THE NEW SEASON TV Preview
TV Preview: Fox's 'Brothers' Plays to Black Comedy Type
Friday, September 25, 2009
One way to dim the Emmy afterglow (in the wake of all that Isn't Neil Patrick Harris such a sweetie?, etc.) is to again pose the obvious question: Are there any black people front and center on network television? Besides, you know, Laurence Fishburne, LL Cool J and the minimum daily allowance of supporting-cast black people on network television?
Well, here are some: The Trainor family of Houston, fending for themselves in "Brothers," a peppy but mediocre sitcom, debuting Friday night on Fox in back-to-back episodes. The Trainors live in a pretty McMansion paid for by the successful pro-football career of elder son Michael (real former football star Michael Strahan), who has retired from the team and come home from New York to pay a visit.
He's picked up at the airport by his younger brother, Chill (Daryl "Chill" Mitchell), who uses a wheelchair (as the comedian does in real life) and has all sorts of pent-up resentments for Michael's success. And is driving Michael's Bentley. And is operating a restaurant (Trainor's) filled with sports memorabilia that cashes in on his brother's success.
"Is it safe for you to drive this car?" Michael asks.
"Sure, but I ain't got nothin' to lose," paraplegic Chill replies, "so you better buckle up."
The laughs here are all centered on a family that expresses itself mainly through riff and trash-talk ("You know what you should do with your two front teeth?" Chill snaps at gap-toothed Michael. "Introduce them") the way Americans have been trained to think of black sitcom people talking. The brothers' father, Coach Carl (Carl Weathers), does a bit on the high school team he coaches: "The team is gonna be great if I can just get my quarterback to get a haircut. There's no place in football for braids," he sasses.
"Dreads," Chill corrects him.
"Whatever, it's girly hair, and I don't like it," Coach retorts. "And another thing -- when did men start shaving their widdlydoos? I walked in the shower the other day, and it looked like a bunch of giant 5-year-olds, and that's creepy."
This is not objectionable, I suppose, because "Brothers" has an undercurrent of love and family running through it, along with the leavening grace of CCH Pounder as the matriarchal Mrs. Trainor. The family, who moved on up like the Jeffersons, are movin' on down now: The restaurant isn't working out, and Mama Adele discovered (via Internet sports gossip) that Michael's accountant ran off with her son's fortunes.
"I'm fine," Michael protests.
"Oh, yeah?" his mother asks. "Then why you gonna fight Danny Bonaduce for $10,000?"
So before it becomes "Good Times"-meets-"Family Matters," the Trainors will have to learn to live under one roof. "I took a buncha downers," Mrs. Trainor admits.
"You stabbing me in the leg with a fork?" Chill asks his mother, who persists in believing he will walk again.
"Only if you can feel it," she says.
"No, I can't, but I really like these pants," he says.
And on it goes, one widdlydoo joke and stabbing-my-leg joke after another. Only if you can feel it.
Brothers (two 30-minute episodes) premieres Friday at 8 p.m. on Fox.