SITCOM PREMIERE "The Soul Man"
WHEN|WHERE Wednesday night at 10 on TV Land
REASON TO WATCH Can anybody say "Amen"?
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Cedric the Entertainer plays a onetime Barry White wannabe who goes "from singing soul to saving souls" in taking over his daddy's St. Louis church. Along for the sass and sermons: Vegas-styled wife Niecy Nash ("Reno 911," Style's "Clean House") and driving-age daughter Jazz Raycole (original Claire on "My Wife and Kids").
Is retired daddy (John Beasley, "Everwood") really ready to pass on his pulpit? Might his younger son be a bit of a rascal? "The good Lord created cuss words so I could describe your brother."
MY SAY The good Lord created sitcoms like "The Soul Man" as relaxing, relatable humor with heart, and Cedric's new creation isn't about to mess with His template. Besides the got-it-down-cold cast, TV Land's latest has experienced director Stan Lathan (Sanaa's dad), who ranges back to "Sanford & Son" and "Hill Street Blues." Then there's showrunner Phoef Sutton. His resumé runs from "Cheers" to FX sleeper "Terriers." They can do silly, they can do serious.
As does "The Soul Man," aiming proudly mainstream the way sitcoms like "Amen" used to. (Gotta love that race switcheroo of token white players supporting.)
BOTTOM LINE Either I'm getting forgiving, or cable's live-audience sitcoms are getting better all the time. Think the networks might notice?