Tag Archives: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Meloni mines for laughs in Fox’s Surviving Jack

"Surviving Jack" premieres tonight on Fox.

Dr. Jack Dunlevy (Christopher Meloni, right) shares a rare supportive moment with his teenage son, Frankie (Connor Buckley), in “Surviving Jack,” premiering tonight on Fox.


Surviving Jack, a new sitcom premiering tonight on Fox, gives Christopher Meloni a chance to show off his formidable comedy chops after intense dramatic turns in HBO’s prison saga Oz and NBC’s long-running police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Based on an autobiographical book by Justin Halpern and set in 1991, Surviving Jack stars Meloni as gruff oncologist Dr. Jack Dunlevy, who has decided to cut back his hours at his clinic so he can take over parenting his two teenage kids while his wife, Joanne (Rachael Harris), pursues her long-delayed dream of law school. Their daughter, Rachel (Claudia Lee), is mildly irritated by this household change, but her younger brother, high-school freshman Frankie (Connor Buckley), frets that his dad, an ex-military man, will now have even more opportunities to make his life difficult.
That’s a rational concern, given that Jack has been known to send his son out to run laps in the middle of the night and plants a large box of condoms in Frankie’s booksack to embarrass him at school. And while Jack dotes on his wife, he seems to harbor more ambivalent feelings toward Frankie.
“I love that woman,” Jack sighs, watching Joanne leave for class. “If an asteroid were to hit this Earth, and she and I were the only two people left alive, I’d be OK.”
“What about me?” Frankie asks.
“Well, obviously, there would be a grieving period,” Jack replies. “I’m not an ass.”
Halpern previously adapted another book into the ill-fated CBS sitcom euphemistically called Bleep My Dad Says, which also featured a crusty father figure who was a doctor, played on that show by William Shatner. Surviving Jack is a far more polished sitcom that makes even better use of its time period than ABC’s similarly themed The Goldbergs (there’s a funny running gag about Michael Crichton’s then-red-hot book Jurassic Park recurring in tonight’s pilot episode).
It helps, too, that Meloni has the good sense to underplay Jack’s bluntness. The character never shouts at his children, he just doesn’t mince any words or waste any tact in dealing with them.
My only concern is that tonight’s premiere seems to be too much of a one-trick pony that depends too much on ways that Jack benignly tortures Frankie. Some of it is laugh-out-loud funny, but I hope Surviving Jack will develop more of an ensemble feel in the weeks to come. Certainly Harris, a sitcom staple who also has a hilarious recurring role on USA Network’s Suits, is far too bright a comedy performer to remain stuck in the role of a largely absent mom. Buckley also is a real find as Frankie, although it’s stretching credibility to buy him as a freshman in high school.
Those minor quibbles aside, the prospects of Jack surviving look pretty good right now.
"Surviving Jack" on Fox.

Rachael Harris stars with Christopher Meloni in “Surviving Jack,” tonight on Fox.

A rusty reboot

Ironside - Season Pilot
Blair Underwood
Tonight NBC rolls out its very creaky reboot of Ironside, the 1967-75 NBC police drama that originally starred Emmy winner Raymond Burr as wheelchair-bound New York Police Detective Robert Ironside. It just may be the most baffling programming decision of the new fall season.
It’s been nearly 40 years since the original ended its run. That’s roughly two generations in TV audience terms and I doubt there has been any great groundswell of grassroots support for revisiting what always was a fairly unremarkable cop drama.
This new remake is far worse, a cliché-filled hour packed with stock characters and hammy acting. The usually reliable Blair Underwood takes the Burr role, which has been refashioned into a Serpico-like cop who isn’t afraid to break some rules to get the job done. I threw up in my mouth a little as I typed those last words, but sadly, they’re accurate.
Ironside has been confined to a wheelchair since he was nearly killed in a bust that went horribly wrong, an accident for which his former partner, Gary (Brent Sexton, The Killing), blames himself. Their now-tense relationship is the most interesting thing about tonight’s premiere, at least until it takes a turn for the weepy in the final moments of the episode.
Elsewhere, this “new” Ironside piles one trite police-show convention on top of another so relentlessly that you’ll get a headache from rolling your eyes so often. For the record, Ironside’s quirky team includes Pablo Schreiber, recently seen terrorizing Mariska Hargitay on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and sexually harassing the inmates as Pornstache in the awesome Netflix prison drama Orange Is the New Black; Neal Bledsoe, who played Tom’s closeted Republican boyfriend in season one of Smash; and the usually charming Greek alumna Spencer Grammer, who just looks lost here.
Frankly, I don’t know how anyone could get lost in this show, because there’s not a moment anywhere that doesn’t seem painfully familiar.
Ironside-NBC