Shawconnect TV critic Brent Furdyk samples the upcoming pilots for a first look at the new fall TV season
Starring: Reba McEntire, Lily Tomlin, Sara Rue, Justin Prentice, Juliette Angelo, Jai Rodriguez
The gist: After her philandering country-star husband is caught cheating on her — again — Reba Gallagher decides she’s done standing by her man and dumps him on live television during the middle of a press conference. Newly divorced Reba flees Nashville with her teenage kids and feisty mother Lillie Mae (Tomlin) in tow as they move into the Malibu love shack that her husband didn’t even tell her that he owned.
Years earlier, Reba gave up her own singing career to raise her kids, but now she’s ready to jump-start her dormant career and get back in the music business. As she discovers, a middle-aged single mom isn’t exactly what the music industry is looking for right now, but plucky Reba refuses to be stymied by a smarmy record-company exec (played by one-time Queer Eye for the Straight Guy “culture vulture” Jai Rodriguez) and keeps on truckin’. As Reba tries to get her career in gear, viewers get to hear new McEntire tunes from her upcoming real-life album — synergy at its best.
As you’d expect, Reba’s down-home perspective makes her a fish out of water in crazy, anything-goes California, especially when she meets her flaky next-door neighbour Kim (Rue), a ditzy airhead who makes Malibu Barbie seem like William F. Buckley. Reba faces an uphill battle in ensuring her kids don’t stray from their Tennessee values, which happens pretty much immediately when she catches her daughter making out with Kim’s teenage stepson — who assures her not to worry, since he’s gay and they’re just practising. Meanwhile, she also has her hands full with Lillie Mae’s shenanigans — including her happy discovery of California’s medical marijuana dispensaries.
It’s like… One Day at a Time meets The Beverly Hillbillies
Sample line: “You gave up your voice once. And now, here, you have a chance to find it again. Don’t you go back just ’cause it’s hard now.”
IMHO: This is an old-school sitcom that’s about as far from edgy as you can get, but it’s a pretty safe bet that Reba McEntire fans don’t want to see “edgy”. As the show’s anchor, Reba is as charming and likeable as ever, and you can’t underestimate how much of a factor that can be in a sitcom’s success. The secret weapon, however, is Tomlin, whose unique comic genius and impeccable timing make what would otherwise be a mediocre show far more entertaining than it should be. In fact, Tomlin seems to be enjoying herself so much that her gleeful enthusiasm practically spills right off the screen, and it’s a treat to watch.
Fun fact: Tomlin named her Jack Daniels-swilling character after her own Southern mother, Lillie Mae.
Verdict: After zillions of records sold and six seasons of her eponymous sitcom, Reba has a pretty good idea of what her fans expect from her, and Malibu Country delivers predictably. Hipsters may think it’s hokey, but Reba’s multitudes of fans will find plenty to like. Plus, the bar is set pretty low for Friday-night programming; ratings don’t have to be great for the show to be deemed a success in an otherwise-dead time slot.
Prediction: Paired with the inexplicably popular Tim Allen comedy Last Man Standing on Friday nights, ABC is hoping Reba’s new sitcom will bring about a rebirth of its TGIF sitcom block — and it just might.
MALIBU COUNTRY will air Fridays on ABC, premiering November 2