April 2, 2020

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Broke”


BROKE:  Thursday 9:30PM on CBS

Even brand-new episodes of CBS multicamera sitcoms can have a tendency to feel like reruns, and the network’s new midseason series BROKE brings that to the “but this is ridiculous” level.  Broke is built around virtually the same premise as NBC’s midseason sitcom Indebted.  (The two shows even air in the same timeslot!)  In the NBC version, spendthrift parents who’ve lost all their money show up at their son’s middle-class home and move in, disrupting everything.  In Broke, spendthrift Javier (Jaime Camil) and Elizabeth (Natasha Leggero), who’ve lost their fortune, show up at the home of Elizabeth’s working-class single mom sister Jackie (Pauley Perrette) and move in, disrupting everything.  Oh and both shows have a gay supporting character, a lesbian sister in Indebted and in Broke, Javier’s erstwhile assistant and BFF Luis (Izzy Diaz).  Here’s the pull-quote:  Broke isn’t quite as unrelentingly painful as Indebted.

Honestly, though, this premise is hardly enticing enough to support even one weekly comedy, let alone two.

Broke is based on a Colombian telenovela, and it shares some talent with Jane the Virgin, which had similar roots:  Camil, of course, as well as Jennie Snyder Urman, the creator of Jane but merely a non-writing executive producer here, and some of the other producers.  Broke‘s US creator Alex Herschlag, however, wasn’t part of Jane and is instead a longtime sitcom hand, with credits that range from Modern Family to Hot In Cleveland to Mike & Molly to Will & GraceBroke has none of the meta-knowingness, let alone the formal innovations and character complexities of Jane.  It has one joke, repeated over and over, in which Javier and/or Elizabeth demonstrates their utter heedlessness of real-world economics and continue to act as though they’re still rich, while Jackie fumes.  This is matched by a repeated note of sentimentality, as one or the other of the couple briefly realize that the strong family bonds with Jackie and her son Sammy (Antonio Corbo) are something they’ve been missing.  Pilot director Victor Gonzalez, another sitcom veteran, hits every note in the most obvious way, with an overactive finger on the “studio audience response” button.

Camil was often inspired on Jane the Virgin, and Javier isn’t much of a stretch.  He brings to Broke whatever charm it has, but the material is so much more simplistic here that we can see his performance gears moving.  Leggero, an experienced comedy performer, seems to have been encouraged to play it big and stay there.  Perrette, a CBS drama favorite, has the unenviable role of the straight woman who has to roll her eyes at the antics of her sister and brother-in-law.  The deadpan Diaz fares best in the pilot, although he also has a limited amount to play.

There are probably countless variations that can be wrung out of the one-note jokes and characters of Broke, and fans of mechanical comedy may enjoy its efforts.  (They can even experience each Thursday 9:30PM half-hour as a split-screen event with Indebted.)  But this isn’t comfort food or even fast food.  It’s a barely thawed-out TV dinner.


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."