The Bill Engvall Show
The Bill Engvall Show continues to coast into its third season playing it nice and steady. The show documents the life of Bill Pearson (Engvall) and his white bread suburban families as they deal with the same problems sitcom families have been dealing with for decades. Without any discernable edge or excitement, the show is strongly reminiscent of the carefree sitcoms that reigned in the 80's and 90's. There is also a sense that the show exists in a time warp where things such as the single camera format and week-to-week continuity did not exist on TV comedies...not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that, mind.
Sitcoms, as a genre, are at an all-time low and are seen as a relic from a more primitive time. This has led the networks to turn their back on them and turn towards cheaper, more profitable ventures such as reality TV. But while that has been going on everywhere else, TBS has stepped up to the plate and offered to pick up the slack and give these shows a home. Tyler Perry and his small screen stable are thriving on the network, but if that's a little urban for your sensibilities then you can always turn to someone a little more country. . .like Bill Engvall. Know going in that the show is not there to win awards or as a vehicle for the writers to impress you with their vocabulary. Rather, through a series of recycled situations and predictable one-liners, they hope to stimulate the audience just enough to get them through the 22 minutes before the self-inflicted guilt trips commence.
The first two episodes of the season stand in stark contrast to one another as far as quality is concerned. The first is one of those head-scratchers where the viewer is left to wonder who exactly greenlit this mess and why. Here is an example of what you can expect: "Who's that dude standing next to you?" "That's my mom." A real knee slapper if there ever was one. The episode revolves around Bill's current dilemma; how to tell his daughter that she can't go on the Spring Break trip after he promised her that she could. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that his daughter is very of the moment – that is to say that she's spoiled rotten and probably in need of a good slap.
You don't need me to tell you how it all plays out: He hems, he haws, he does the deed, she flips her cookies, he pouts, they come to an understanding and all live happily ever after. And in that whole mess there is exactly one laugh to be found. Episode two fares much better. Bill's best friend Paul works him into a lather by convincing him that his wife wears the pants in the relationship. It is just as formulaic but ten times funnier. The jokes aren't as brain dead and that old stranger “wit” even makes a few appearances. If the writers match this episode every time from here on out then this show is in for a very healthy season.
Reviewing a show like this in 2009 can be tough simply because TV has evolved past this point. But still these shows persist so there must be people out there who are getting something out of them. That said, there is just no need to spit in the face of continuity though. At one point Bill calls out Paul's co-dependence by lamenting the fact that he phones him every evening to say good night. Of course we never witness any of these phone calls nor will we, and the joke is simply not funny enough to justify insulting the intelligence of the audience. Finally, to nitpick, Bill Engvall built his brand through the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and we can assume that this show is targeting the same audience. However, it is hard to convince an audience that being a therapist and having a wife addicted to the salon is in line with their working class ideals. But that isn't the point. What you want is as many laughs crammed into an episode as possible...thus far it has been a mixed bag but at least it is not completely comically unfunny.
Starring: Bill Engvall, Nancy Travis, Tim Meadows, Jennifer Lawrence
Creators: Bill Engvall, Michael Leeson
Airing: Saturday 9pm
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