In "The McCarthys," a multi-camera sitcom premiering Thursday on CBS — where the multi-camera sitcom has always had a home — Tyler Ritter plays Ronny, the black-sheep son of a close-knit Boston family.
By black sheep, I mean that, unlike his parents and siblings, he has no interest in sports and that he has proposed leaving Boston for Providence, for a better job and "vibrant gay community." The gay thing, though imperfectly understood by the other McCarthys — "Aren't all gay communities vibrant?" wonders brother Gerard (Joey McIntyre) — is not so much an issue.
The family is filled out by Laurie Metcalf as Ronny's mother, who loves "The Good Wife" and mourns "The Closer" and is surprised to find that Ronny is "still pursuin' " being gay; Jack McGee as his basketball-coach father; Kelen Coleman as sister Jackie, who wears sequins to a funeral; and comedian Jimmy Dunn as big slow brother Sean, an extremely non-identical twin to McIntyre's lean and hungry Gerard. McIntyre was in New Kids on the Block, it seems worth mentioning.
Everyone is good, though there is something especially warming in the presence of Ritter. He looks, sounds and acts very much like his late father, John, a stalwart of the situation comedy through the late 20th century.
And we note with some satisfaction that where the father got famous playing a straight man pretending to be gay — so he can room with two women, priceless — we have progressed to the point where a gay character can lead a network comedy, created by a gay man (Brian Gallivan, "Happy Endings"), and the only question is whether it's funny or not. It's not even a fluke anymore.
For the Record
"The McCarthys": A review in the Oct. 30 Calendar section of the TV series "The McCarthys" incorrectly stated that actor Tyler Ritter is gay.
So, is it funny? That question is, of course, the very definition of the mileage that may vary. CBS sitcoms, though most have their individual subtleties, do tend to beat you around the head with the jokes and the squabbling and the outrageousness, and "The McCarthys," though less hectic than some of its stablemates, is not an exception to this rule.
But the characters are more affectionate than antagonistic. They are dim, but mostly not dumb, countering what we have come to expect from portrayals of the middle- or working-class people of Boston. They are more agitated over the prospect of Ronny's leaving their virtual compound than by news of (mild spoiler) his sister's unplanned, out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
The show occasionally takes a breath and relaxes into a nice throwaway line that suggests something better might come of something that is already not bad, only a bit routine: "Don't take that shot — ooh, great shot," "I know we don't talk about feelings or, you know, have them," "It occurs to me another way to honor Fatty's memory would be to order some pizza," "As a two-time Boston Globe All-Star, I just want to remind you that I was a two-time Boston Globe All-Star."
Gallivan based this family on his own; the local details, if not every accent, are presumably accurate.
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When: 9:30 p.m. Thursday
Rating: TV-PG-DL (may be unsuitable for young children, with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)