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Television

Nothing surprising about 'Worst Week'

Kyle Bornheimer plays a guy who can't do anything right. Kyle Bornheimer plays a guy who can't do anything right. (Robert Voets/CBS)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / September 22, 2008
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Fans of the TV drama are a little spoiled these days, what with "Mad Men," "House," "Dexter," "The Shield," "Friday Night Lights," and more. You can usually DVR two or three full nights a week of suspense, psychological tension, and, thanks to "Gossip Girl," sordid melodrama, if that's your bent. Comedy people, however, are less fortunate, with only a few standouts - "30 Rock," "How I Met Your Mother" - buoyed in a sea of mediocrity and worn-out faves.

CBS's "Worst Week," a sitcom that premieres tonight at 9:30 on Channel 4, is not going to shift that balance. Adapted by producer Matt Tarses from the British comedy "The Worst Week of My Life," the show is a well-made, fast-paced farce that resembles Ben Stiller's "Meet the Parents" movies. It won't insult your intelligence, and it has a completely likable lead actor in Kyle Bornheimer; but "Worst Week" is nevertheless completely predictable and unambitious. The screwball action goes exactly where you expect, over and over again, like a pie-in-the-face machine.

Bornheimer is the guy from the T-Mobile ads who's leaving a voice mail for a woman he dated the night before. He keeps saying awkward things ("Gosh, you ate like a horse last night," "I have an extra sweat gland in my left armpit"), and then re-recording his message. The commercials work because it's funny to watch a guy spiral down into creepiness, because Bornheimer is a remarkably sympathetic average Joe, and because they leave you wanting more. "Worst Week" puts Bornheimer in the same position, as a guy who can't do anything right, but for 22 minutes instead of 30 seconds. He keeps putting his foot in his mouth and stumbling into increasingly disastrous situations, until his gaffes arrive more like clockwork than punch lines.

The setup is that Sam (Bornheimer) and Melanie (Erinn Hayes) are having a baby and planning to get married. But when he goes to tell Melanie's conservative parents, Dick (Kurtwood Smith) and Angela (Nancy Lenehan), everything goes awry. On the way to their house, Sam helps a drunk coworker get home safely, resulting in a series of mishaps - she vomits on his clothes, they get thrown out of a cab, he showers at her house and winds up on the street wearing only a shower curtain that looks like a giant diaper. He does make it to Dick and Angela's home, but the harder Sam tries to ingratiate himself, the more catastrophe and physical comedy ensues.

It's hard to imagine how Tarses will build an entire series around Sam's debacles and Dick's frowning disapproval, played with full-on crankiness by Smith, the dad on "That '70s Show." You can see the accidents and misadventures that plague Sam coming from a mile away, unlike the strangely surreal twists and turns that greeted the hero of Martin Scorsese's spiral-into-fiasco "After Hours." "Worst Week" doesn't evoke the fascination of a waking nightmare so much as the monotony of a Saturday morning cartoon.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, visit www.boston.com/ae/tv/blog.

Worst Week

Starring: Kyle Bornheimer, Erinn Hayes, Kurtwood Smith, Nancy Lenehan

On: CBS, Channel 4

Time: Premieres tonight, 9:30-10

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