Growing Up Fisher

Growing Up Fisher
3
Because a simple conceit and distinct cast of characters doesn't seem to be enough for many new sitcoms these days, the latest meandering stab at mediocrity from DJ Nash (Up All Night) tries to distract from substandard writing with lazy devices and broad comedy.

Being credited as "inspired by a true story" doesn't make this tale feel any more plausible. Here's the setup: Mel Fisher, a blind lawyer who managed to hide his affliction from his colleagues for years decides to separate from his wife, who is rediscovering her adolescence in a weird sort of mid-life crisis. To make it more saccharine, the story is told by Mel's young son. Pre-hormone befouled Harry absolutely worships the ground his father walks on, to the point where he burns with jealousy when Mel gets a guide dog after he finally admits to the world that he's blind.

Some might find it sweet while others will find it a little pathetic. Most of the jokes derive from Mel's stubborn insistence that blindness can't prevent him from doing anything he sets his mind to. So, the peril of a blind man chopping down a tree and driving a car is the kind of comedy currency Growing Up Fisher is trading in.

It's a little more satisfying when Mel uses legal-fu to throw down with insensitive law breakers but it also feels kind of dirty to cheer for these verbal smack downs, since he's essentially using his handicap and specialized knowledge base to bully people, even if he's technically in the right.

The show is at its (meager) best when it sticks to the relationship between father and son; unstable matriarch, Joyce is as poorly sketched as they come. How sluggish do one's creative juices have to be to have a character get braces as an expression of recaptured youth?

If that's an example of the "truth" to this story, then a little fiction would go a long way. A couple of talented actors are brought along on the desultory ride. J.K. Simmons plays the indomitable lawyer and Parker Posey was saddled with the thankless wife role for this pilot but has since been replaced by Jenna Elfman. Her brand of doltishness should be a better fit for the tone of this lackadaisical series.

Growing Up Fisher is scheduled as a midseason replacement for early 2014. (Universal)