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Archive for Tuesday, August 17, 2010

‘Melissa & Joey’ and ‘Big Lake’ debut

August 17, 2010

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Two new comedies arrive tonight and use themes of lost fortunes and economic insecurity to drive their contrived setups.

Melissa Joan Hart (“Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”) and Joey Lawrence (“Blossom”) return in “Melissa & Joey” (7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., ABC Family). Hart plays Mel, a former party girl turned local politician. She has also taken charge of her rambunctious niece and nephew after their mother goes to prison for financial fraud. Their father, Mel’s brother, has gone on the lam.

Joe (Lawrence) bursts into Mel’s life as a stockbroker ruined by her brother’s criminal doings. He and Mel share a minimum of wisecracks before it occurs to Joe that he would be a perfect nanny to Mel’s unruly wards.

The show goes to great lengths to seem edgy to its young audience, often trading in wince-inducing language and implied profanity and vulgarity more appropriate to “The Sopranos” than something on a family network.

In contrast, “Big Lake” (9 p.m., Comedy Central) is proactively absurd and clearly aimed at a silly adult audience. While it follows the multicamera format of a traditional sitcom, it has a loosely scripted, improvisational feel.

Chris Gethard plays Josh, a former Wall Street hotshot responsible for losing hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as his father’s (James Rebhorn) life savings. He returns home to sleep on the couch and earn back his dad’s pension. He discovers that dad will never forgive him and that mom (Deborah Rush, “Strangers with Candy”) has become a brain-addled diet-pill addict. His younger brother plays the cute kid around the parents, but he quickly informs Josh that he’s really a petty criminal with a ready gun and wads of cash to prove it.

Much like “Strangers with Candy,” “Lake” uses all of the conventions of old comedies and after-school specials to lampoon Josh’s dire situation and make dark, sarcastic points about society in general. Josh soon reteams with his old dimwit pal Glenn (Horatio Sanz) and their ex-history teacher, Mr. Henkel (Chris Parnell, “30 Rock,” “SNL”).

In many ways, “Lake” unfolds like a deranged version of “Leave It to Beaver” with three man-boys continually skirting disaster but never losing hope. While frequently funny, “Lake” would work better as an extended “SNL” skit than as a half-hour sitcom.

Tonight’s other highlights

• On two episodes of “Glee” (Fox), Will visits a rival (Eve) (7 p.m.), a major yearbook omission (8 p.m.).

• A chief petty officer’s murder follows a serial killer’s pattern on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (8 p.m., CBS).

• The judges bring back their favorites on “America’s Got Talent” (8 p.m., NBC).

• An NBA star challenges Rachael Ray and Tyson Gay on “Shaq Vs.” (8 p.m., ABC).

• High-stakes gambling on “White Collar” (8 p.m., USA).

• Peter sets off his ankle-bracelet alarm on “The Good Wife” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Needles comes through on “Rescue Me” (9 p.m., FX).

• “Explorer: 24 Hours After Hiroshima” (9 p.m., National Geographic) recalls the first military use of the atomic bomb.

• “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” (9 p.m., HBO) looks at a controversial polo event.

Cult choice

Identical twins (Hayley Mills) scheme to reunite their divorced parents (Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith) in the 1961 comedy “The Parent Trap” (4:45 p.m., TCM).

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