There’s a lot of bad new TV out there right now, with all the networks throwing out as much content as they can, just to see what floats. So you may have missed CBS’ new comedy Life In Pieces. You probably did miss it. I actually really hope you did. Because after giving it three episodes, I feel confident in saying that it is the most infuriating new show of the fall. It’s not the worst. But it may make you want to bash you head against something blunt. This is a show that is nothing new. It’s derivative of a handful of other shows on the air right now— most obviously Modern Family, rotating through the lives of the different branches of a family. But while the show has almost nothing original or funny or endearing to offer, it does have one hell of a cast— maybe the best large ensemble cast on network TV right now.
You’ve got Colin Hanks,
Playing opposite Zoe Lister-Jones, who you may know from any number of things— most recently, as Fawn Moscato, Schmidt’s overbearing politician girlfriend on New Girl.
Newsroom’s Thomas Sadoski plays Hanks’ brother, and is predictably great.
The other sibling is played by Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt,
Who’s married Dan Bakkedahl, playing far less curmudgeonly than we’re used to seeing him.
Plus, the parents are played by James Brolin,
And Dianne Goddamn Wiest.
Not only is that a to die for cast— just really inexplicably spectacular for what basically amounts to an unabashed Modern Family knockoff— but the pairings are supremely well matched. Every one of those couples has just perfect chemistry.
So after managing to gather this great of a cast, where did they get lost? Well, right from the start, really. After all, this is a CBS comedy, which means there’s a general blandening of everything on screen. Every episode so far has felt like Chuck Lorre tried his hand at a Parenthood spec script. It wants to be something more than a generic sitcom, but every joke seems written for a laugh track that’s not there. Each episode is broken up into four stories— and I don’t mean there are four stories being woven together. Each commercial break ends with a title card reading Story One, Story Two, etc. You know, just in case you didn’t catch on that there were other characters they’re moving on to now. And in reducing every story to five-ish minutes, it guarantees they never have to dig too deep on any one story or any one character. It gets to have a general glaze of heart while remaining an entirely superficial comedy. Now, if only there were some, you know, jokes.
Ultimately, the most frustrating thing about this show is that it could be so much worse. It’s unavoidable that it will be be constantly compared to Modern Family— that’s clearly what it was sold to be. But it’s actually a lot better than what that show has become, which is more lazily derivative of its former self than this could ever be. But that’s also setting the bar mighty low. And while Life In Pieces may not be terrible, it’s 100% mediocre. And that’s somehow even more insulting to its stellar cast than if it were just an obvious terrible money grab.
Oh, one more travesty: beyond those couples listed above, Jordan Peele was also wasted in a few minutes of the first episode. They gave him a cute little dog and that was about it.
Seriously, how did they get this cast?