THE SERIES "The Kominsky Method"
WHEN | WHERE Starts streaming Friday on Netflix
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Sandy Kominsky (Michael Douglas in his first starring role in a TV series since "The Streets of San Francisco" in the 1970s) is a former star, now esteemed acting coach who is summoned to the deathbed of Eileen Newlander (Susan Sullivan), wife of his close friend and agent, Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin). She wants Sandy to take care of Norman after she's gone, but prickly Norman isn't the easiest guy to be around while Sandy is thinking about diving back into the dating pool — one date, his student Lisa (Nancy Travis), in particular. Meanwhile, Sandy and Norman both have adult daughters, Mindy Kominsky (Sarah Baker) and Phoebe Newlander (Lisa Edelstein). They couldn't be more unalike. This eight-parter — absent a laugh track — was created by Bethpage native Chuck Lorre ("The Big Bang Theory").
MY SAY Think Michael Douglas and maybe think a legendary actor with a pair of Oscars. Think Chuck Lorre and maybe think a vastly successful sitcom producer who happens to have the most successful one on the air right now. Think both of them together and that's where this thinking exercise breaks down. Each has skills, each a wheelhouse, just not necessarily complementary ones, with "The Kominsky Method" as evidence.
This geriatric male comedy, an ersatz "Sunshine Boys," creaks along with jokes about prostates, fellatio and urination — so many jokes about urination that "The Kominsky Method" leaks as well as creaks. It also defiantly seeks common ground with a whole other era, when guys could be guys and jokes could be jokes, the bluer the better. The spirit of the '70s sporadically heaves into view, sometimes the '60s. "I'm going stag tonight," says Sandy.
Norman: "Stag?! Who are you, Peter Lawford?" Yes, the '50s are apparently here, too.
Like Netflix bookend "Grace & Frankie," "Kominsky" demands that old people are people too, with their own set of melancholic late-in-life issues. Unlike "G&F," "Kominsky" has an imperious smugness and a love-it-or-leave-it swagger about the matter. When a Barbra Streisand look-alike drag performer sings at Eileen's funeral, Norman says, "That's a man!" Sandy shrugs: "It's what we could get." There should be pleasure in seeing a pair of legends like this together. Jokes like this tend to scuttle that promise with brutal haste.
Because "Kominsky" is so blue and so tin-eared, when it tries to draw close to anything resembling real human emotion, it emotionally founders then sinks without a trace. After Norman offers a cri de coeur about the pain of being human in front of Sandy's class, the students applaud.
Right: Clap, clap.
BOTTOM LINE Creaky and leaky.