June 14, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Uncle Buck”


UNCLE BUCK:  Tuesday 9PM on ABC – Change the Channel

ABC’s UNCLE BUCK is exactly what you’d expect from a network sitcom left on the shelf for the entire regular broadcast season, then unloaded two at a time during the summer.  As ABC sitcoms go, it is to Black-ish what Family Tools briefly was to Modern Family.

The pilot, written by series creators Steven Cragg and Brian D. Bradley, and directed by Phil Traill, mashed the plot of the 1989 John Hughes movie into 21 minutes.  The sole innovation, such as it was, re-cast the main characters as African-American, the most pointless such move since Dolly Levi was played by Pearl Bailey in Hello, Dolly.  So the John Candy role of Buck Russell is now embodied by Mike Epps, who’s seen to much better advantage on Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse.  Buck isn’t so much a con man as a lazy good-for-nothing with a network TV-level assortment of vices.  When his brother Will (James Lesure) and Will’s wife Alexis (Nia Long) are in desperate need of a weekend babysitter, Buck agrees to take care of Tia (Iman Benson), Miles (Sayeed Shahidi) and Maizy (Aalyrah Caldwell).  His intent is to do as little as possible as he hides from his girlfriend (guest star Regina Hall), but of course by the end of the weekend, he’s helped the kids out, taken a step toward responsible adulthood, and Will and Alexis have made him their manny.

Episode 2, written by Co-Executive Producer Kenny Smith and directed by Stan Lathan, with the need to go beyond the movie, was even more routine, as Maizy had the task of selling the show’s non-trademark-infringing version of Girls Scout cookies, which Buck helped her do by modeling the sales operation after a drug ring.  (An idea that might have been provocative if the show had any idea of what to do with it.)  Meanwhile, Alexis and Will learned a valuable lesson about being over-competitive, Maizy conquered her shyness around adults, and in a B story of notable dopiness, Miles and Tia tried to hide a hole in his bedroom wall that they’d accidentally made.

Modern Family and Black-ish both often take obvious plots about family hijinks and misunderstandings and twist them just enough with sharp characterizations and unexpected wit so that they’re funny again, and Black-ish often finds a way to add a dab of social commentary to boot.  Uncle Buck does none of this:  if there’s a hole in a wall, it just waits until someone on the other side can fall through it, and if a character assaults someone she thinks is faking an injury, it’s certain the victim really did need to be in a wheelchair.  John Candy at least brought his genial charm to Buck, while Epps seems to be wishing for better scripts as much as we do.

With episodes airing back-to-back each week, Uncle Buck will be a memory by midsummer, and then we can look forward to the fall return of the comedies ABC does well.  The network’s attitude seems to be:  what airs in summer stays in summer.


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."