The Bottom Line
- Stars Reba McEntire, Juliette Angelo, Justin Prentice, Lily Tomlin, Sara Rue, Jai Rodriguez
- Created by Kevin Abbott
- Airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. EST, starting November 2, 2012, on ABC
There’s a bit of a Beverly Hillbillies vibe to the setup, and while the culture-clash humor isn’t quite that extreme, it is pretty predictable and unoriginal. Reba’s vapid Real Housewives-esque neighbor Kim (Sara Rue) is baffled and fascinated by the South, and quickly inserts herself into the family’s life. And Lillie Mae is a bit of a rube, but she takes to the laid-back California lifestyle more quickly than the rest of the family does. Mostly there are obvious jokes about plastic surgery, medical marijuana, the superficiality of show business and other L.A. stereotypes, set right alongside Kim’s jokes about Southern stereotypes.
It’s all good-natured and completely toothless, with overly declarative acting and a bright, flat visual style. In other words, it’s like any number of disposable ’90s sitcoms, and only manages to be better than Last Man Standing thanks to not relying entirely on retrograde gender politics. The opening scene, featuring Reba and her soon-to-be-ex-husband announcing his infidelity to the press, has a moment of clever satire about celebrities who trade publicly on self-righteousness (his tour was called “These Vows Are Sacred”) but behave reprehensibly in private. But the potential for insight about the country-music industry along the lines of fellow ABC series Nashville gets dropped in favor of the easy comedy of McEntire’s overly twangy pronunciation of “moron.”
It’s like that throughout the show, as Reba tries to restart her long-dormant career with the help of a sassy record-label assistant (Jai Rodriguez of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) and encounters token resistance that can be triumphantly combated by writing a dull kiss-off song that plays at the end of the episode. Even the first episode’s one theoretically serious moment, when Lillie Mae and Reba have a heart-to-heart about cheating men and female empowerment, is rote and lacks feeling.
McEntire has had plenty of sitcom experience to go with her music experience thanks to her six seasons on The WB/CW sitcom Reba, but she’s not a performer with a lot of range. Juliette Angelo and Justin Prentice don’t make much of an impression as Reba’s two kids, and Rue overdoes the cluelessness of the typical Malibu trophy wife. Even Tomlin, an accomplished veteran comedic performer, can only do so much with Lillie Mae, and when she’s delivering jokes about pelicans pooping, there’s not much room for improvement. Malibu Country may find an audience on Friday nights with the undemanding viewers who’ve made Last Man Standing a relative success (Malibu Country creator Kevin Abbott is a writer and producer on both shows), but even they may get bored before too long.