Starting in three weeks, ABC is pulling out the big guns– or big laughs, rather– with an unprecedented four comedy shows in their new fall lineup. All four shows feature some serious comedy-street-cred with each of them starring icons of classic American sitcoms: Kelsey Grammar (Dr. Frasier Crane from Cheers and Frasier), Patricia Heaton (Ray Barone’s long-suffering wife on Everybody Loves Raymond), Courtney Cox Arquette (bossy Monica Gellar from Friends), and Ed O’Neill (the slovenly Al Bundy from Married…With Children).
The four golden sitcoms that starred them are still widely revered and enjoy successful syndication, and may take viewers back to the glory days of comedy and a better economy. And with a collective 50 years of sitcom experience between the actors, seven Emmy wins, 29 Emmy nods, two SAG Awards, and two Golden Globes, ABC has certainly tapped into the right talent source for its comedy lineup.
Modern Family, premieres Wednesday, September 23, 9pm
Starring Ed O’Neill
Al Bundy vs. Jay
Ed O’Neill is certainly familiar with the average sitcom family. His beloved Al Bundy— the beer-guzzling bowler, dirty-movie watcher and sometime shoe salesman who asked his wife to marry him when he was drunk and who named his son after his favorite beer– was a sitcom staple for ten years.
He now takes on a different sort of family life as Jay, a mid-life crisis victim who marries a woman so young that she often gets mistaken for his daughter. (Yeah, we can see Al trying to pull a stunt like that.) Also like Al, Jay is described as “a guys’ guy,” who can’t relate to his new step-son’s sensitive nature. (Al relating to sensitivity? Definitely not.)
Hopefully the other characters on Modern Family are as deeply drawn, multi-faceted and complex as Peggy, Kelly and Bud. (Just kidding about the complex stuff, but seriously, they better live up to the quality that Ed O’Neill is accustomed to.)
Cougar Town, premieres Wednesday, September 23, 9:30pm.
Starring Courtney Cox Arquette
Monica Geller vs. Jules Cobb
Courtney Cox Arquette is the appropriately gorgeous actress “of a certain age” to step into the title character’s surely black high-heeled patent-leather shoes. She plays Jules Cobb, a successful real estate agent, and single mother who decides to launch herself into the scary world of post-divorce dating. Like the neurotic yet adorable Monica Geller, Jules is driven and motivated, though we doubt with the OCD-ness of Monica. Both characters are also “hen mothers,” as Monica was a nurturing friend and Jules a caring mother.
(Also, we must mention that Busy Phillips of Freaks and Geeks plays Jules’ assistant, and Phillips is an awesome comedienne in her own right.)
Hank, premieres Wednesday, September 30, 8pm.
Starring Kelsey Grammar
Frasier Crane vs. Hank Pryor
It looks like the recession is ready to bring us a bit of good in the form of this new comedy. Grammar plays former New York-based CEO Hank Pryor, who has been hit by the recession and is forced to pack up his family and move to small-town Virginia. While Frasier was structured around his reconnection with brother and father once he moved back to Seattle, Hank explores a similar premise, but with Hank reconnecting with his wife and kids, after his prolific New York career kept him too busy for them.
Like Frasier, Hank is a self-made man. Unlike Frasier, Hank has now lost everything and must start over in his wife’s hometown. And while Frasier was a highly intelligent, extremely well-read, somewhat uptight and narcissistic aesthete, Hank seems more in touch with the average man.
The Middle, premieres Wednesday, September 30, 8:30pm.
Starring Patricia Heaton
Debra Barone vs. Frankie Heck
Patricia Heaton is another major veteran from the annals of classic sitcom: she played the constantly badgered Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond for ten years. Like Debra, her new role as Frankie is a mother of three, wife of a blue-collar, all-American husband, and presider over a tidy middle-class home.
The Middle, however, moves the location from Long Island to Middle America. And while Debra dealt with her obnoxious in-laws and the rest of her brood with a hearty sense of sarcasm and dry humor, we’re thinking that Frankie is a chipper optimist through and through. With most sitcoms taking place in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or other major cities, we’re sure Middle America is just bursting at the seams with hilarious scenarios, possibly involving encounters with various barn animals or Burger Derby employees.