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This short-lived sitcom about the four Fanelli fratelli boasted a good cast, a decent setup, and a dearth of genuine laughs. The actors playing the "boys" were not well-known at the time, though Pantoliano and Meloni have gone on to much greater fame. Pantoliano was a successful character actor already, but not particularly well-known. That description fits Eisenberg, too. Ann Morgan Guilbert played their mom, long after playing Millie on the Dick Van Dyke Show and shortly before playing The Nanny's grandmother. As I said, the show needed more laugh lines, but it also suffered from a lack of a framework on which to hang the laughs. The pitch must have gone something like this: "Let's do a show about some Italian brothers and their mom;" to which the response should've been "What about 'em?"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There probably never was a way to make this work. A film about 4
brother's living under the same roof with their overprotecting mother
could have worked as a film but not much more. The idea of this
short-lived sitcom was that we were supposed to laugh of the brothers
mannerisms and failures.
Dominic (Joe Pantoliano) was a failing businessman and all around wise guy, Frankie (christopher Meloni) was the dimwit who was also attractive to women (much like the later character Joey). Anthony (Ned Eisenberg) was the mama's boy who was the complete opposite with the ladies and Ronnie (Andy Hirsch) was the brainy boy who was dating a woman twice his age. Their mother (Ann Guilbert) was of course overprotective and they had an uncle (Richard Libertini) who was a priest.
The characters were only mildly interesting and the show was for the most time an excuse for mouthing a lot of catchphrases that didn't catch on like: "Ah, Jeez!". Although, three of the male actors were somewhat successful in other ventures and Ann Guilbert became a mainstay in "The Nanny" it could not have been because of this show. It is funny that Edward Burns was praised for coming up with a somewhat similar project called "The Brothers Mcmullen" replacing Italian for Irish.
To put it mildly the show was intensely boring. To see ordinary Italian-Americans in a comedy did not work which is sort of the reason why Italian-Americans have been reduced to being even more stereotypical in both TV and movies than they were before.
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