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'The Cool Kids' Tries Too Hard
September 28, 2018  | By David Hinckley

The Cool Kids starts off only lukewarm.

The Cool Kids, which premieres Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox, would seem to have all the elements to join the small but revered club of mature sitcoms. You know, The Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland.

Except one. Too many times when The Cool Kids shoots for funny, it ends up with silly.

The Cool Kids revolves around four residents of a retirement community: Hank (David Alan Grier, top), Charlie (Martin Mull, top), Sid (Leslie Jordan, top), and Margaret (Vicki Lawrence, top).

The three guys just lost their good pal Jerry, the fourth guy who always sat at their tables for meals. When we meet them, they’re trying to figure out how they can throw a farewell party that includes more than balloons and a cheese plate, which is what Shady Meadows director Allison (Artemis Pebdani) routinely arranges when a resident passes on.

This discussion tells us that Hank sees himself as the alpha in the group, the main man, the big cheese, the decider. Charlie seems calm and totally unruffled, which makes it amusing when he casually references some tale of wild abandon from his degenerate youth. Sid is a geriatric dweeb, sweet and unintentionally amusing.

The Cool Kids story kicks into gear when Margaret (Vicki Lawrence) sits down in Jerry’s chair, uninvited.

Hank orders that she leave. Mistake. Margaret isn’t the type who takes orders. She and Hank spar. And spar some more, with no resolution.

The three guys go to Allison’s office and ask what it would take to get Jerry a real farewell party. She says it can’t be done, and if they don’t like the rules, they can leave, because it’s a retirement community and everyone is there voluntarily.

“We are?” says Charlie. “My kids lied to me.”

Good line. Unfortunately, too many other lines in The Cool Kids feel predictable and a little forced. When the laffmeter starts to falter, which is too often, we can expect and will get a routine sex joke.

It’s the old sitcom story. Too many of the scenes are designed to set up a joke, rather than give us an interesting glimpse of a character.

Making things worse, The Cool Kids has the personnel to do so much better. Grier, Mull, Jordan, and Lawrence are terrific comic actors who enhance their material because they deliver it so well.

Lawrence, in particular, strikes just the right tone, making Margaret the real alpha without overplaying her into obnoxious.

It’s possible that once we know the lineup, these characters will find enough jokes, geriatric and otherwise, to make Shady Meadows a place we want to visit every week.

But just making four senior citizens behave like creaky juvenile delinquents isn’t going to be enough. We don’t need them to act their age. We just need them to act more engaging.

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