The Bottom Line
- Stars Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford, Zach Cregger, Erinn Hayes, Tempestt Bledsoe, Jamie-Lynn Sigler
- Created by Charlie Grandy, Amy Ozols and Jimmy Fallon
- Premiere airs Wednesday, September 12, 2012, at 10 p.m. EST on NBC; subsequent episodes air Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. EST
Somehow it took three people (including talk-show host and Saturday Night Live veteran Jimmy Fallon, who should really be above this sort of thing) to come up with this rudimentary sitcom concept, which would have seemed tired airing on ABC’s TGIF in the ’90s. The show’s retrograde ideas about parenting and gender relations are embodied in the relationships of each of the three main characters. Chris (Jesse Bradford) is a newly divorced guy who shares custody of his son with his shrewish ex-wife Sheila (Erinn Hayes, who does great work on Childrens Hospital and deserves way better). Sheila is a horrible stereotype of the nagging woman who won’t let her man have any fun, and yet of course the plot of the first episode involves Chris scheduling a date on the same night that he has to take care of his son (scheduling two important things that can’t possibly be rescheduled at the exact same time is a hallmark of sitcom characters since the dawn of television). So Sheila’s nagging turns out to be valid, but only thanks to ridiculous sitcom contrivance.
Gary (Anthony Anderson) loves his four kids so much, he actually takes care of them himself while his wife Marny (Tempestt Bledsoe) works! The idea of the stay-at-home dad hasn’t been revolutionary since Mr. Mom, and there’s little humor to be found in the juxtaposition of typical harried-housewife tropes onto the bearish Anderson. The third guy in the group, Nick (Zach Cregger of the odious The Whitest Kids U’ Know), doesn’t even have much of a hook: He seems to have a solid relationship with his wife Emily (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) and a good handle on raising his two kids, and he gets yet another tired sitcom cliché (neglecting his wife in favor of his guy friends) in the first episode.
Pretty much everything about Guys With Kids could be described as a tired sitcom cliché, so that even when something sort of endearingly odd does happen (as when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shows up as Sheila’s date), the show treats it with as many obvious, lame jokes as possible. Anderson, Bradford and Cregger are all likably bland, and even the normally hyperactive Cregger tones down his irritating presence. But that means that none of them has any presence whatsoever, and the woman don’t make any greater impression. The show is thus carried by cute babies, and as we’ve seen as recently as the similarly dreadful ABC Family sitcom Baby Daddy, cute babies aren’t nearly enough.