Do you get itchy and/or twitchy just at the thought of a multi-camera sitcom that features laugh-track-enhanced guffaws, garish Boston accents, a wacky ensemble, and 3.5 one-liners per minute? Then please don’t think about it, and definitely don’t watch “Clipped,” a new TBS comedy from Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, the creators of “Will & Grace.”
Like “Will & Grace,” the new show is built on sassy, often pop-culture-related jokes and actors who know how to pitch them at the right speed. The show is set in a Boston barbershop, and George Wendt plays Buzzy, the gay man who founded the shop. At one point, a character refers to Buzzy and his partner of 42 years (a cop played by Reginald VelJohnson) as “Broke Hip Mountain.” At another point, Buzzy affectionately calls stylist Charmaine (Diona Reasonover), who is black and Jewish, “Dr. Dreidel.” The show skips ahead fueled by such quips, with the cast doing a lot of choreographed sitcom-stage moves among the barber chairs.
Unlike “Will & Grace,” it breaks no new ground and offers viewers only another forgettable — if not unpleasant — half-hour of shtick. We’ve seen all these characters before, from nasty shop owner Ben (Ryan Pinkston) to adorable could-be couple A.J. (Mike Castle) and Danni (Ashley Tisdale). The actors who inhabit them are good enough, with Castle endearing as the dreamer and Reasonover promising as the unedited Charmaine. Lauren Lapkus, who was wonderful on “Orange Is the New Black,” is a sweet presence as the naïve receptionist. But still, at the end of the half-hour, their fast-paced banter and wit seem a bit pointless, like a punchy time-killer. All the craft — Mutchnik and Kohan are expert sitcom-makers — adds up to nothing very special.
Also working against the show: Boston clichés. It’s a little irresistible to see sitcom pro Wendt back in Boston all these years after “Cheers.” But the script contains formulaic Boston jokes that fall flat, from the Tom Brady worship to the five look-alike Doyle sisters. When oh when will we hear mention of Hahvahd Yahd? Even worse, some of the actors try to use the so-called Boston accent as a comic tool, which never seems to work out, does it? I won’t go into a screed about it; been there, done that.
Interestingly, elements of “Clipped” might have resonated and felt fresher if “Will & Grace” hadn’t preceded it. As an older gay couple, Wendt and VelJohnson would probably have made some waves in the early 1990s. Since “Will & Grace” opened the doors for gay characters in the network mainstream, though, we’ve seen all kinds of gay and lesbian characters on TV. PBS’s “Vicious,” with Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, is already all over the longtime gay couple business. On “Clipped” the gay presence is fun but de rigueur. Like too much about the show, from the silly go-nowhere plot about having to fire one of the employees to the will-they-or-won’t-they couple, it’s nothing new.
Starring: Mike Castle, Matt Cook, Lauren Lapkus, Ryan Pinkston, Diona Reasonover, Ashley Tisdale, George Wendt, Reginald VelJohnson
Tuesday night, 10-10:30