CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
TV Review: FOX’s ‘Sons of Tucson’ Decent But Unmemorable
CHICAGO – Tyler Labine’s lead character on the new FOX sitcom “Sons of Tucson” is not exactly the same as his ‘Sock’ from the tragically canceled “Reaper” but the two could easily be brothers. They have so much in common in their style and delivery that one almost wishes this was a true “Reaper” spin-off just so Ray Wise could make a guest appearance in the future. At least then I’d tune again. Now I’m not so sure.
TV Rating: 2.5/5.0
I’ve reviewed hundreds of new shows in my decade of covering television and rarely have I been more undecided on a sitcom after three episodes. The fact is that the crowded television marketplace dictates that indecision means death. With so many choices for your time, if you’re not hooked right away then you’re probably not coming back. It may not mean that “Sons of Tucson” is a bad show but it’s just not quite memorable enough to yet be called a good one either and as any fan of a recent “brilliant-but-canceled” show will tell you - time is not on the side of a sitcom finding its legs.
Sons of Tucson
Photo credit: Miranda Penn Turin/FOX
Labine charismatically stars as lovable loser Ron Snuffkin (Labine), a relatively broke fast talker who finds himself in an unusual situation when he’s essentially hired by three kids to pretend to be their dad. The real Mr. Gunderson has to do some not-so-hard time in jail for a white collar crime and his very street smart kids do not want to be pulled from their upper class lives and tossed into the foster care system.
Sons of Tucson
Photo credit: Patrick Wymore/FOX
The kids include the too-smart-for-his-age Gary (Frank Dolce), the more socially smooth Brandon (Matthew Levy), and the toughest little kid on the block Robby (Benjamin Stockham). The kids give off a similar vibe to a trio of littles ones that ruled on FOX Sunday nights for years - the boys of “Malcolm in the Middle” with a smart kid, dim kid, and conceivably crazy kid driving the comedy. It doesn’t seem coincidental that “Malcolm” was the last live-action hit for a network that has really struggled in that department for the last decade (and it should be noted that the creator of “Sons of Tucson” worked on that hit and clearly took notes).
The Gunderson children are entertaining but this is really Labine’s show all the way. He smooth talks his way not only into what’s best for the kids but what’s best for him. He’s a scam artist with a heart of gold and Labine is perfectly cast. In fact, his energy is easily the best thing about the series and he finds a way to keep the show interesting when the writing is not.
Which is far too often. After watching three episodes, I can barely remember a line or scene that truly registered. “Sons of Tucson” is formulaic when it needs to be quirky and weird to match its lead’s personality. Labine is amusing but the show too often doesn’t match his skills and considering he couldn’t get the FAR superior “Invasion” or “Reaper” off the ground it seems difficult to imagine that this third time will be the charm.
With awful sitcom programming like “Brothers” and “Til Death,” there’s clearly something broken in FOX’s comedy development department. Maybe they were cursed with years of failure after cancelling “Arrested Development”. “Sons of Tucson” will not break that curse.