In a time where “50 is the new 40” it seems fitting that two comedies on FOX both star “middle-aged” actors. The Grinder – Rob Lowe and Grandfathered which allows John Stamos to come back to prime time television, a’la Full House and ER. (It could also be seen as an run up to Fuller House.) Stamos stars as restauranteur Johnny Martino who gets the double whammy of learning that he is a dad and a grandfather all in one fell swoop.
The cast includes Paget Brewster, Josh Peck, Christina Milan, Kelly Jenrette and Ravi Patel and similar to The Grinder comedy series does not rely upon a laugh track or live studio audience. Instead it utilizes great writing, characterization and capable actors to amuse the audience.
Stamos’ character is a simple man focussed on his wishes. Now that he has a “family” Martino is trying to get involved, as much as he can. His former girlfriend, and mother to his son Gerald, and grandmother to Gerald’s baby girl Edie, Sara Kingsley is attempting to help Johnny make the transition from career singleton to caring grandfather.
The mid-season return, Perfect Physical Specimen, has Martino being tricked into getting his first physical in over 20 years, Edie gets “ear surgery” and Johnny freaks out over the possibility of having skin cancer.
Grandfathered, created by Daniel Chun, is a great little ensemble piece that amuses. While the show is not, thus far, capable of inducing huge belly laughs, it does allow Stamos to shine. The entire cast actually perform very well, each one bringing something to the comic table.
In episode 110, even the “non-actor” guest star (Dr Phil McGraw, aka Dr. Phil) manages to get a few chuckles as the exasperated and humorless physician picked to give Martino his examination. McGraw generally plays himself in other shows and this “role” is his first time playing another character.
This well crafted comedy does not require deep thinking from its audience and there is no need to binge watch from the first episode to “get it.” The characters are painted well enough, with the writing and the acting, for all the cast to become immediately identifiable as certain types. Not quite stereotypes, but close enough that the audience can establish who each person is by their actions.
Josh Peck is Gerald, Martino’s son, who is with Vanessa. The two parents of Edie, Johnny’s granddaughter, are cute together and a good fit. The latest episode has the two singing positive songs of encouragement to their daughter before her ear surgery to quell their own fears.
Johnny, who is freaked out by what he has learned on the Internet about skin cancer, takes Edie to save her from the doctor and there is a subplot where Annelise and Ravi struggle to open a newly discovered safe in Martino’s office.
Grandfathered is not a comedic formula which fits any particular sub-genre. There is no reliance upon slapstick or over the top comic hijinks. Instead, there is a focus upon certain “topical” jokes, such as the “Keeners” group (a few “strong willed’ female fans of the actress Catherine Keener) who refuse to leave when the restaurant closes.
Stamos has been busy, he did a tiny cameo as Jean Hamm in the second season premiere of the ABC musical series Galavant and he has Fuller House and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 coming up.
For those who do not want to wait for these upcoming productions, tune in to FOX Tuesdays for Grandfathered. Entertaining, amusing and not too deep.
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