We always find a soft spot in our hearts for those shows that jolt us out of a bad mood just in the nick of time. So it is that YES Stars 3 new comedy 'Til Death(Mondays, 22:30) won us over last week, right after a disastrous trip to the beach.
Smiling we were at Raymond's little (or should we say big) brother Brad Garrett, he of the rubbery face and broad comedic strokes. In fact, there's so much about Garrett that reminds us of the late Great One, Jackie Gleason, that Garrett even got the call to do a biopic on the TV comedian, and did a fine job at that.
There are a lot of Honeymooners roots in this show as well. First of all, there's the two couple comparison set-up. While the Kramdens and the Nortons shared a Bensonhurst apartment building, here the newlywed Woodcocks and the old married Starks share a suburban block
The Woodcocks are everything the Starks aren't, including hot as heck for each other, even groping each other in the Uhaul-It that drives up to the block at the opening, accompanied by a flashed graphic: "Marriage, Day 12."
Inside the Starks' house, however, the big excitement is Joy, in a robe, trying to get Eddie, in sweats, to look at her paper cut. Graphic: "Marriage, Day 8,743.
A nice touch, we thought, a smile finally coming over our faces after the beach debacle.
It got even better. Both Garrett and his co-star, Joely Fisher (Wild Card), are a riot as the old married couple, and Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kat Foster as newlyweds Jeff and Steph are perfect foils, with their own comedic skills. The script fairly hums, too, as when history teacher Eddie, carpooling with new assistant principal Jeff, explains that the new husband isn't going to get that pool table he's asked his new bride about.
"You realize, Woodcock," says Eddie, "you're never getting that pool table. Your wife said: 'That's an interesting idea.' That's woman talk for: 'Maybe when the sun burns out." Later, Eddie explains: "Men want to have fun, and wives want to walk that fun deep into the woods and shoot it dead."
After predicting exactly how Jeff's argument with his wife over a pool table will go and then hearing it play out exactly that way when the Woodcocks come over for dinner - to his delight - Eddie's crushed to find out the next day that the newlyweds had make-up sex, and Steph agreed to the purple-felted monstrosity.
Fisher is surprisingly fine as Eddie's wife. Particularly great was her attempt to get outside to go running, trying desperately not to give in to Eddie's idea of staying inside and watching TV again. Doing some stretching exercises behind the couch, she glanced over at the set, heard Ellen had the cast of Spamelot on, and slowly went from jogger to couch potato in one hysterical, smooth motion, grabbing the bag of munchies out of his hands as she did so. Lucy would've been proud.
The cast and the script are so good, it's a shame the show resorts to two unnecessary gimmicks for laughs. One is a sound-track that beats viewers over the head. The other features periodic interviews with kindergarten kids about marriage. Our favorite: the boy who wants to marry a Girl Scout because he could get rich off her cookie sales.
Still, 'Til Death makes it on its own, largely due to Garrett and Richardson, with the former occasionally lapsing into a bit too much Gleasonesque shtick, as when the pool table turned out to be too big for the room, with Eddie getting hit in the eye by a picture that came off the wall during an attempted shot. "OH! OH! MY EYE! MY EYE!" screams Eddie, the accident earning him a trip to the emergency room, only proving his point, as Joy points out, that "marriage is for having someone to drive you to the hospital."
Whether the back and forth comparisons between the newlyweds and the old married couple will hold up for a whole season remain to be seen. But if you're looking for a cure for the post-Pessah blues or a way of recovering from that huge cell phone bill that just arrived, 'Til Death is just the ticket.