October 2, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “9JKL”


9JKL:  Monday 8:30PM on CBS – Change the Channel

We usually do actors the favor of evaluating their work on a project separately from the quality of the project itself, willing to take their performances on their own terms.  But Mark Feuerstein doesn’t just star in the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad new CBS sitcom 9JKL, he’s the series co-creator (with real-life wife Dana Klein) and co-writer of the pilot, so the blame for this atrocity belongs squarely at his door.  When trailers for upcoming shows were released during Upfront season, 9JKL made one desperately hope that the marketing team had distorted it into something much worse than it actually was.  Their work, as it turned out, was sadly accurate.

Feuerstein plays Josh, an actor (big stretch here) whose TV series has been canceled and who’s just gone through a divorce, so he’s moved back to NY, and more specifically–here comes the concept!–into the apartment between his parents Harry and Judy (Elliott Gould and Linda Lavin), and his brother and sister-in-law, new parents Andrew and Eve (David Walton and Liza Lapira).  Additional color is provided by the building doorman (Matt Murray) and some random kid (Albert Tsai).

The joke, and there’s only one, is that Harry and Judy are such smothering monsters that only connoisseurs of Jewish stereotypes could take pleasure in them.  Harry is passive-aggressive, and Judy is aggressive-aggressive, to the extent that she pays the doorman to let her know whenever Josh is coming up in the elevator so she can snatch him into her lair before he can open his door.  (Twist alert:  the one time he thinks he’s gotten away from her, she’s already waiting in his apartment.)  Their punchlines in the pilot are nearly all squirmingly sexual, with a particularly odd concentration on testicles:  Judy tells Josh that his balls used to be in her (when she’s not exulting over his “tushie”), while Harry excitedly relays his semen count.  In case that obnoxiousness was inadequate, Andrew constantly puts Josh down, while Eve is more in the background, but for no apparent reason stows her breast milk in Josh’s fridge.  (He mistakenly drinks it!  No, really!)

It’s possible to push this kind of repulsiveness to the point where it becomes hilarious, as in the classic Robert Klane/Carl Reiner Where’s Poppa?, where put-upon son George Segal actively fantasized about murdering his crazy mom Ruth Gordon.  But that’s not the kind of boundary-pushing to be found on a CBS sitcom, so instead everything here is played for a adorableness that doesn’t exist.

Feuerstein will have to atone for his sins, but the other actors, all sitcom veterans, do their jobs professionally enough, even if it’s particularly painful to see Lavin perform such a gross role after her recent delicious work on the late seasons of The Good Wife.  They all deserve better, as does Sally Pressman, guest star in the pilot as the date ultimately driven away by Josh’s family.  As writers, Feuerstein and Klein seem mostly driven to make every scene as short as humanly possible, and director Pamela Fryman keeps the thing on the rails.

It should be noted that for some reason, CBS has given 9JKL the best lead-in in its arsenal for the first several weeks of its run, The Big Bang Theory (until that show moves back to Thursdays), so the series could well be a hit, at least in the short term.  But that won’t make it any good.  It’s the early winner of the “My eyes, My eyes!” trophy for Fall 2017, a reminder that the Peak TV era still includes some bottomless valleys.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."