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CBS' 'Carol's Second Act' Looks to be Incurably Unfunny
September 26, 2019  | By Ed Bark  | 6 comments

Tetanus shots are more fun. Still, some sort of inoculation might be needed after watching Patricia Heaton striving to survive this new hospital comedy.

Carol's Second Act marks her return to CBS (Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. ET) in hopes of achieving a third major success following bravura stints in Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle. But man, this is not the way to go about it.

Saddled with an annoyingly awful giggle track – plus outdated applause when Heaton first appears – Carol's Second Act turns out to be an antidote to the old bromide that laughter is the best medicine. You won't find any of that going around here. And if you somehow do, it might be best to go in for a checkup.

Heaton plays divorced Carol Kenney, who's retired from teaching school and is now hoping to become a doctor. But she's 50, and thereby hopelessly old in the eyes of three fellow interns young enough to be her kids. The jokes to that effect come close to being an epidemic, but cheery Carol keeps her sunny side up until finally blowing up at the episode's merciful end.

Kyle MacLachlan chips in as the rather goofy Dr. Stephen Frost, senior attending physician at Loyola Memorial Hospital. Chief resident Maya Jacobs (Ito Aghayere) mechanically orders the interns around, to no comedic effect. Aghayere doesn't seem to have a handle on this role at all.

Barely recognizable as intern Caleb is Lucas Neff from Fox's Raising Hope, which was only about, oh, ten times funnier. The other newbies are snooty Daniel (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) and insecure Lexie (Sabrina Jalees). At the end of Thursday's premiere episode, Carol's pharmaceutical sales rep daughter Jenny (Ashley Tisdale) pops in to tell mom how proud she is of her.

Carol's Second Act has an overload of eight executive producers, which has proven over time to be three or four too many. Another was dropped after the pilot episode as further evidence that this show has been struggling to get its act together.

Heaton clearly gives her all in the face of one groaner after another. Such as chief resident Maya informing Carol that "someone who can't follow orders is someone who can't be a good doctor." Or later, "I enforce discipline. It doesn't mean I'm heartless."

Literally, nothing jells in this ham-handed first half-hour, and it may already be too late for full-blown emergency surgery. Still, Carol's Second Act could well get a decent tune-in due to Heaton's mere presence. And the basic older CBS audience might appreciate her character's reference to Angela Lansbury as well as an attempt at Lucille Ball-esque physical comedy in a shower scene. 

Otherwise, we all make bad choices on occasion. As did Heaton between Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle when she co-starred with Kelsey Grammer in Fox's short-lived Back to You. In that context, this, too, will pass.

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