October 30, 2014



THE MCCARTHYS:  Thursday 9:30PM on CBS  – Change the Channel!

Disclaimer: Network pilots now in circulation aren’t necessarily in their final form. It’s not unusual for pilots to be reedited and re-scored, and in some cases even recast or reshot, before hitting the air. Consider these reports to be guides to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.

PLAYERS:  Series creator Brian Gallivan, and because up till now he’s been a junior-level TV writer (on Happy Endings and Are You There, Chelsea?), showrunner Mike Sikowitz, a much more seasoned sitcom vet whose recent credits include Rules of Engagement and Welcome To the Family.  Non-writing executive producer Will Gluck.  An ensemble cast headed by Tyler Ritter, and featuring Laurie Metcalf, Jack McGee, Jimmy Dunn, Joey McIntyre, and Kenan Coleman.  Pilot director Andy Ackerman.  (Pam Fryman, who will take over as the series’ regular director, the same position she held on How I Met Your Mother, wasn’t involved at the pilot stage.)  Sony Television and CBS Studios.

PREMISE:  The family of the title is a close-knit group who live practically on top of each other in Boston, where they get on each others’ nerves while being devoutly loyal to one another.  Arthur (McGee) is a high school basketball coach, and the whole family is sports-crazy… except Ronny (Ritter), who’s gay.

PILOT:  It’s as though having a passable level of success with The Millers (mostly thanks to its Big Bang Theory lead-in) felt too easy to CBS, so this time the network decided to increase its level of difficulty by cultivating the same mediocrity without any of that show’s A-level cast or series creator Greg Garcia.  The result is several megatons of disaster, a busted “comedy” to remind just about anyone why network TV is aging and fading into the medium’s background.  The McCarthys has a grand total of two jokes in its repertoire.  One is that Boston Irish Catholics are loud-mouthed, semi-educated sports obsessives, and the other is that a gay man born to that family would know absolutely nothing about sports, preferring to sit on the couch with his mother and watch The Good Wife  (Not only is that an actual joke from the pilot, Gallivan liked it so much that it’s a running gag.)

Let’s leave aside the fact that The McCarthys clearly thinks it’s progressive because the family embraces their Gay Son, while at the same time indulging in every cliché it can fit into half an hour.  The bigger issue is that none of this is funny.  In an earlier era, Ronny would have been an “intellectual” rather than specifically gay, but the gag would have been exactly the same:  the oddball in a sports family who doesn’t know a football from a basketball.  The pilot storyline is so thin as to barely exist–Ronny gets a job offer out of Boston and has to decide whether to leave his family, something that can’t possibly happen or there wouldn’t be a show.  The family throws him an excruciating “gay bar” night at the house, and then, in a remarkably cynical touch, Arthur hires the sports-ignorant Ronny as his assistant coach because a gay basketball prospect and his lesbian mother will choose his school to attend if it can show a commitment to gay rights.

The cast knows how to sell a punchline so it gets a laugh from the studio audience, but there’s only so much mileage to be gotten out of material like this.  How many times can Ronny fail to be able to name a pro basketball team, or his brother (who also coaches basketball) scream at his players, or Mom reinforce her reverence for Kyra Sedgwick?  There have been other bad sitcoms on the broadcast networks this fall–Manhattan Love Story is already canceled, and Bad Judge can’t be far behind–but none more wretched than this.

PROSPECTS:  The most remarkable thing about The McCarthys is that CBS was so enthusiastic about it that when a 2013 single-camera version of the pilot wasn’t picked up, the network retooled it as a multi-camera, did some recasting and tried it again.  Although the broad material is indeed more suited to a multi-camera style, there’s nothing here to justify that level of network loyalty.  McCarthys was held until Thursday night football ended at CBS, and that night will as usual get a super-charged start from The Big Bang Theory.  By 9:30PM, though, after Mom and the running-on-fumes final season of 2 1/2 Men have aired, that momentum will mostly be gone, as The Crazy Ones discovered last season.  To use a sports term Ronny McCarthy doubtless wouldn’t recognize, The McCarthys will be lucky to make it to the half.


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."