TV Preview: The Class

I had high hopes for The Class, which premieres Monday on CBS. It’s the new comedy from co-creator David Crane, who also had a hand in a little sitcom called Friends. I’m not ashamed to say it: I loved Friends. Well, I loved Friends right up until the 47th time Ross and Rachel got back together. I often thought it was cleverer than it got credit for, because it was so completely mainstream and popular.

The Class, unfortunately, is not clever, though it is mainstream and it remains to be seen if it will be popular. With a cast of eight main characters of almost every type – except, you know, ethnicities other than white – its philosophy seems to be to throw many types of characters at the wall and see what sticks. But it’s only sporadically as funny as it thinks it is, filled with a lot of like-a-jokes instead of actual jokes.

The premise is that a 27-year-old man, Ethan, throws a surprise party for his fiancee, whom he met in grade three – so he invites his entire grade three class. When she dumps him in front of the room of strangers they once knew, connections are made that will presumably keep the show going, though some of them feel very forced.

Jason Ritter, in a huge departure from the moody, disabled, sex symbol teen of Joan of Arcadia, plays Ethan, a nerdy pediatrician who bonds with cynical photographer Kat (Lizzie Caplan). Her flaky sister, Lina (Heather Goldenhersh), finds romance with Richie (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), a non-English near-clone of that tall, skinny – and above all, depressed – redhead in The Full Monty. Many of the best jokes in the first few episodes involve his averted attempts to commit suicide.

Holly (Lucy Punch) is the shallow reporter with the obvious-to-everyone-but-themselves gay husband (boy, that setup never gets old, does it?). She’s also harbouring a grudge against Kyle (Sean Maguire), who ruined prom night by turning out to be as straight as her husband. Then there’s the cool guy, Duncan (Jon Bernthal), who’s made uncool life choices and lives in his mom’s basement, and who reconnects with his first love, Nicole (Andrea Anders). She is almost happily married to a former football star, and torn between her feelings for her ex-boyfriend and her feelings for her husband’s money.

The plots are fairly uninspired sitcom setups, and many of the characters are unlikable, annoying, or – worse – forgettable. I saw three episodes and still couldn’t remember some of their names. But it does show more promise as the series goes on, with sharper jokes and more familiarity between the characters.

If I were to try to predict success, I’d say The Class will barely pass. It is a decent, generic sitcom that might find a reasonable audience during CBS’s Monday night comedy block, which includes How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, and The New Adventures of Old Christine.

The Class premieres Monday, Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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