BY Magdalena Burnham
I was really hoping that Sullivan & Son would be a good show. Sure, TBS doesn’t have a great track record outside of acquiring already seamless shows like Conan and Cougar Town, but it was possible they’d turn over a new leaf with this sitcom. And, sure, none of the ads made it look funny, but sometimes ads just don’t do a show justice. Despite all the signs that it wasn’t going to be good, I wanted Sullivan & Son to prove—once and for all—that a show with an Asian lead could succeed.
Unfortunately, Sullivan & Son is just not a good show. It’s hard to figure out what the creators thought the appeal of it would be. I guess we’re supposed to buy into the importance of the bar it centers around (a la Cheers). In the pilot, Steve Sullivan (comedian Steve Byrne) decides to take over his dad’s bar instead of continuing his law career, which would be a perfectly reasonable decision except that he keeps phrasing it as a moral imperative. The show’s earnest belief that bartenders objectively do more good in the world than lawyers is one of the stranger plot conceits I’ve encountered in the history of television pilots.
The show clearly wants the audience to be invested in the relationship between Steve and Melanie (Valerie Azlynn). Since they mention the fact that they’re just friends about 50 times in the pilot, you know you’re expected to root for them becoming more than friends. But, aside from the fairly sweet relationship between Steve’s parents (Dan Lauria and Jodi Long), the whole idea of sex and relationships are treated as a (unfunny) joke on this show. Steve and Melanie’s flirtation seems completely obligatory, Carol (Christine Ebersole) recites tired innuendos in lieu of acting like a real character with real desires and the bar setting leads to lots of eye roll worthy lines from the bar’s regulars about not wanting to get home to their wives.
The lack of anything to care about on the show wouldn’t be such a big deal if it were funny. But, there isn’t a single laugh in the first three episodes. The worst aspects of old and new comedy combine, so we get predictably, cheesy set-up-set-up-punch jokes, plus awkward jokes about race and promiscuity that are annoying instead of edgy.
It’s very disappointing that Sullivan & Son is an unfunny show that deserves to be cancelled as soon as possible because of the distinct possibility that networks will view this as a sign that shows with Asian leads don’t work. This is obviously ridiculous: Free Agents, Man Up! And How to be a Gentleman were huge failures, but networks aren’t going to stop making shows centered around white men. I hope to see another sitcom with an Asian lead soon, maybe even another show centered around Steve Byrne. But, this is definitely not the show I was hoping for.
Trackback from your site.