I’m always on the prowl for the worst of the worst of TV comedies. It’s an odd fetish of mine, to find that one series that embodies everything off-putting about the traditional sitcom format, from the burlesque excesses of broad one-liners to the absurdities of super-bright lighting and sweetened laughter. Until recently, “2 Broke Girls” held the honor, replacing “According to Jim.”
I think I have found a new winner: an abominable, grating, crass, predictable, and lazy new Fox sitcom called “The Cool Kids.” I’d been hoping the show, which runs Friday nights at 8:30, might have some magic, since it’s executive-produced and co-created by Charlie Day of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” I also liked the idea of a show that bucks TV’s usual obsession with youth and young audiences by casting an all-elder ensemble. Maybe this one will conjure some of the vibe of “The Golden Girls.” But “The Cool Kids” is a horrible mess.
The show is set in a retirement community, and it revolves around three men and a woman who hang out together in the cafeteria. Leslie Jordan is the gay one, Martin Mull is the straight white one, David Alan Grier is the straight black one, and Vicki Lawrence is the pushy straight female one. Do those descriptions sound simplistic? They are, but those labels essentially determine every single joke these characters make as they relentlessly tease one another. There is no character development, no surprising contradictions, just the same notes — gay, straight, black, white, female, pushy — played over and over again.
Jordan, so great as Beverly Leslie on “Will & Grace,” is particularly unbearable, as he minces around with his Southern drawl, ridiculing himself. Lawrence is a close second. I imagine that, with better material, this ensemble could shine; they’re all pros with sharp timing. But the humor couldn’t be less clever. Almost every single joke somehow touches on the fact that these people are old. They’re old but they still want sex, they’re old but they still get socially insecure, they’re old but they can still pop out of a cake.
Yes, they’re old, but alas, they can’t turn leaden scripts into gold.Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.