It’s almost impossible not to look at the promos for Life in Pieces and ponder the question: “Is this just a Modern Family clone?”
Both are multi-generational American comedies anchored around adult siblings and their kids. The good news is Life in Pieces feels like the natural successor to Modern Family, which is no longer flavour of the month.
There’s a lot to like about Short family, even if it was all done better by the Pritchett-Dunphy clan. When you have stars of the calibre of Dianne Wiest as your matriarch, seriously who’s complaining?
Life in Pieces is built around the notion that life is the sum of the parts. We live and grow through seemingly small moments that make up this tapestry of life. Or comedic life, in the case of the Shorts. Yes, they are another dysfunctional family held together by their unconditional love, tested through domestic and personal relationships.
Structurally the show also has four stories -think sub-plots- that zero in on key characters.
In “First Date” Matt (Thomas Sadoski) has a date with Colleen (Angelique Cabral) but no matter whose home they go back to there are other parties that will prevent them from getting horizontal, including patriarch John (James Brolin) and matriarch Joan (Dianne Wiest).
In “The Delivery” Greg (Colin Hanks) and Jen (Zoe Lister-Jones) are giving birth, but the surgeon makes unattractive postnatal adjustments to her vagina that leave Jen reeling. “You remember when the predator took off his mask?” she asks.
In “The College Tour” Heather (Betsy Brandt) and Tim (Betsy Brandt) are farewelling ten son Tyler (Niall Cunningham) at college, smothering him with advice and instructions and lamenting that their own family unit growing up so fast.
In “The Funeral” all the characters gather for John’s 70th birthday, a mock “early funeral” for which he is alive to hear all the eulogies.
Along the way there are punchlines, elements of physical comedy, sight gags and assorted mishaps. Like most modern comedies, this is single-cam on location, with no laugh track. It wouldn’t be a sitcom without the moment of truth at the eleventh hour which in the pilot revolves around John’s mortality: “I’m running out of moments …how many more do I get?”
Amongst the cast the sublime Dianne Wiest is joined by Colin Hanks (Fargo) as a cute, doting dad and Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom) in a surprisingly-good comedic role. James Brolin works well as the increasingly-loopy grandfather of the clan. Pint-sized Giselle Eisenberg as young Sophia may prove to be a bit of a scene-stealer (given the kids are in Modern Family are now stars in their own right).
Written by Justin Adler, Life in Pieces works well as broadly-appealing viewing without resorting to unsophisticated jokes. As a pilot it hangs together as an easy watch, drawing upon awkward but likeable characters. Timeslot notwithstanding, more of this will be a welcome choice for those ready to get to know the next messy TV clan.
Life in Pieces premieres 9:30pm Tuesday on TEN.