by Dave Warren
I watched the end of “The Middle,” and as I awaited the “Family Tools” pilot, the ABC announcer told me to ‘stay tuned for the hilarious new comedy Family Tools,’ Of course that’s his job, but when the show fails to deliver, those announcements always linger in my head afterwords. Hilarious, really? Yes, of course the show needs to be promoted somehow, I know.
I look forward to viewing episodes from the british version from which this was adapted, titled ‘White Man Van,’ just to see how that measures on the hilarious scale. ABC ordered 10 episodes of this American edition, which was originally scheduled to start in January to cover the break between new episodes of Dancing with the Stars.
Family Tools is a about our lead, Jack, played by Kyle Bornheimer, who takes over the family handyman business after his dad Tony (J.K. Simmons) suffers a heart attack. His Aunt Terry (Leah Remini) and cousin Mason (Johnny Pemberton) complete the family, or at least what we’ve seen of the family so far. Edi Gathegi plays Darren, Jack’s somewhat unwilling assistant, and Danielle Nicolet completes the ensemble, playing Darren’s sister Stitch. Danielle and Edi are funny; I’d say that Edi’s performance did even reach the hilarious point.
Jack, as he described, ‘always messes up because I try too hard.’ He’s well intentioned but somehow always shoots himself or someone else in the foot, literally sometimes. And he did yet again shoot himself in the foot with a nail gun in this episode. This was more predictable than shocking. The best aspect of this moment was watching Darren’s uncomfortable reaction to it. I preferred the out-of-nowhere hit and run in the previous segment, where Jack is taken down by one of his neighbor’s kid’s go cart.
In the pilot, Jack stumbles but more or less succeeds on his first job, his dad gets on his case about his incompetency, and his Aunt and cousin support him as the new head of the family business. Less has happened in better/funnier pilots – it wasn’t so much a lack of a good situation, it was mainly lack of good comedic dialogue that will keep this series from being a hit (and maybe from staying on the air at all). The acting is good overall, especially from Edi and Danielle. They seemed more real and less stiff. This could be because they are playing less traditional characters. Bornheimer’s character does not stand out in any interesting way; this character just reminds me of the first time I saw him in his lead role on ‘Worst Week.’ J.K. Simmons is fine, but I feel I’ve seen this character so many times, and I think a lot of those times that character was played by J.K. Simmons.
While recognizing this as a midsession sitcom, one that ABC had not selected for its fall 2012 lineup, I still can’t understand that how a series like this makes it to air. But it happens often each year. A show like “Family Tools,” is a fairly safe choice, so maybe the midseason strategy is to pick something they think could be good but also probably won’t be horrible. So, not unexpectedly, the result is a few series each year that don’t even hit the average mark. This one is far from hilarious. Lastly, I can no longer hold off avoiding tool puns. I must proclaim that this series will need major retooling for there to be any chance of surviving beyond these first 10 episodes.