'9JKL' wastes the talent of its cast

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Photo: CBS

Last week, The Big Bang Theory served as the lead-in for the season’s best new sitcom, the Bang spin-off Young Sheldon. This week, Big Bang serves as the launchpad for one of the season’s weakest sitcoms, 9JKL. It stars Mark Feuerstein as a guy who lives in an apartment house; his parents reside in the apartment on one side of him, and his brother and sister-in-law live in the apartment on the other side. It’s a show in which that concept is everything — the source of 99 percent of the jokes.

Feuerstein is one of those actors who an artistically conservative network like CBS would be willing to take a chance on: He’s handsome, he’s charming, and he has starred in a proven hit: USA Network’s Royal Pains. He also co-created 9JKL — the gimmick is apparently based on his real-life apartment living experience. The new show is stacked with familiar faces. Elliott Gould and Linda Lavin play Feuerstein’s parents, and his brother is played by that charming show-killer David Walton (Bent, About A Boy, Perfect Couples).

As you might imagine, virtually all the comedy is constructed around the pushiness of the family members surrounding Feuerstein’s Josh. His character is a TV star who, upon getting divorced, decides to relocate back to New York City from Los Angeles to pursue his first love, the theater. (Not sure I believe the economics of that, but whatever.)

The pilot episode spends a lot of time having Gould and Lavin’s Harry and Judy Roberts fuss and coo over their son. This is the sort of show that could just as easily have premiered in 1997, or 1987, or 1977. Well, maybe not ’77; I’m not sure that back then a network show could get away with using the words “balls” to mean testicles: Josh asks his mother to leave so he can get dressed and spare his mother the sight of his private parts, and Tony and Emmy award-winning Linda Lavin is required to respond, “Oh, please, I gave birth to you — those little balls have been inside me.” Ugh. It’s this waste of talent that is most irritating about 9JKL.

9JKL airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.

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