Don Reo is the creator of Brothers. He’s done some good ones in the past, notably The John Laroquette Show and Blossom… and those two shows have something strong in common: they were both pretty dark. Laroquette, about a recovering alcoholic, started out pretty darn dark… and then got lighter, worse, and generally higher ratings as seasons went on. And Blossom — well, if you think you knew Blossom without seeing it, then you don’t know Blossom. It was about a family where the mom abandoned them, and the eldest son had an ongoing drug problem; these things weren’t background in the show.
For Brothers, Reo brings back some of the folks he worked with on those shows. Ted Wass, who played that dad on Blossom and took over as main director on the death of previous director Bill Bixby, directs and is one of a number of credited producers. Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, who first came to my attention during Laroquette, plays one of the two titular brothers, both who had football talent when younger, one who went on to the big leagues, the other who ended up in a wheelchair. (If you know Chill, then you know which he is. And if you know anything about his co-star, Michael Strahan, you know which part he has. We’re not talking surprise casting here.)
The wheelchairedness is not the interesting dark part of this for me. The brothers are living with their parents, played by CCH Pounder and Carl Weathers… and the dad is clearly moving down the Alzheimers path. Its clear that this is a tragedy, but they aren’t afraid to play it for laughs. They earn it.
Overall, the script is pretty good – perhaps some problematic plot points, but well-wrought dialogue. Unfortunately, the acting didn’t live up to it. Pounder didn’t sell her role, coming across as stiff and stagy. Chill has previously generally done supporting roles that don’t need much range, getting by on a simple set of ascerbic attitude tics… but in a lead role like this, all it does is makes him unlikable. There’s a sense that the at-odds brothers are supposed to be equally flawed, but Strahan has a likability that just puts you on his side.
It’s worth sampling, I suppose, but I have trouble seeing it getting past its weaknesses. If Chill were a new face, I’d think otherwise, but he’s not, so I’m not so hopeful.