NBC's new sitcom "Guys With Kids" features three 30-something dads struggling to balance their own childish behavior with the demands of parenthood. The show emphasizes the unoriginal concept with standard sight gags, like having the guys wear their infants on their chests while at a sports bar. Despite their predictable antics, the dads are sometimes thoughtful and resourceful. The moms, who seem designed solely to antagonize the dads, are especially annoying.The stay-at-home dad
Former "Cosby" kid Tempestt Bledsoe returns to TV as Marny, a working mom. She and her husband, Gary (Anthony Anderson), have great chemistry. Their home life is somewhat miserable, and they both seem on the verge of a nervous break. Gary is the put-upon stay-at-home dad whose disobedient kids run around like Satan's spawn. He is hopelessly outnumbered and even a kiddie leash cannot help him control his brood.
Gary delivers some of the show's funniest moments because of the complexity of his character and Anderson's immense talent. Bathing babies in the kitchen sink is already well-known thanks to the gazillion ads featuring the iconic image. But his matter-of-fact explanation that he got the idea while rinsing a rotisserie chicken revitalizes the tired gag.
The cool dad
Nick (Zach Cregger) is the cool career guy who sips juice pouches. As a father of two, his life is pleasant, and he seems to have everything under control. He takes his whiny wife, Emily (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), for granted, and she goes out with Marny. He redeems himself by transforming their living room into the sinking Titanic complete with a coffee table iceberg and a Celine Dion song.
The divorced dad
Chris (Jesse Bradford) is a newly single dad juggling parenthood, dating, and his controlling ex-wife, Sheila (Erinn Hayes). Divorce does not keep her from dictating his parenting choices or wandering around his apartment. His buddies offer well-intentioned guidance, but he always defers to her because she's the one who grew the baby inside her body.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar makes a surprise appearance as Sheila's date. The basketball giant sparks something primal in the dads, and Chris insists on taking a photo of him holding his baby like a basketball. He finally defies Sheila, and her womb argument loses its power.
From the working class people on "Roseanne" to the adorkable "New Girl," simple stereotypes can spawn interesting TV characters. "Guys With Kids," however, stays too close to its title and settles for recycled jokes. The shortsighted character development might work well for a quick "Saturday Night Live" skit, but shows like "Modern Family" lead viewers to expect more from a half-hour show. This show needs to quit relying on a tired gimmick, or those cute child actors will soon be looking for new jobs.
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