There is a lot of television around, and the fact that many shows resemble other shows tends to bring up the question of how much of any particular product the market can bear.
“I’m Sorry,” a new sitcom premiering Wednesday on truTV — the sort of off-brand network that itself brings up the question of how much the market can bear — is another series in which a person of comedy plays a character with a similar or the same name, doing the job she does in life. Just off the top of my head, “Lady Dynamite,” “Lopez,” “One Mississippi” and “Better Things” fit that bill at the moment; there is always the possibility of another season of “Louie”; and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is on the way back.
Do you need it? You might as well ask whether you need Barq’s root beer when you can already buy Dad’s and A&W. Maybe you do. Maybe this is the brand you’ll want. (Whether it will stay in business is not a question that need concern us now.)
Andrea Savage, the series’ star and creator, has been a stand-up comic, a sketch comic and has acted in movies and on television, recently including regular or recurring roles in “Veep,” “The Hotwives of Orlando/Las Vegas” and “iZombie.” In her own show, she plays a comedy writer also named Andrea, married to entertainment lawyer Mike (Tom Everett Scott, whom it’s always good to see) and living with their small daughter, Amelia (third-billed Olive Petrucci), in the less glamorous but firmly upper middle class reaches of the San Fernando Valley.
The series’ opening moves, in which Andrea fiddles with the air conditioner in an exercise class, discovers that the mother of one of her daughter’s preschool mates is a former porn star and fails repeatedly to get her doctor on the phone, are very much the stuff of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or “Seinfeld.” One may wonder at first whether “I’m Sorry” will prove too much of a knock-off to bother with, but moving on past the pilot, we find interesting real people — including Judy Greer and Gary Anthony Williams as Andrea’s friends and Kathy Baker and Martin Mull as her divorced parents — in what feel like real relationships.
Much of what’s here has been seen before. But you can build many different houses from identical blocks, and finally, “I’m Sorry” is very much its own show, funny and grounded. Nothing here feels implausible; the jokes the characters make are the sorts of funny, or hopefully funny, things people say to each other in life. Savage and Scott make a convincing, mutually indulgent married couple (He: “You know people think I’m funny, right?” She: “I completely 100% believe everything you are saying right now”), while Petrucci seems authentically their child and not just some bundle of cute a talent agent sent over. (Small children, with whom Savage evidently feels comfortable, even too comfortable — Andrea will say some alarming things to them — are one of the incidental delights of the series.)
And Savage does have a point to make. In between and underpinning the familiar sitcom challenges — worrying about her child, managing her parents, keeping her marriage sparky — this is a show about what happens when the compulsively comic mind meets the casually funny (or humorless) one, and what can seem the astonishing willingness of the professional comedian to violate taste and decorum and complete the tasteless thoughts most of us keep no more than half-formed. Andrea’s relationship with writing partner Kyle (Jason Mantzoukas) is couched almost entirely in this sort of talk, mostly unprintable here, but she also carries her seemingly insensitive sensibility into the wider, less understanding, shockable world.
Which is perhaps why the show is called “I’m Sorry.”
“Suddenly, I say something that clearly crosses a line,” Andrea tells Mike, recalling an unsuccessful crack she’d made earlier about selling heroin to kids at her daughter’s school. “I forget that other people have a much closer line than the hilarious, disgusting, broken people that I consider to be some of my closest friends.”
This could be your root beer.
When: 10 p.m. Wednesday
Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)
Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd