Are there any TV clans left that like each other? ”Everybody Loves Raymond”; ”The King of Queens”; ”Yes, Dear”; and ”According to Jim” glean their comedy – with varying degrees of success – from the petty annoyances of family life. CBS, which boasts all of the above except for ”Jim,” has become the go-to network for this kind of ”Ain’t men lovable lunks?” humor – and the quarreling comedy has hit the tipping point with ”Raymond”’s Monday-night companions ”Two and a Half Men”and Still Standing.
The biggest problem with ”Still Standing” is that it does zip to freshen the Fatty-Gets-a-Family formula. Working-class doof Bill (”The Full Monty”’s Mark Addy) has a mysteriously hot wife, Judy (Jami Gertz, who will never really go away, will she?), a boy-crazy nemesister-in-law (Jennifer Irwin, taking a few hits from Megan Mullally’s helium pipe), and a set of kids he tries to ignore in favor of food and TV. The show gets its zingiest lines out of a concept perfected by ”Roseanne” and cribbed to death ever since: Parents aren’t always thrilled to be parents. When their youngest is ill, Judy urges Bill to talk to the little one. ”Why?” he counters. ”Being sick doesn’t make her more interesting.” The line’s not bad. It just feels used…and creepily warm, as if Ray Romano had been carrying it around in his pocket too long and decided to throw it away.
Unlike most of today’s jerky sitcom dads, Addy is neither a stand-up nor even an American (he’s a Brit trained at the Royal Academy for Dramatic Art), and his subtlety doesn’t help the situation – nor does his not-quite-camouflaged accent, considering he’s supposed to be from Chicago. Addy’s blue-collar Bill, a toilet salesman, no less, mocks his bookish son by dubbing him Brian Von Brainiac. To make those jabs work, you need an outsize, farty frat-guy delivery – and you need writing that tells us the big oaf is teasing because he realizes his son’s going to the Ivy League and he’s going to the crapper. Addy is too understated for the former, and ”Still Standing” is too apathetic for the latter. I say disassemble this EZ Chair of a show and sell it for parts. Somewhere there’s a sitcom scribe thinking ”If only Jami Gertz were available…”