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Fun show needs to trim the fat (jokes)

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The series title is also a declaration: Super Fun Night.

But here's the inevitable question: For whom?

TV REVIEW

Super Fun Night

  • Starring Rebel Wilson, Lauren Ash, Liza Lapira, Kevin Bishop and Kate Jenkinson
  • Tonight at 8:30
  • ABC and Citytv
  • 2 1/2 stars out of 5

Sean Saves the World

  • Starring Sean Hayes, Linda Lavin, Megan Hilty, Thomas Lennon, Samantha Isler and Echo Kellum
  • Tonight at 8
  • Global (also airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on NBC)
  • 2 stars out of 5

Super Fun Night, which premieres tonight at 8:30 p.m. on ABC and Citytv, certainly ranks among the most heavily hyped of this fall's new prime-time arrivals. In addition to endless promotion and the gift of perhaps the best lead-in (Modern Family) ABC has to offer, the run-up to Super Fun Night's première has also been filled with predictions the show's star, Aussie import Rebel Wilson, is destined to become TV's next big comedy thing.

There's no question Wilson -- who had a memorable bit part as Kristen Wiig's off-putting roommate in Bridesmaids -- is a unique performer who makes an indelible first impression, but many who tune in to the series premiere will be left feeling that Super Fun Night is far, far too much of what, in smaller doses, might have been a good thing.

Simply put, Wilson is a big girl. And despite some obvious quirky charm and keen comedic instincts, she's stuck in a show/role that relies almost completely on fat jokes, both visual and verbal, that quickly begin to feel more pathetic than amusing.

In two episodes provided for preview, Wilson endures a steady stream of sight gags that involve her clothing being accidentally ripped away or torn open to reveal her heavy-set physique in a variety of embarrassing undergarments.

It's too much of too much. Or maybe too much of not enough. It's just too much, period.

The premise of Super Fun Night involves an awkward but somehow upwardly mobile New York lawyer, Kimmie Boubier (Wilson), whose social life for the past 13 years has been restricted to Friday evenings in with two equally loser-ish girlfriends, Helen-Alice and Marika (Liza Lapira, Lauren Ash).

After being promoted and meeting the boss's charming son, Richard (Kevin Bishop), Kimmie suddenly finds herself forced to consider venturing out into the world and into actual social situations. Super Fun Night is overloaded with jokes about being overweight followed by moments in which Kimmie's indomitable spirit allows her to achieve some small victory the show's producers clearly think will excuse all the earlier discomfort. Which, of course, they do not.

Super Fun Night has an element of sweetness at its core, but it's buried under the weight of the show's one-joke excess. As nights go, this one never succeeds at becoming super or fun.

-- -- --

Sean as saviour?: As an equal partner in the cast of Will & Grace, Sean Hayes played a big part in prolonging NBC's reign as the home of Thursday's must-see TV lineup.

Those days are long gone, but Hayes is returning to prime time in a new sitcom called Sean Saves the World, which NBC's programmers hope will help re-establish the network as a comedy destination on Thursdays.

Sadly, this version of Sean isn't likely to save anything. Sean Saves the World, which gets an early start in Canada (tonight at 8 p.m. on Global) before arriving in its Thursday slot on NBC, is a traditional (not a compliment) comedy filled with forced, setup-punchline jokes, treacly "lesson" moments and an overbearing laugh track that's trying way too hard to convince viewers something funny is being said.

Hayes plays Sean, a guy who got married, fathered a child, realized he's gay and got divorced. Now, 14 years later, the daughter's mom has taken a job in New York and Sean is struggling to cope with primary parenting duties.

The task is complicated by a meddling mother (Linda Lavin) and a new boss (Thomas Lennon) at work who's demanding an ever-larger percentage of his time. Despite an abundance of canned laughter, hilarity does not ensue.

Despite trying to be both a family comedy and a workplace comedy, Sean Saves the World succeeds at neither. And as a result, nothing -- father-daughter relationship, job security, NBC's Thursday lineup or the world -- is likely to be saved.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2013 D8

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