Monday, March 15, 2010

'Til Death—Directionless and Less Than the Sum of its Parts

'Til Death originally started out as a fairly generic Everybody Loves Raymond type of sitcom that got by on Brad Garrett's energy and some occasional wackiness by the supporting cast. Fast forward to the present and Garrett's energy is gone, the wackiness level is through the roof, and the show has gone from an overachiever to and underachiever.

'Til Death is probably the most self-aware sitcom on television right now with Eddie's son in law Doug having developed a "mental condition" where he believes that he is on a TV sitcom. As a result, the show trots out every sitcom cliche in hopes that it will somehow be fresh because they are winking at it. The trouble is that TV shows have been breaking the fourth wall for decades; so when 'Til Death does it, the winking self-awareness doesn't feel fresh.

That's not to say that the show doesn't work hard to be inventive. I'm currently watching an episode where the cast is dreaming of Doug and Ally's wedding filmed entirely as a series of cartoons. But ultimately, it all feels like the writers are throwing darts at the wall hoping that something will stick. And right now, not enough is sticking.

While the over the top performances by almost the entire supporting cast do guarantee the occasional laugh, this show used to get more laughs without trying half as hard as they do now. This raises the question of what happened and I think that the answer is that they've essentially taken their star, Brad Garrett, and turned him into a straight man. It reminds me of the "What Up With That?" skit on Saturday Night Live which is an interview show where there are so many ridulous distractions with singing and dancing that the host never gets around to interviewing his guests. At this point in its existence, 'Til Death is a lot like that skit. There is so much over the top silliness that there is little room for anyone to be consistently funny.

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