CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
TV Review: Kelsey Grammer Should Know Better Than ‘Hank’
CHICAGO – Kelsey Grammer is such a TV veteran, a major part of two of the best sitcoms in the history of the medium in “Cheers” and “Frasier,” that it makes his decision to do something as generic, predictable, and unfunny as ABC’s “Hank” all the more disappointing. You would think he knew better by now.
Television Rating: 1.5/5.0
Not even as funny as Grammer’s last misstep, “Back to You,” “Hank” plays more like a spoof of what you’d expect Grammer to do post-“Frasier”. At least with “Back to You” he was trying to mix up audience expectations a bit and had a talented ensemble to riff off of. “Hank” could have practically been called “The Kelsey Grammer Show” as he’s so front-and-center in nearly every scene.
Kelsey Grammer, Melinda McGraw, David Koechner, Jordan Hinson, Nathan Gamble.
Photo credit: ABC/Bob D’Amico
The title character in Hank could have been one of Frasier and Niles Crane’s wine-drinking buddies, except this character isn’t given anything funny to do or say. “Hank” is another fish-out-of-water story about a rich sporting-goods CEO named Hank Pryor (Grammer) sent packing by the board after a financial scandal. The snobby ripped-from-the-headlines tycoon is forced back to River Bend, VA with his wife Tilly (Melinda McGraw) and their two cliched children (Nathan Gamble & Jordan Hinson). The often scene-stealing David Koechner (“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Extract”) pops up as Tilly’s country brother.
Kelsey Grammer, Jordan Hinson.
Photo credit: ABC/Patrick Wymore
Hank Pryor is yet another inept sitcom father, the idea being that he spent so much time in the board room that he has no idea how to actually raise his family. His spoiled wife isn’t much better although she’s such a two-dimensional cliche in the premiere that it’s hard to really say. What happens when you take away the nannies and the economic bust forces formerly rich parents to actually have to raise their children?
The truly sad thing about “Hank” is it shows signs of why Grammer is one of the most successful sitcom stars in history. He can still deliver a snobby put-down like no one else. But he’s rarely given anything worth delivering. The script for “Hank” (by Tucker Cawley) plays like something out of the early ’90s, as if this is what Grammer turned down post-“Cheers” and somebody pulled it off the turnaround shelf and dusted it off.
Television has come a long way since then and comedy this stale and predictable just doesn’t work any more. Next to something as fresh as “Modern Family” and “The Middle” - two vastly superior shows on the same evening - “Hank” looks even more like a TV relic.
It’s impossible to say for sure that a comedian as talented as Grammer can’t turn this around and bring “Hank” up to where it needs to be but it’s going to need better writers and maybe even a bit of recasting. I can’t imagine the ratings will be sufficient for ABC to stick with the show long enough to make those changes. We’ll all remember “Frasier” and just try to forget “Hank”.