Archive for Wednesday, September 30, 2009

‘Hank’ disappoints with weak characters

September 30, 2009


For the record, “Hank” (7 p.m., ABC) becomes the third new sitcom of the young season, along with “Brothers” and “The Cleveland Show,” about a character returning to his hometown out of financial or emotional necessity.

Despite the appearance of Kelsey Grammer in the title role, it’s the worst of the three.

As he did as “Frasier” for decades, Grammer’s Hank projects a powerful sense of self-deceptive pomposity. On “Cheers” and then “Frasier,” members of strong ensemble casts frequently deflated this ego to great comic effect. More recently on “Back To You,” Grammer got to spar one-on-one with Patricia Heaton. But on “Hank,” ciphers surround him — an ill-defined wife and two blank children that Hank all but ignored when he was successful and with whom he is now marooned in unglamorous no-income domesticity.

David Koechner has the greatest potential to become Grammer’s foil, playing a blue-collar brother-in-law, Grady, who takes just a little too much joy in Hank’s descent.

But Grady’s broad, crude humor seems ill-suited to spar with Hank’s polysyllabic urbanity. Scenes between them seem to be the unsought-after answer to the pointless question, what if “Frasier” moved to “Green Acres”?

• Patricia Heaton also returns in “The Middle” (7:30 p.m., ABC). And, like Grammer, she’s lacking ballast.

The title refers to the middle of America, somewhere in Indiana, to be exact. Heaton’s character, Frankie Heck, is a harried mother of three and wife of Mike (Neil Flynn), who isn’t given very much to do or say. She works at the town’s last surviving car dealership, featuring brief cameos by Chris Kattan and Brian Doyle-Murray.

Heaton tries a tad too hard to evoke the crazy desperation of the overscheduled mother. She spends about one-third of the episode in a superhero costume, for reasons that are not that interesting.

Two of the children bear watching. Axel (Charlie McDermott), the oldest child, is a sullen teen cliche who could disappear and never be missed. Sue (Eden Sher), on the other hand, does a nice job as an awkward social failure, the kind of earnest but untalented high-school striver that even the geeks on “Glee” could pity. And Brick (Atticus Shaffer) is a second-grader who straddles the line between eccentric and disturbed. He may prove interesting.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Veronica makes a stab at her marriage on “Mercy” (7 p.m. NBC).

• Online dating can be deadly on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (8 p.m., NBC).

• A new member joins the group on “Glee” (8 p.m., Fox).

• A crisis on two wheels on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).

• A flamboyant pageant coach mentors one girl with food on her mind and another without a thought in her head on “King of the Crown” (8 p.m., TLC).

• Fiscally clueless 30-somethings who are on the brink of bankruptcy get sage advice from their parents in the new series “Bank of Mom & Dad” (9 p.m., SoapNet).

• Tyrese Gibson narrates “First In” (9 p.m., BET), a look at Los Angeles firefighters and paramedics.


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