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'The McCarthys' review: Massive deja vu

"The McCarthys" is an ensemble family comedy about a sports-crazed Boston family whose somewhat athletically-challenged son, Ronny, is chosen by his father to be his assistant high school basketball coach, to the surprise of his more qualified siblings. Photo Credit: CBS / Robert Voets

THE SHOW "The McCarthys"

WHEN|WHERE Thursday at 9:30 p.m. on CBS/2

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ronny McCarthy (Tyler Ritter) is a member of a close-knit, sports-crazed Boston clan who himself has no interest in sports, but is picked by his dad, Arthur (Jack McGee) to be his assistant coach on the high school basketball team anyway. His jock brothers, Sean (Jimmy Dunn) or Gerard (Joey McIntyre), would seem the more logical choices, while Ronny, who is gay, wants to move to Providence where there's a "vibrant gay community." But mom Marjorie (Laurie Metcalf) desperately wants her beloved Ronny to stay in Boston. (After all, she worries, who else will watch "The Good Wife" with her?)

MY SAY Just to quickly sort this out, Tyler Ritter is the younger brother of Jason Ritter, and both are sons of the late John Ritter.

But Tyler, born the year after "Three's Company" left the air, bears more than a passing resemblance to his dad, even if the word "ringer" is an overstatement. What he does have, in abundance, is that Ritter style, which seems to come as effortlessly as taking a breath: the laugh, smile, voice, and charm. It is uncanny, and it is obvious what CBS is banking on with "The McCarthys" -- some too-deep-for-words appeal that made John Ritter beloved by so many millions over so many years.

The basic quality of this by-the-numbers sitcom is mostly besides the point. John Ritter, after all, didn't get Emmy-winning material on "Three's" either, and it was still a raging success over eight seasons. With "The McCarthys," CBS has one of those atavistic comedies that reaches back to the earliest days of the form, and a star who may invoke in some viewers a long-buried pleasure reflex -- a reflex they may have first discovered watching his father more than 30 years ago. That's not a bad strategy, while "The McCarthys" -- good-natured, old-fashioned, unchallenging -- isn't a bad sitcom, just an obvious one.

BOTTOM LINE Ritter has abundant appeal, while veteran stars like Metcalf and McGee give this sitcom a massive deja vu wallop. (Haven't I seen this somewhere ... once ... long ago? Yup, I have.)


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