Remember the ABC of yore, when it aired its classic TGIF lineup that we couldn't get enough of? "Perfect Strangers" and "Full House" were there at one time; so was "Family Matters" and "Step By Step." Ah, good times, good memories. It seems like the alphabet network wants those warm n' fuzzies once again, trying to bring back some of that nostalgia by adding two family-friendly comedies to cap off the end of the week: the second season of Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing" and the debut of "Malibu Country," starring Reba McEntire. It's too bad the new shows are being written like it's still the '90s.
"Malibu Country" follows former singer-songwriter Reba Gallagher (McEntire) who divorces her famous husband (Jeffrey Nordling) after his infidelity becomes public. She decides to start fresh by moving from Nashville to California with her sassy mom, Lillie (Lily Tomlin), and two miserable kids, Cash (Justin Prentice) and June (Juliette Angelo). It's quite a change, especially with her overly affectionate neighbour Kim (Sara Rue) and her stepson Sage (Hudson Thames) seemingly always nearby, ready to pounce.
It's like "The Good Wife" meets "GCB" in sitcom form -- and, yes, it's even worse than it sounds. The only thing the traditional, multi-cam show has going for it is that Reba's fan base have been clamoring for the singer-actress to return to TV ever since "Reba" left the airwaves. But unlike "Reba," "Malibu" isn't very funny. It's similar to "Partners" -- I didn't laugh once.
One solace is that Reba's fans will eat this up, though it's no thanks to the writers (whose jokes are corny and dated), the irksome laugh track (which, aside from also being corny and dated, found the show a whole lot funnier than I did) or the characters. Reba and Lillie are just OK, but the kids are annoying (Cash is absolutely insufferable; June's a tad more bearable), and Kim is grating and way too huggy (this might be the only series Rue can't save). Tomlin tries, but not even Lillie high from a "happy lolly" can rescue this mess. The only decent moment is the revelation at the end, but by then it's too little, too late. I just didn't care, and all that scene proved is that Tomlin needs a different project.
But "Malibu" is coming from a number of executive producers, including creator Dave Stewart (yes, that Dave Stewart, one-half of the Eurythmics), series star McEntire (who knew what she was doing on "Reba"), and Kevin Abbott (who also exec-produces "Last Man Standing," which averaged nine million viewers during its freshman year). Fridays may not be the highest-profile nights but "Last Man" and "Malibu" will likely win its timeslot -- even with the latter's loathsome gay jokes.
As a woman, I know I should be rooting for this woman scorned rebuilding her life, but if I never saw Reba and the rest of her family again (yes, even Tomlin), I would be singing my own happy tune.
"Malibu Country" premieres Friday, Nov. 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET on Citytv/ABC.
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