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Thomas Haden Church,
Any summery I could give for "In Case of Emergency", ABC's latest edition to the glossy single-camera stupid comedy, would pale in comparison to the vigorous way that Jonathan Silverman talks through it on the show's "previously on" segments; many of which are original to each episode instead of the usual narration and clips. Looking like he is just thrilled to be working, Silverman's boundless energy, goofy faces and mad-capped performance is the single best thing going for "Emergency". If only the rest of the show could match his cartoon-like enthusiasm.
Then again, at least it isn't "The Class". Despite both built around high school friends forced back together as adults, the shows are quite different technically, in tone, sense of humor and aspirations. "Emergency" has a familiar cast. In addition to Silverman we have Kelly Hu, David Arquette and Greg Germann as the former classmates thrust into Silverman's house by circumstance. We also have Lori Loughlin as the object of the Arquette character's desire.
By God, this show is so fast, lively and superficially fun to look at that it takes a few episodes to really sink in that almost nothing here is really funny. Sherman (Germann) sulks in a lawn chair at the bottom of his empty pool because his ex-wife took everything- even the water. Hu works at an Oriental Massage parlor that Loughlin visits thinking she will just get a massage. Ho, ho, laughing yet? Like "Scrubs", "Malcolm in the Middle" and many other single-camera comedies, "Emergency" runs on the idea that if we just set up a situation that appears like it could be funny and don't give it a laugh track then people will hunt around and find a laugh in it without any of the jokes ever having to connect. If only to spite that damn laugh track.
"Emergency" is relatively inoffensive and highly watchable. If you can stomach the 80s music it endlessly pours onto us you can certainly do a lot worse. The first episode is the best. It captures a sense of chaos that is so purely entertaining it does not have to be clever. But as the show rolls out it gets slower and more character driven, which given the stencil shaping of the characters keeps it from ever hitting that fun high again. It quickly becomes a Best of the 80s album set to video.
All the characters speak with pretty much one voice and nobody really as any chemistry. "Emergency" feels dated and has an "every-show" quality to it. Silverman gets the ex-wife jokes and the unrequited love jokes, Germann gets the fat jokes, the momma's boy jokes and the ex-wife jokes, Hu gets the hooker jokes and Arquette is handed the slapstick (which he is actually pretty good at) and, worse, the central relationship, yet another impossible TV relationship at that. I wonder if this show really is funny and I just can't get past the premise that an engaged Lori Loughlin would be won over by David Arquette to see it. They have to get together at some point don't they? It is a TV show after all. That fall-back on cliché is really one of the most unforgivable things about "Emergency".
* * / 4
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