Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Family Tools'
There's a strong cast and heart, but the pilot is mighty broad
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show:"Family Tools" (ABC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: Tee-hee. "Tools." Yeah, I dunno. It's based on a successfully British format, but they changed the name and almost all of the premise of the format so... Yeah.
Quick Response: Although he's not connected to the series at all, the spirit of Greg Garcia looms large over "Family Tools," which was written by "Raising Hope" and "My Name Is Earl" veteran Bobby Bowman and directed by "Raising Hope" and "My Name Is Earl" veteran Michael Fresco. If you're a viewer/fan of those two shows, chances are relatively good that you'll find enough value in "Family Tools" to at least give in a second chance, because the DNA and worldview here overlap with NBC's comedy hit and FOX's critical favorite, at least somewhat. It's another portrait of blue collar America in which you can never be sure if the storytellers are being patronizing or reverential, but both answers are probably correct. At the center of "Family Tools" is Kyle Bornheimer, playing yet another in his rogue's gallery of hapless, lovable lugs. If, for some reason, Steve Martin decided to give his blessing to a TV version of "The Jerk," I'd cast Bornheimer as Navin. It happens that I almost always enjoy watching Bornheimer and I don't blame him for the failure of most of his failed shows, but after "Perfect Couples," "Romantically Challenged" and "Worst Week," his status as a showkiller is beyond question. I think he's funny and sympathetic in "Family Tools" as well, in perhaps his most Navin-esque role as career-hopping son who just wants to make his father proud of him, but can't stop screwing everything up. Around Bornheimer, you have the always terrific J.K. Simmons, the surprisingly funny Edi Gathegi, the immediately appealing Danielle Nicolet, the immediately quirky and weird Johnny Pemberton and Leah Remini, who will always be the star of the beach season of "Saved by the Bell" to me. The pilot is, to put it kindly, broad. And in the Garciaverse, "broad" isn't inherently a bad thing, but it can be a sign of danger. The challenge is always in concentrating on what is effectively and character drivenly broad and ignoring what is complacently and lazily broad. "Raising Hope" is a BROAD show, but it's become a differently broad show since its pilot. Once the show ditched the baby-endangerment comedy and started mining broadness from its gung-ho stars, it became the effective concoction that's returning for a third season. Bowman has a "Raising Hope"-esque cast of actors willing to do anything for laughs, so he'll just have to find the right ways to utilize that cast, without sacrificing the dignity and heart. "Family Tools" isn't a great pilot -- a couple of my colleagues seem to REALLY dislike it -- but knowing the Garcia template, I see potential here.
Desire To Watch Again: Just as the "Raising Hope" pilot made me laugh, but I reserved the right to drop out immediately if the show trended in the wrong direction, "Family Tools" got chuckles out of me and I want to believe it's going to continue down an improving path. So I'll be kinda looking forward to the second episode of "Family Tools," reserving the right to back away if the wackiness becomes overbearing.
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Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
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Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
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