Guys With Kids (NBC, tonight, 10 ET/PT, *1/2 out of four) is an idea in search of a show.
And a better idea.
Premiering tonight after America's Got Talent before moving to its regular 8:30 slot next week, Guys was co-created by Jimmy Fallon, who says he saw some guys carrying their kids in Baby Björns and thought it would be funny to do a show about them. Unfortunately, that seems to be about as far as his thinking went.
To be fair, he did think up another title: DILFs. NBC quite rightly changed that to Guys With Kids, which is less vulgar and far better suited to a show that's as bland, generic and forgettable as that name implies. Guys Without Jokes would be even more accurate, but the one NBC chose will do.
The guys in question are Nick (Zach Cregger), Gary (Anthony Anderson) and Chris (Jesse Bradford). Nick is raising a child with Emily (Jamie-Lynn Sigler); stay-at-home dad Gary has a house full of children with Marny (The Cosby Show's Tempestt Bledsoe); and newly divorced Chris shares custody with his ex-wife Sheila (Erinn Hayes).
Tonight's central crisis revolves around Chris' decision to defy Sheila's ban on babysitters and then lie about it — the kind of stunt Lucy might have pulled on Ricky, but with more amusing results. Of course Sheila finds out, leading to one of the new season's more preposterous scenes. As, however, that scene contains Guy's one potential surprise, it's only fair you be allowed to discover it (and most likely be disappointed by it) on your own.
If only there was something else to discover here: one tiny new insight on fatherhood, perhaps, or one actually funny moment. Instead, it's all tried and tired jokes about smelly diapers and kids running wild and guys trying, without any visible signs of success, to be good fathers and husbands. Comedy, of course, is made out of striving and often failing, but aren't fathers growing weary of this depiction of themselves as inept bunglers?
Left to their own couple devices, you could imagine Bledsoe and Anderson pulling off a family comedy (imagine that, a network comedy built around an African-American family), but here, they get lost in the humorless mix. Even so, they fare better than Hayes, who makes the mistake of overlaying a harshly written role with an even harsher performance. The best she can hope for now is that you'll do her a favor and watch something else.
Which is the best idea of all.