TVLand’s newest foray into original sitcom land premiered with a show just about as good as the pilot of Hot in Cleveland, which was good but not great. It felt dated, but not in too terrible a way, harking back to the sitcom ‘Golden Age’ of the ’80’s and ’90’s. The humor was mildly funny, without pushing many boundaries, or being too racy. I call it ‘TV Fast Food’: not much substance, but still enjoyable. Not the next big TV hit, but something I wouldn’t mind watching.
What makes me think Retired at 35 won’t achieve Hot in Cleveland levels of improvement, though, can be summed up in one name: Betty White. There is no comparable player on this second show. The closest they come is Jessica Walter (Archer), whom I considered one of the best parts of Arrested Development, but who just doesn’t get to the same level as White. She’s funny, yes, but her humor is more straightforward. She doesn’t have the ornery gleam in her eye.
The story goes: a thirty-five year old man named David (Jonathan McClain) visits his parents, Elaine and Alan (Walter and George Segal, Just Shoot Me!), in their retirement village. While there, he realizes his job making “all wood involving foods” is majorly stressing him out and quits, staying with them. His friend, Brandon (Josh McDermitt), lives nearby, so he has a buddy to hang out with, and his high school crush, Jessica (Ryan Michelle Bathe, Trauma, Boston Legal) works at the local bar.
After David quits, it inspires his mother to quit her marriage, taking off to find a hunk in Central America. Alan doesn’t want to waste time being single, so he asks David to set him up, but rejects David’s choice of Susan (Christine Ebersole, Royal Pains, Saturday Night Live) as too old. David feels bad, as Susan has already arrived for the date, and agrees to take her to dinner, only to quickly wind up in bed with her. Alan reconsiders, claiming nerves, and David learns Susan is Jessica’s mother, which is supposed to be a big surprise twist, considering their different skin colors.
Which to me means that Jessica and David are doomed from the start. How can he possibly get with her when he’s slept with her mom? It would take many years, at minimum, for Jessica to get over that information once learned, which will surely be before too long. Does the show really expect to build proper will they / won’t they chemistry after jumping off that cliff? I don’t see it happening, and that one little moment kind of ruined the episode for me right there. Funny, yes, if Jessica had been a random girl of the week for David. Since she’s a main character, it’s nearly unacceptable. I understand David and Jessica needed obstacles to overcome, since they were both so willing to go for the relationship, even if they hadn’t told each other yet, but this was way too big an obstacle.
I was disappointed that Walter was in so little of the episode, taking off early on. As I mentioned before, she is the biggest draw for me. However, her name also graces the opening credits, so I’m sure she will be returning quite soon, likely after her husband sleeps with someone. Or, more funny, he doesn’t, but she has.
I don’t know if this show is going anywhere, but if you’re bored, it wouldn’t hurt to watch. Retired at 35 airs Wednesday nights at 10:30 p.m. on TVLand.