Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Pilot Review: Living Biblically

Living Biblically (CBS)
Premiered February 26 at 9:30pm

It’s sometimes very easy to tell what network a new pilot is airing on if you’ve momentarily forgotten what channel you’re watching, and while it’s not always correct, there are some clear indicators. This show is a CBS sitcom through-and-through, one that starts at an impossible idea – a man trying to live strictly by the doctrine of the bible – and tries to turn it into something that could be funny. While CBS does have its hits, like “The Big Bang Theory,” there are also series like “Two and a Half Men” or “2 Broke Girls” that go on way, way too long and really aren’t about very much that should be worth making a TV show into, let alone one that could run up to twelve seasons. For me, the most egregious part of this half-hour is that the protagonist is supposed to be a film critic in Manhattan. This isn’t the first CBS show in recent years about a film critic – “Accidentally on Purpose” was another – and I do wish there would be some legitimate content about what that career is like. I’d also like to think that most of what I write is infinitely better than any line of dialogue in this debut episode, which finds few laughs but tries very hard to milk them as often as possible, starting with the priest cracking up at Chip’s desire to follow every rule. Jokes about “it’s just locker room talk” and “how is it that I’m single and he has a wife and a mistress” fall flat, and there’s really not much that works about this show, which features Jay R. Ferguson, who I’ll always remember from the terrible “Glory Days” but who should now probably be billed first with “Mad Men” on his resumé, Lindsay Kraft from “Grace and Frankie,” Camryn Manheim from “The Practice” and “Waco,” Ian Gomez from “Cougar Town” and “Supergirl,” David Krumholtz from “Numb3rs,” and, puzzingly, Sara Gilbert from “24” and “Roseanne” in a hopelessly annoying role that doesn’t do her talents justice. We also briefly saw Oscar nominee June Squibb from “Nebraska” as Mrs. Murphy. Krumholtz’s rabbi struggled to find a punchline to his joke about the four of them finding themselves in a bar, a good representation of what this show tries and fails to do.

How will it work as a series? So far, Chip has avoided mixing fabrics and threw a rock at someone’s head so that he didn’t have to tell a lie. I feel like this show is shooting for some completely ungraspable aims that can’t compare to something like “My Name is Earl,” where each episode is formulaic and involves deliberate abstinence from or correction of one behavior. I don’t see that sort of determination and structure here.
How long will it last? Predictably, the reviews aren’t great. What matters much more on CBS, however, are the ratings, especially since it’s part of the Monday night comedy block which, while not as highly-watched as Thursday’s shows, still demands high viewership numbers that this series just didn’t bring in with its debut airing. Unless it really proves popular for its religious premise, I’d say this one will be gone by the summer if not long before.

Pilot grade: F

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