'Sullivan & Son' review: Bracing and tasty

Valerie Azylnn and Steve Byrne in "Sullivan and

Valerie Azylnn and Steve Byrne in "Sullivan and Son." (Credit: TBS)

SITCOM PREMIERE "Sullivan & Son"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 10, bonus episode at 10:30, on TBS

REASON TO WATCH So where the heck is the next great adult sitcom? Right here.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The dichotomy of "Sullivan & Son" lies in one person. Like standup/star/ co-creator Steve Byrne, the "son" character is half Korean (mom) and half Irish (dad).

He's also a hotshot Manhattan lawyer who gives up his corporate life to move back to Pittsburgh and buy his retiring dad's tavern, at a price hard-

bargained by mom. By tonight's second episode, he's running a neighborhood hangout populated by lovable drunks who never seem to go to work.

MY SAY You might think all this sounds pretty familiar. Do Irish own bars? Are Koreans pinchpenny? If that sounds culturally cliched, rest assured that Steve has a resentful little sister. And when somebody who's dissing someone asks, "Is he standing right behind me?" he certainly is. So we've added the TV cliches.

And then you hear a cranky old barfly moan about African-Americans.

So what do we have? Surprise! A laugh-out-loud hilarious show. No joke. None of "Sullivan & Son" should work, really, and nearly all of it does.

Give credit to unpredictable writing, sublime casting, razor-sharp timing, and not a mean bone in anybody's body. Byrne's relaxed straight man hosts gonzo characters -- Christine Ebersole's bawdy drunk, Owen Benjamin as her airhead son, Brian Doyle-Murray's new-generation Archie Bunker. Add old-pro parents Dan Lauria ("The Wonder Years") and Jodi Long (Margaret Cho's "All-American Girl"), plus great guests like Egypt-born standup Ahmed Ahmed.

The diverse cast shrugs off race-based jokes that are not so much aimed at them as heaved past, like Steve's BlackBerry toward a pitcher of beer. Their raucous humor lies in full-bodied dialogue from characters with human foibles, not bogus, too-clever punch lines. "Sullivan & Son" has texture.

And outstanding craftsmanship. Making it sparkle: director Ted Wass and executive producers Vince Vaughn, Peter Billingsley and co-creator Rob Long, who cut his teeth on, no surprise here, "Cheers." Lucky are we that "Sullivan" has such guts and gusto, forgoing "colorblind" comedy to reflect our reality of difference -- and sameness of humanity.

BOTTOM LINE Bracing and tasty. I'll have a double.

GRADE A-

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