Friday , April 12 2024
Another use for duct tape. . .

The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire

This week’s teevee question: where would you rather live – Stuckeyville, Ohio, or Poland, New Hampshire?
The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampsire is David E. Kelley’s return to the provincial dramedy of his feature film Mystery, Alaska. Set around a trio of portly middle-aged brothers played by Randy Quaid, Chris Penn and John Carroll Lynch, the show provides a middling blend of quirky character comedy and sub-Winesburg, Ohio angst. You know you’re in Kelley Kountry when a New England wife-and-mother threatens to withhold fellatio from her hubby if he persists with a crackbrained scheme to use duct tape to tighten his ass(!) for a job interview. Or when a smart-allecky daughter breaks up a bickering family dinner by loudly announcing, “I lost my virginity!” This here’s a Teevee Town, alright – too bad it’s not a more interesting one.

Each Shaw Bro gets his very own plotline in the opener: town mayor Garrett (Lynch) is being blackmailed by a plus-sized former mistress and politically distressed by the recurrence of deer in the neighborhood; sheriff Hank (Quaid) is undergoing marital therapy, in part, because he’s been surreptitiously TIVOing Katie Couric (“You covet her!” his wife accusingly charges – and we’re meant to chortle at the oh-so-not-21st-century word); while youngest Shaw Waylon (Penn) is a chronically unemployed doof (yeah, he’s the one with the duct tape). Of the Shaw spouses, the only one to rate her own full storyline is Hank’s wife Dottie (Mare Winningham), who has dreams of renovating the town’s trashed-out movie house after apparently watching a cable broadcast of The Majestic. She enlists the aid of the town’s moneyman, Scott Haggis (Larry Miller), who agrees to front the money on condition that the theatre double one day as a temple. When Hank hears of this proviso, he’s convince it’s because Haggis wants to turn the whole town Jewish. Yo ho ho, small-town anti-Semitism!
Also providing weak chuckles: the son and daughter of mayor Garrett, who is flummoxed when he discovers that son Malcolm has pierced an eyebrow. (“Wait until he discovers where you’re pierced,” Malcolm says to his sis when she ribs him for getting in trouble.) Daughter Monica discovers Garrett’s unfaithful past by tricking the truth out of her Uncle Hank with a strategy so obvious Homer Simpson wouldn’t fall for it. Then she has the nerve to get upset by what she uncovers. Hey girly, you’re gonna go messing into middle-aged secrets, you’d better expect to find something sordid.
At his best, David E. Kelley can craft some decent dramatic television (e.g., The Practice when it was cookin’); at his worst, Kelley is excruciatingly arch (think of poor vice-principal Scott Guber on Boston Public). From its very set-up, Brotherhood seems designed to key into the ultra-prolific Kelley’s worst dramatic instincts. And on the basis of its premiere, I’d say the show has fulfilled its lack-of-promise. Despite a talented cast (most appealing: Penn’s overly chatty Waylon), I came away from the show not really caring if I ever returned to Poland, NH again.
Where would I rather live? The town with a really cool retro-styled bowling alley. . .

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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