I’m doubling up on the half hour comedies again, these two air back to back starting with Hank and following with The Middle, although thankfully I watched them the wrong way around and started with Hank.
Kelsey Grammar stars as Hank, a rich company exec who gets fired from his the company that he founded and has to move his family from a swanky New York mansion to a run down house in Virginia. Call me bitter, but I think it might be a bit early to try to get us to sympathise with rich executives and their spoilt families who have to survive without their expense accounts and suffer the ‘indignity’ of living without servants.
I think if I just sat and read the script, I might find it funny. But the realisation of the script was painfully awful, with wooden acting, phone-it-in direction and the worst canned laughter track in the history of mankind. I don’t understand how two talented actors like Kelsey Grammar and Melinda McGraw, directed by the legendary James Burrows (Cheers, Friends etc) have managed to produce something so painfully amateur. The most talented things on the screen were an 11 year old kid and a sheet of bubble wrap, not necessarily in that order.
All things considered I’m pretty glad that I didn’t watch Hank first, because after sitting through that I probably wouldn’t have been able to bring myself to watch another comedy. As it was I watched The Middle first and was really charmed and entertained by it, briefly stirring my faith that there was good in this world before Hank then stomped it out.
The Middle is about a middle class family, a middle aged Mom living in the middle of Indiana. So immediately a slightly more sympathetic premise. The most important thing – I laughed all the way through it. I laughed at the first line, I laughed at the last line and I chuckled, smiled and laughed during pretty much every scene in between and I didn’t feel bad or guilty about laughing. It occasionally drifted a little too far into schmaltzy for my taste, but it always paid off with something funny. The characters were quirky but not caricatures and the situations ridiculous but believable, it had a subtlety and charm that Hank couldn’t find with satnav and neon signs.
Watching Hank felt like watching stand-up, someone trying to tell jokes and waiting for people to tell them how funny they are. The Middle felt like watching a friend tell me an anecdote, over a drink. not to set up a punchline, just to tell an amusing story. That’s the difference between telling a joke and being funny.
Links: Can’t be bothered