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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Worst Week brings the new and the old to sitcom format

Published: October 3, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

From the In-Laws to Meet the Parents to Monster-in-Law, Hollywood has dedicated whole films to the dreaded experience of navigating interactions with the in-laws. Now TV is partaking in the trend with the new CBS sitcom, Worst Week.

Premiering on September 22, Worst Week follows Sam Briggs, who agrees to a week-long visit at the home of his fiancée’s parents with the aim of announcing their engagement and pregnancy. However, before he even makes it to their house, Sam’s endemic bad luck is apparent.

After an office party and a few unfortunate misunderstandings, Sam’s inebriated colleague mistakes his actions for a come-on and kicks him into the street with nothing to wear but a garbage bag fashioned into a diaper. This is the dignified outfit that Sam shows up at the Clayton residence wearing. Set so that each episode covers one day of their visit, the show documents each of Sam’s well-intentioned, but miserably failing attempts to impress his soon-to-be in-laws.

Each situation is hilarious and outrageous. Worst Week is the broadcast TV version of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. Though it’s hard to compare a sitcom stuck in the Tuesday 9:30pm timeslot to the genius of the Larry David, Worst Week provokes the same sort of forehead-slapping (or equivalent) reaction that one gets when observing a socially awkward train wreck.

Although some of the plot can be a bit predictable, Kyle Bornheimer as Sam ensures that the show has entertainment value: impressive for an actor who up until now has had only bit parts on various TV shows. Bornheimer plays Sam in such a way that you cannot help but forgive–and maybe even love–his ineptitude.

He’s the ultimate nice guy who finishes last, at least in his in-laws’ eyes. His somewhat excessive impulse to bend over backwards for his in-laws just leads him into a spiral of embarrassment and mishaps.

However two episodes in, the rest of the show’s cast is forgettable, or replaceable at the very least.

Sam’s fiancée, Melanie, is played by Erinn Hayes, another constant TV guest star, but unfortunately her role is much less entertaining. It seems that all of the characters that compose Melanie’s family were written to be two-dimensional stand-ins who are so typical it’s hard for the audience to feel anything more than ambivalence towards them. Kurtwood Smith, who played the patriarch on That 70’s Show for all eight seasons, seems to have cornered television’s market for grumpy old fathers.

However, he’s traded in his blue collar uniform of a plaid shirt and jeans for the more upper crust look of Judge Dick Clayton.

With much of the show’s success riding on Kyle Bornheimer’s shoulders, it’s hard to judge how long this show will continue to entertain. The show’s day-by-day episodic set-up makes it feel a bit disjointed with a week between each episode.

Since the show only focuses on what happens in one day without much of a re-cap of what happened in the last episode, it will be a challenge for writers to keep viewers interested. The style does not exactly lend itself to the development of an intriguing plot that motivates the viewer to watch weekly.

However, for the viewer looking for a quick laugh without getting invested in a show, it would be hard for them to do better than Worst Week.