September 26, 2012

THE SKED’S PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “Guys With Kids”

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’

GUYS WITH KIDS:  Wednesday 8:30PM on NBC

Previously… on GUYS WITH KIDS:  The guys are divorced Chris (Jesse Bradford), father of one; harried househusband Gary (Anthony Anderson), dad of four; and happily-married Nick (Zach Cregger), papa of two.  Their significant others (former, in Chris’ case) are Sheila (Erinn Hayes), Marny (Tempestt Bledsoe) and Emily (Jamie-Lynn Sigler).  The guys, well, help raise their kids.  High concept!

Episode 2:  Already, it’s more like Guys With Wives (One of them Ex-).  In just the show’s second episode, written by Producer Keith Heisler and directed by Michael Lembeck, none of the storylines were about fatherhood or the heroes’ children.  Instead, we got narratives about women, can’t live with em, can’t live without em.  Chris was dating someone fairly seriously, but no-boundaries Sheila, who barges into his apartment whenever she feels like it and reads his e-mail, felt like she had to approve.  Meanwhile, although Gary had forgotten his anniversary, Chris reminded him of it and no one reminded Marny, so Gary got to claim the moral high ground until Marny inevitably discovered the ruse and Gary had to sheepishly apologize.  And Emily found out that what she thought was her and Nick’s spontaneous, unique first date had actually been his first-date template, used on many women before, so he had to assure her that yes, with her he’d been in love at first sight.

It’s not entirely clear what’s going on here–was this episode an exception, and will the series go back to being about the heroes and their child-rearing misadventures?  Did the time and expense of shooting a pilot with seven children prove unwieldly, requiring a focus on the adults instead?  Or was it always the plan that the show would sneak on the air with one premise and then become a variation of last season’s Man Up?  In any case, tonight’s episode was unoriginal and tired, seemingly modeled after Neil Simon comedies from the 1970s.

If you buy into its retro filmed-in-front-of-a-live-studio-audience vibe, Guys With Kids isn’t entirely terrible.  Anthony Anderson did a great job with the scene where he played out his supposedly long-in-the-works anniversary evening, and the show is well paced and less creaky than other recent NBC attempts at multi-cameras (anyone remember Are You There Chelsea?).  But it’s completely disposable.  Even though the Sheila character has been recast and seemingly toned down from the original version of the pilot, she has little place as a series regular, since all she does is bring unpleasantness with her, while the other women are pleasant nonentities.  As for the men, they’re bland nice guys, preening their shallow male egos while living in mortal fear of  the old ball and chain.

Guys With Kids has the great good fortune to air against The Neighbors, one of the worst new sitcoms of the season, which makes it, by default, the best comedy in its timeslot.  If it doesn’t develop some kind of distinctiveness, though, that won’t count for much.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  But Not To “The Neighbors”


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."