It’s two by the book from Fox

Times Staff Writer

The vaunted Fox Summer Season -- vaunted by Fox, that is -- continues tonight with the premieres of two new situation comedies. Though thematically and stylistically dissimilar -- one is an old-fashioned proscenium sitcom con laugh track, the other a fluid one-camera affair in the amped-up style of “Malcolm in the Middle” -- each is rooted in the hoariest of conventions and verities. Andy Richter plays the father of five fraternal 15-year-olds in a traditional dumb-dad scenario in “Quintuplets,” while “Method & Red” summons the ghosts of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” as real-life rappers Method Man and Redman move into an upscale gated community, hilarity hopefully to ensue. Except for the specific content of the jokes -- i.e., sex, drugs -- both are exceedingly, even pointedly, old-fashioned.

It has been some time now since Richter left a cozy seat as Conan O’Brien’s sidekick, and his fortunes have been mixed; he commands respect but often squanders it. If the possible-futures comedy “Andy Richter Controls the Universe,” also on Fox, was well-reviewed, cultishly loved and rarely watched, “Quintuplets” will likely match it only in terms of viewership. And though it takes more than a single bad sitcom to scuttle a career, this one really does have the feeling of being at the end of some particularly dark and rutted road.

Richter’s character misses the days when his quints were news and they got things free. Wife Rebecca Kreskoff misses dressing them alike. The children, who come in a wide range of sizes and types, seem related (and the same age) only by assertion. There’s a hot boy, a hot girl (looking for someone “who not only appreciates my body, but also my hair”), a sullen smart girl (who’s kind of hot, though not supposed to be), a spaced-out boy (more cute than hot, but definitely cute) and a short little fellow who thinks a lot about sex and is definitely not hot, though a hot girl in the first episode finds him “kinda cute in a freaky little way” and shows him her breasts because he has convinced her that he’s a vegetarian and likes Coldplay. (Obnoxious dweebs of the world, take heart.) Scholars of the television arts will recognize him as a variant on David Faustino’s Bud Bundy. He is, in fact, Ryan Pinkston, who was a regular on “Punk’d” and appeared in “Spy Kids 3-D” and must therefore be counted one of the shows bigger draws.


There is a leering attitude to the humor that the writers may have mistaken for edginess. There are jokes about toe sucking and pierced nipples. In a surprising plot twist, the kids throw a party when their parents leave them alone for the night, apparently for the first time in 15 years, to attend a Bruce Springsteen concert, where Richter eats a hash brownie and a lot of pretzels. Fun for all ages, someone must have thought.

“Method & Red,” though far from perfect, fares much better -- it has an air of sweet stupidity that takes the edge off what might politely be called its political incorrectness and distracts you from the superstructure of cliches upon which it hangs. Given a chance, it could become as genially surreal as “Green Acres.”

“Why did Method Man and Redman buy a crib in a gated community full of white people?” the stars rhetorically ask (addressing Method’s new pet goldfish). It wasn’t for safety, fresh air or the “fly hot tub” but because “we was on the bubble” and Method’s mom (Anna Maria Horsford, of “The Wayans Bros.”) always wanted a nice place to live. This nice place is full of television sets, all tuned to basketball, and girls in bikinis and sundry sidekicks kicking it sitcom style.

The real reason they’re living there, of course, is that someone thought it would be “funny,” and some of it is. One might, for that matter, ask why Method (born Clifford Smith) and Red (a.k.a. Reggie Noble) are living in the same house when each could afford a crib of his own, but they require the proximity -- they are in a long comedic tradition of grown men joined at the hip, and they do not dishonor it. (Neither is it their first fish-out-of-water project: Followers of the duo’s intersecting careers may remember the movie “How High,” in which they go to Harvard, as Laurel & Hardy before them were chumps at Oxford.)

In spite of Redman’s versified protestations elsewhere that “slaughter straight to camcorder / I’m too hot for TV” and Method Man’s claim to be “a boiling pot / About to blow his lid from the pressure, too hot for TV,” they have turned down the flame to an acceptable level for broadcast. You won’t find them sporting any “sawed off shotgun / Hand on the pump, sippin’ on a 40 / Yo, smokin’ on a blunt” -- here they wield nothing wilder than the fruitcakes with which they try to sway neighbors’ affections. “White people love that stuff,” says Method. “It’s they snack of choice.”

Though they know a cee-ment pond from a fly hot tub and a pool cue from a pot-passer, they are nevertheless required by the rules of this game to be a little bit naive, especially when it comes to the strange ways of their mostly white, uptight neighbors. (Among the community bylaws: “Lemonade stands must conform to neighborhood architectural standards and signage must be of a tasteful font with absolutely no backward lettering.”) As in all such entertainments, the stars’ innate good-heartedness shines an unflat- tering light upon their superficial concerns.


There is some diversity in the casting -- to remind us that black people can be stiff-necked, too, and that white people can be cool (particularly David Henrie, the 12-year-old boy next door) and that Asian people exist -- but the humor, without ever being nasty, does depend on that sense of racial otherness.

“This ain’t bad, neither,” says Method, getting his first taste of fruitcake. “It’s got fruit. It’s got cake.”


‘Method & Red’

Where: Fox

When: Premieres 9:30-10 tonight

Rating: The network has rated tonight’s premiere TV-PGDL (may not be suitable for young children, with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)

Method Man...himself


Anna Maria Horsford...Dorothea

Beth Littleford...Nancy Blaford

David Henrie...Skyler Blaford

Peter Jacobson...Bill Blaford

Creator, Kell Cahoon. Executive producers, Cahoon, Will Gluck, Method Man. Director (tonight’s pilot), Jeff Melman. Writers (tonight’s pilot), Cahoon and Method Man.



Where: Fox

When: Premieres 8:30-9 tonight

Rating: The network has rated tonight’s premiere TV-PGDS (may not be suitable for young children, with advisories for suggestive dialogue and sex)

Andy Richter...Bob Chase

Rebecca Creskoff...Carol Chase

Sarah Wright...Paige Chase

Jake McDorman...Parker Chase

Ryan Pinkston...Patton Chase

Johnny Lewis...Pearce Chase

April Matson...Penny Chase

Creator, Mark Reisman. Executive producers, Reisman and David Nevins. Director (tonight’s pilot), Andy Cadiff. Writer (tonight’s pilot), Reisman.