- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

TV: Three new comedies, one is funny

TV: THREE NEW COMEDIES, ONE OF THEM FUNNY

BY DAVID WIEGAND

c. 2014 San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco - Are you laughing yet, or at all?

The Fall TV season, for the broadcast and cable providers who still observe it, is on the downhill side of the knoll of new shows at this point, with only a smattering of drama and sitcom premieres scheduled per week from here on out. So far, there have been a few tentative sitcom hits, but nothing anyone would place bets on to become the next “Modern Family.”

For me, the best new sitcom of the year is FX’s “You’re the Worst,” which just got better and better in its recently ended first season to justify the network greenlighting a second season. By contrast, it’s sometimes painful watching other promising comedies struggling with their second and third episodes to sustain their premises.

ABC’s “Selfie” is meant to repurpose Shaw’s “Pygmalion” for modern, selfie-obsessed times. But having dotted every available “i” and crossing every available “t” in the pilot, the second episode finds John Cho’s Henry Higgins-like character succumbing to searching Facebook to see what his old girlfriends are up to, despite his stated disdain for social media. Not only isn’t it funy, it’s just sad, and the potential chemistry between Cho’s character and Karen Gillan’s Eliza Dooley all but evaporates.

With that in mind, three new comedies exit the starting gate in the next few days with fingers crossed for elusive success in what’s turning out to be an rather humor-challenged Fall season.

Three stars out of five: Cristela

Broadcast info: 8:30 p.m. ET/PT Friday, Oct. 10, ABC

The goods (and bads): Cristela Alonzo plays an “Ugly Betty” knockoff, trading work as an intern in a law office for the fashion world of “Betty.” It tries so hard to be funny, but no matter how likable Alonzo is, the jokes are as stale as year-old taco shells. Yes, TV desperately needs more shows about Latinos, but they still need to be good shows.

Highlight (or lowlight): Gabriel Iglesias is undermining his standup success with his pointless, annoying presence in a recurring role.

*****

Four stars out of five: Jane the Virgin

Broadcast info: 9 p.m. ET/PT Monday, the CW

The goods (and bads): Speaking of “Ugly Betty,” the CW’s new comedy drama “Jane the Virgin” also repurposes a telenovela, and the results are promising and entertaining. Gina Rodriguez plays a young Miami Latina named Jane who is following her abuela’s insistence that she remain a virgin until she’s married. Fate has another idea, though, when Jane is artificially inseminated when a doctor mixes up her patients. The doctor is the lesbian sister of Jane’s hunky boss, a now married former playboy who once promised to call Jane but never did. Things get more complicated from there and it’s all great fun. Rodriguez is a charmer and as intentionally preposterous as it is, “Jane” has more than enough plot string to keep it going for a long time.

Highlight (or lowlight): Jane’s hilarious get-up as a cocktail waitress in a mermaid fishtail.

*****

Three stars out of five: Marry Me

Broadcast info: 9 p.m. ET/PT Tuesdays, NBC

The goods (and bads): Desperation rarely has a pleasing odor, but that’s what you feel with Casey Wilson’s character and her new sitcom, “Marry Me.” Annie (Wilson) and Jake (Ken Marino) have been dating for six years and she’s desperate for him to pop the question. Casey’s real-life husband, show creator David Caspe, is desperate to make us laugh and the pilot sets up one over the top situation after another until we’re exhausted - but, alas, not from laughing. In some ways, the show is a throwback to the days of wacky female sitcom stars with a lot of physical humor. What’s lacking is charm and lovability.

Highlight (or lowlight): The show has a silly running joke about which of Annie’s two dads is her biological father, both named Kevin, but Dan Bucatinsky is white and Tim Meadows is African American.

David Wiegand is a San Francisco Chronicle assistant managing editor and TV critic. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @WaitWhat_TV

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