‘Wedding Band,’ a limited repertoire
TBS sitcom quickly slips into a traditonal men-as-boys comedy
November 7, 2012
TV viewers should by now be used to this old bait-and-switch: We see a premiere episode that suggests a series will be at least slightly different, and then the second episode suggests that the creators either ran out of ideas in the pilot or decided it would be a better idea to stick with the tried and true.
TBS's new comedy "Wedding Band" has an original premise that it burns through in its first hour. In the second and third episodes, the series settles into being a familiar ensemble buddy comedy that is based on the unoriginal insight that men will be boys. The result is an adequate entertainment for viewers who are hungry for scripted comedy on a Saturday night.
Premiering this Saturday, Nov. 10, at 10 p.m., "Wedding Band" is about four not-so-young-anymore men in a band called Mother of the Bride, which specializes in playing weddings, although they mostly play other types of events in the three episodes made available for review.
Tommy (Brian Austin Green) is the lead singer, rhythm guitarist and lady-killer. His best friend, Eddie (Peter Cambor), the lead guitarist, has a real job and is married to Ingrid (Kathryn Fiore), a no-nonsense police detective, with whom he has two young children.
Eddie's brother Barry (Derek Miller), the drummer, loves to create out-of-scale pyrotechnics for their smallish gigs. The newest member is the bassist Steve (Harold Perrineau), a successful studio musician who wants the camaraderie of being in a band.
The premiere episode is the sole one revolving around an actual wedding. The script not only front-loads too many insights and jokes about wedding bands but also uses up an inevitable romantic-comedy story line that probably should have been saved for later: Tommy's ex-girlfriend Sarah (Bree Turner) asks him and the band to play at her wedding.
Since Steve is a new member, the other guys tell him the secrets of being a successful wedding band: For example, they should befriend a loser guy by naming him an honorary member of the band. In exchange, the guy will slip them free drinks.
Steve balks at playing "I Will Survive" until he learns that if a woman sings along loudly, she's probably an easy pickup.
Early in the hour, we start to think that every episode will be filled with equally sharp jokes about weddings, which are a ripe if familiar target for satire. But the development and resolution of the ex-girlfriend plot is an uneasy mix of rom-com moments and slapstick.
One of the reasons Tommy accepted the gig is that he wanted to impress the planner, Roxie Rutherford (Melora Hardin), who gets the best-paying clients. Eddie, who has promised to take his kids to see Yo Gabba Gabba, has to lie to Ingrid, setting up a pattern that persists through the next two episodes.
In the second, the band plays an elf-themed wedding at a sci-fi and fantasy convention, where, through a convoluted turn of events, they wind up promising to throw a party for two high school geeks, so that the geeks can score with their dream girls. Eddie is again caught in a lie.
The main source of humor in the episode is nerd and fanboy culture — Harold Perrineau gets to take a shot at his old show "Lost" — with some non-ironic borrowing from teen sex comedies.
The third episode is even more convoluted: Tommy has promised Roxie's assistant Rachel (Jenny Wade) that he'll watch over her fiancé at his bachelor party. But he has to baby-sit Eddie's kids, whom he eventually winds up taking to a stripper bar. The farcical conclusion would be more fun if the script didn't have so many gaping holes.
By the end of this episode, the wedding-band premise is more of a subtext, although every episode has at least one segment in which the band covers a familiar hit. The dominant theme of the series is the band's refusal to grow up, with Eddie serving as a negative example of what happens to men who do. This is not a new situation in TV comedy.
The principals do a fine job playing boy-men, although the casting directors succeeded too well in finding a Jack Black type to play Barry. Melora Hardin slightly tweaks the crazed cougar she played in "The Office."
The dialogue is usually good. Roxie tells Tommy, "If you screw up this wedding, I will cut off your balls and wear them as earrings."
"That's kind of a bad idea," he replies. "One of them might hang lower."
Sometimes, however, the jokes are the stuff you can type but can't say. At the elf wedding, Rachel tells Roxie, "I'm being hit on more than the ball at a quidditch tournament."
Though hardly original, jokes like that at least reveal some sincere effort and commitment. That's really all we want from a wedding band. Lenient Saturday-night viewers just might let "Wedding Band" slide by.
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