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Review: TBS' 'Wedding Band' rocks, but only occasionally laughs
Brian Austin Green fronts a likable but bumpy new comedy series
Of the many things TBS’ new one-hour comedy series “Wedding Band” (tonight at 10 p.m.) has on its plate, it gets the most important one right: the wedding band itself.
The group, a rock quartet called Mother of the Bride, performs both the wedding standards (but often with a twist, like a bluegrass version of “I Will Survive”) and more unexpected tunes (“Hollaback Girl,” “I Love College”) with enormous amounts of energy and charm. The series’ music producers are Steven Gold and Fountains of Wayne frontman Adam Schlesinger, each of whom have plenty of experience of making fake bands seem plausible. Their work, along with that of the show’s stars — notably star Brian Austin Green as the band’s lead singer Tommy — completely sell Mother of the Bride as a group that, while probably not good enough to make the big time, I’d be absolutely happy to have play the next wedding, bar mitzvah or retirement party I attend.
This is no small thing, even on a show with such modest aims and laid-back atmosphere as “Wedding Band,” which co-stars Peter Cambor as lead guitarist and bored suburban dad Eddie, Derek Miller as Eddie’s goofy drummer brother Barry, and Harold Perrineau as the band’s new bassist Stevie, a veteran session musician happy to be part of an ongoing thing. The challenge in any project about a fictional performer is making them seem as good or bad as the script demands them to be. The Schlesinger-penned title tune to “That Thing You Do!” is exactly as catchy as required; you believe that song could become instantly popular, and therefore you go along with the rest. On the flip side, you have the sketches on “Studio 60,” or Tom Hanks’ stand-up routine in “Punchline,” neither of which are funny and cause the story around them to fall apart.
“We are an indie wedding band!” an indignant Barry declares at one point, and he seems to be telling the truth.
Because I quickly came to like Mother of the Bride — and because Green has become a much more likable and confident actor since his “Beverly Hills 90210” days(*) — I was willing to forgive “Wedding Band” a lot, including the fact that there aren’t enough good jokes to support a half-hour version of the series, let alone an hour.
(*) It’s not hard to imagine “Wedding Band” as a stealth “90210” sequel (as opposed to what’s currently airing on the CW) where David Silver has fallen on hard times in his 30s, and evolved from his Color Me Badd-listening, hip-hop DJ-ing days to front a rock band. They just need to book Ian Ziering as a groom-to-be, and all will be right with the world.
Given the length, I’d be inclined to call this a dramedy, but there’s nothing that’s even attempting to be serious here. “Wedding Band” is a straight-up romp, full of comic misunderstandings — two of the three episodes TBS sent out for review feature men having to explain, in all sincerity, that it’s not what it looks like when they’re caught with their hands on a woman’s breasts — complicated schemes (Eddie wears a wire so the other guys can keep him from inadvertently offending his wife) and other wacky hijinx. Occasionally, the show strikes a rich comic vein, like Eddie teaching childless bachelor Tommy about the value of sanitary wipes, but most of the series feels more pleasant than funny. If anything, the most overtly comic moments are often the clunkiest, and made me wish the guys were back onstage somewhere, whether the full group, or some sub-section. (In one of the episodes, Stevie and Barry duet on “West End Girls” with a cello and glockenspiel.)
And yet there’s a likability to it that occasionally reminded me of another one-hour comedy that loved music, NBC’s “Ed,” and the varied nature of the parties the guys play evokes Starz’s late, lamented “Party Down.” (Though both thoses shows were much, much funnier.) Sometimes, charm is enough, especially on a Saturday night at 10 o’clock, and if it comes with good music along the way.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org