Living with Fran is delivered rapidly, not in a screwball comedy rhythm, but in a we-wrote-25-minutes-of-script-for-a-22-minute-show rhythm. No one has time to relax, to respond. Timing, the key to comedy, goes missing. Actors have something called a “speed-through”, a type of rehearsal where you just try to say your lines and go through your blocking as rapidly as possible. The presumption is that once you have these things down, you won’t need to worry about them, and you can get on with the acting part of acting. The first episode of Living With Fran felt like a speed-through… even down to the odd echoes of a theater without an audience to absorb the sound. (The laughs all sound mixed in later.)
This is a shame, because there is something to work with here. While they play it rather high concept (son drops out of med school and moves home, to discover divorced mom is living with a guy his age), there is some meat on these bones. If you’d taken the same script and placed it in the hands of, say, Pamela Fryman, who used to direct Frasier and currently directs Two-and-a-Half Men, you’d have something (perhaps not as good as either of those shows on their better days, but still something worthwhile.)
Fran Drescher first caught my attention playing a prostitute in the film Doctor Detroit, and her lovely look and nasal tones stirred something deep and semitic within me. She showed talent in various ways before getting locked in the broadly played shtick of The Nanny (which was a lowbrow show but generally a good lowbrow show). She can pull off more than she has to do here, but they may have to pull her away from that Nanny style.
Which leads to another point. I am told that in an upcoming episode (presumably not the second episode they aired on Friday, which I missed), her ex-husband will be played by the same actor her character married on that previous series. I can’t help but to think about The Mary Tyler Moore Show, on which Mary played someone who had broken up with a fiancee, because they were afraid if they made her a divorcee, people would think she’d gotten divorced from Rob Petrie. On Living with Fran, they not only disregard this conflict, they seem to throw themselves into it eagerly!