understanding wife is Donna (Erinn Hayes) and they have three kids: college-aged Kendra (Taylor Spreitler) and the younger Sara and Jack (Mary-Charles Jones and James DiGiacomo). We barely see the younger kids but the pilot is centered on Kendra's engagement to nerdy tech guy, Chale (Ryan Cartwright). Hmmm, do you think someone like that would clash with a Kevin James character? Rounding out the main cast are Kevin's fellow retired cop buddies, Kyle, Duffy, and Goody (Gary Valentine, Lenny Venito, and Leonard Earl Howze).

This is everything you would expect from a sitcom like this so it all depends on your feelings about this type of show and James in particular. I didn't hate it but I also didn't see anything that made me think this is going to be something great or even something consistently funny. What makes me the most angry is a common complaint I have which is the deterioration of the multi-cam sitcom. It's sad after decades of sharply written and acted multi-cam sitcoms that they seem to appeal to the lowest common denominator more often than not. The laugh tracks are overblown and more distracting than they used to be, probably because I'm not sold that a studio audience could possibly be laughing that hard at a pilot that barely made me crack a smile.

The cast is decent but perhaps a bit too big. I'm surprised there are this many series regulars for a show like this. As a result, the show had a very difficult time trying to fit everyone into the pilot. Kevin, Donna, Kendra and Chale were featured throughout the pilot but the other five characters were very forgettable. I know they can't possibly do a lot with every character in the pilot but this is setting itself up for some to get lost in the shuffle and that's partly due to the fact that they're pretty much stock characters like smart-aleck kids and buffoonish men in their 40s and 50s. Sitcoms can have larger casts if they're well drawn ones in an ensemble but for a star vehicle that doesn't appear to be too interested in character development, this is too many cast members. I didn't find any major faults with performances though. James is doing his thing and I like Erinn Hayes far more in this than I did in Guys with Kids. She and James have decent chemistry. As I said, most of the rest were forgettable though this Chale character could become an annoying one-trick pony pretty quickly.

The pilot was also pretty choppy both in terms of story and editing. They tried to fit in too much in the pilot yet they also had unnecessary scenes like the four retired guys hanging around on the couch. Because of that, the resolution to the pilot between Kevin and Kendra felt completely rushed and fake. They didn't even introduce the central conflict to the episode until about halfway through so it was hard to have any sort of feeling about it. I also felt like this must have come in long because there were awkward editing cuts including, but not limited to, the transition into the title theme. I could blame some of this on working through things in the pilot but this is also a show that does not seem to care to be all that well crafted so things like coherent and thoughtful stories and careful editing are not likely to be a priority.

I may catch it from time to time but this is not going to become regular viewing for me. It will appeal to some people who like James or safe and predictable sitcoms, and it's not the worst at being that kind of sitcom, but it's not for me. It's comfort food through and through.

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