With several hundred original scripted shows in production among broadcast, cable and streaming outlets, the pressure is on to create a hit series this fall. Fox's entries in the situation comedy category, namely "Grandfathered" and "The Grinder," are both solid efforts, but only one is a hit.
On "Grandfathered," John Stamos plays Jimmy, a 50 year-old bachelor whose stylish and structured life is disrupted after he meets Gerald (Josh Peck), the adult son he never knew he had. Adding more shock to the surprising news is Gerald's reveal that he has a baby daughter named Edie, making Jimmy a father and a grandfather. Determined to reach the same level of success in his newfound family life as he has achieved in his career, Jimmy takes on the challenge.
The premise of "Grandfathered" has the obvious fish-out-of-water set-ups as vain, self-centered Jimmy tries and fails to embrace all the messiness and responsibility that goes along with caring for a child. Stamos attacks the role with a lot of energy and charm, both qualities that seem to come naturally to him. He is very watchable and he has a few one-liners that are funny, but in a way that will most likely make you chuckle rather than laugh out loud. The rest of the cast revolves around Stamos rather than stands out, although Paget Brewster as Sara, Gerald's mom and Jimmy's former girlfriend, has some strong comedic moments. If she is given more to do, the series will be better for it.
The cast of "The Grinder," on the other hand, has no problem shining on their own even next to the bright star that is Rob Lowe. Lowe plays Dean, an actor who starred as a lawyer on a hit show named "The Grinder." When Dean's series ends, he returns to his hometown of Boise, Idaho, and decides that his acting experience qualifies him to join the family law firm. Dean's brother Stewart (Fred Savage), an actual lawyer, isn't impressed.
Dean's affection for his family is authentic, but his life is mostly a dramatic performance, and Lowe playfully delivers Dean's flair and bravado. Savage is excellent as Stewart, a small-town lawyer who is not confident in his professional abilities and stuck in his famous brother's shadow. Stewart's reactions to Dean's absurd intrusions into his work and family life are hilarious thanks to Savage's skill. Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Debbie, Stewart's wife, holds her own in scenes with Savage and Connor Kalopsis as their son Ethan says his lines perfectly and humorously deadpan.
The show is a clever take on celebrity and performance, and several scenes in the pilot, including one where the whole family reacts to Dean's speech about his life being a highway, are particularly entertaining. While "Grandfathered" may eventually lose its spot in a crowded field, "The Grinder" has staked its claim as one of the season's most promising new situation comedies.
"Grandfathered" premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. EDT on Fox, followed by "The Grinder" at 8:30 p.m. EDT.
Melissa Crawley is the author of "Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing.'" She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.