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January 3, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | January 3, 2007 |

Some people seem to have the cards stacked against them through no fault of their own. You know, they’re not bad people, they don’t have bad intentions, they’re not stupid or mean-spirited — they’re just decent folk blessed with dumb luck. Think Li’l Abner or William H. Macy’s Bernie Lootz in The Cooler. No matter how hard they struggle or fight or try to claw their way out, the dice keep crapping out, and other metaphors continue to mix against them.

The new single-camera sitcom “The Knights of Prosperity” (Wednesday, ABC, 9 p.m.) feels like the network television embodiment of such dumb luck. Not so much because it focuses on some down-and-out characters who probably suffer from their own collective dumb luck but because it, itself, seems to already be at the bottom of the aforementioned overbearing pile of mixed metaphors. It’s all very meta, really.

“Prosperity” focuses on Eugene Gurkin (Donal Logue), a janitor who longs for three things, in no particular order: 1) to own his own bar, 2) to land the Colombian diner waitress who serves him and his friends every morning (that he thinks she’s Puerto Rican shows just how far he has to go on this one), and 3) to have his shift changed so he can start at 5 a.m. instead of 3 a.m. When Gurkin’s sales pitch fails to convince a bank that it should lend him money to start his bar, he finds himself depressed and naked, drinking in his tub while watching a “Cribs”-type show about Mick Jagger’s posh NYC apartment. Like Hannibal leading the A-Team, Gurkin begins to put a plan together, something to let him and his friends have all the money they need to fulfill their dreams. Using the show’s original, succinct title, he tells his friends the plan: “Let’s Rob Mick Jagger.”

The rest of the first episode, which is all I’ve seen so far, moves along fairly predictably — Gurkin assembles a rag-tag group that is going to rob Mick Jagger, and they begin to hatch a the details for pulling off this robbery, a plan that will use their collective guts, brains, childlike innocence, breasts more brains, and “gigantic black-guy super strength.” While I say that the half-hour plays out rather predictably, that’s not to suggest that it’s absent the requisite laughs. Quite the contrary — this is just about the funniest new show I’ve seen this season, second only to “30 Rock.” Like all of the good single-camera comedies out there, the laughs come from both one-liner “jokes” as well as from the more absurdist humor that arises from the situation itself (and to be sure, an entire series devoted to a bunch of fools trying to rob Mick Jagger is the very epitome of absurd). If you don’t laugh at Gurkin’s pitch to the loan officer and the show’s fantastic use of Billy Joel, then you should probably just stick with its lead-in, the more vanilla “According to Jim.”

Anyway, Logue is spot-on as the leader of this band of thieves/fools, the Knights of Prosperity (the name they’ve branded themselves with), portraying the same down-to-earth natural humor that he seems to exude in every late-night interview of his I’ve seen. The rest of his Knights also deliver solid performances, despite the actors’ relative “unknown” status (while two of them qualify as “that guy” types, and another has an extensive voice-over catalogue, the most well-known Knight is probably Sofia Vergara, more notable for being listed as hot in Maxim-type magazines than for any specific role she’s had). And Jagger, who appears in this episode but won’t be a series regular, plays a great parody of himself (at least, one hopes it’s a parody).

OK, you’re saying to yourself, so the TV Whore seems to be an early fan of the show — so what the hell was that attempt-to-be-meta shit he was talking about up top? Well my point is this — “Knights” seems to be a good show with some real potential. But even though a single second of this show hasn’t aired yet, ABC has already stacked the deck against Logue and company. First, after some early good-word-of-mouth following last May’s network upfronts, ABC gave the show a one-two punch, first by changing its name from “Let’s Rob Mick Jagger” to “Let’s Rob …” to the current title and then by pulling it from the fall schedule altogether for an undisclosed premiere. This was followed by a momentary respite of good news as “Knights” got this earlier-than-intended premiere date thanks to the premature demise of ABC’s “Daybreak” (although this is also a reminder/warning that ABC keeps its wares on a short leash). Trouble is, ABC has given the show a terrible time slot. Tonight it faces off against the ratings-strong “Criminal Minds” (which is at least a rerun this week), the mind-numbingly pacifying “Deal or No Deal” and the Sugar Bowl. And thing only get worse two weeks later, when the televised Godzilla that is “American Idol” takes over Fox’s Wednesday airwaves. And then, on February 7, ABC returns this timeslot to the declining “Lost,” and “Knights” will end up going who-knows-where. So ABC has already given “Knights” the double-whammy of an initial bad time slot and having to deal with moving to a new time slot and hoping that viewers follow (which is always a risky proposition).

Of course, I hope I’m wrong about how this is going to play out. I hope “Knights” is as funny as I think it can be, and that ABC figures out a way to support it and let it flourish, and that we’ll have another show to add to the slim list of network comedies that we actually enjoy. But I’m realistic about these things and, at this point, I suspect we’ll be incredibly lucky just to get to see this season play out. So check out “The Knights of Prosperity” while you can, because the mixed metaphors of bad luck are probably licking their lips as we speak.


Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He’s currently planning to rob Pajiba’s publisher, not because Dustin is wealthy, but just because it’s easy to pull off crime up in Ithaca.

"Live Long and Prosper" May Be Wishful Thinking

"The Knights of Prosperity" / The TV Whore
January 3, 2007

TV | January 3, 2007 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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