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After being forced into early retirement, arrogant surgeon John (John Lithgow) drags his straight-laced life-long friend Jeffrey (Jeffrey Tambor) on a personal quest to squeeze the most out of life in their golden years.
"Twenty Good Years" screams "This is a show your grandparents would watch". While I don't mean that as an insult and the producers probably wouldn't take it as such, that idea must be the most frightening thing a network programming executive can hear. "Years" is a call back to a time when shows like "Empty Nest" and the now cult favorite "The Golden Girls" rested comfortably on the schedule. Before TV bowed at the feed of to the 18 to 49 demographic senselessly and despite the fact that they have the smallest disposable income. It is positive, upbeat, simple and comfortable. It gives a dignity and a respect to a portion of the audience that goes ignored by network TV executives whose obsession with youth is more likely based in a pathetic mid-life crisis than any test group. Like the bald guy with the Ferrari who tries in vein to be hip for his teenage children.
The premise and the sitcom setting are a blank canvas to let the heavy-weight comic talents of John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor run wild and free. Except it looks like nobody communicated that to the actors. With Lithgow and Tambor relying so heavily on the material and the material relying so heavily on Lithgow and Tambor the end result is pretty much a laugh-free empty hole.
Lithgow plays it with the volume on 10 at all times as if the louder he yells the funnier it is. As the Lemmon to Lithgow's Matthau the show makes the biggest miscalculation with Tambor. Coming off playing a duel role in one of the hippest shows in modern television, "Arrested Development", watching Tambor playing a pathetic old man with a 2 decade death clock on his head is profoundly sad and unappealing. I don't know anybody who sees John Lithgow or Jeffrey Tambor and thinks "elderly", which is a big hurdle the show has to overcome.
So here's to Lithgow and Tambor and a production that had the guts to tell the audience and the network that there was life after 49. The audience (or laugh track?) certainly seemed to enjoy it, but I'm going to need a lot more than good intentions and simple sights of two "old men" bungee jumping or skinny dipping in the ocean to get me laughing.
* ½ /4
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