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STUDENT BLOG #4: The Sun Should Set on Fox's "Sons of Tucson"
April 8, 2010  | By David Bianculli


[Bianculli here: I asked Rich Greenhalgh, who last wrote on the subject of anime, to take a look at one of the new shows aimed at young viewers, and write about whether it did or didn't work for him, a college student at Rowan University. Here is his not-so-glowing report on Fox's newest sitcom...]

"Sons of Tucson" Deserves Banishment... To the Tool Shed

By Rich Greenhalgh

The more I watch television, the more I wonder if Hollywood is just trying to save a buck due to the recession.

At this very moment, discarded actors are pining for pilots, and writers are putting a fresh coat of paint on that quirky new sitcom concept or drama series. With all the built-in risks and difficulty in even getting on the air, you would think the creators or producers of new shows would want to hedge their bets, learn from the mistakes of others, and push the envelope.

On the other hand, you could do the opposite, and make Fox's Sons of Tucson.

This series, televised at 9:30 p.m. ET Sundays, features a concept full of untapped potential, an awkward yet edgy post-modern family style sitcom with a twist. The truth is that, in execution, this new sitcom matches its protagonist's flaws and lack of preparation all too well.

The creators, Greg Bratman and Tommy Dewey, started with a clever twist on the single-father sitcom. What if he's not their real father? What if, instead, he was a complete stranger, thrown into a "guardianship of convenience" role by kids whose father is away in prison, requiring a stand-in dad to prevent them being shipped off to child services.


Already I'm curious. And Sons ups the ante by hiring, in the central slacker role of Ron Snuffkin, comedic actor Tyler Labine, formerly of such cancelled series as Reaper, Invasion, Jake 2.0, Action Man and Dead Last). How bad could it be? (Wait -- HOW many cancelled shows?)

As the series began, Ron Snuffkin was a cashier at a sporting goods store, living in his car when he gets propositioned by three school boys who need a father figure to make "face time" with school administrators to sign them up for school. The boys were skeptical and scheming, to say the least, but Ron charmed and fumbled his way through all the important meetings, even though he couldn't even remember his kids' names.

The hook is that, after pulling off the initial deception, the boys still need Ron to show up for various teacher conferences and such. Ron is desperate for cash and a place to live, and the boys need an adult for show. There's potential to spin several seasons of awkward pairings and bizarre bonding excuses -- but, to my regret, the show's jokes, casting, and general flow maintain a 70 percent lame to 30 percent clever ratio in their presentation.


The series becomes painful to watch when even the smart and pretty school teacher, played by Natalie Martinez, gets invited to family dinner and buys into this train wreck. Where's the danger? Where's the conflict?

In one episode, Ron and the kids photoshop photos to fake "old" family pictures, yet are caught when the teacher notices an Obama bumper sticker on a car in a photo presumably taken years before Obama ran for President.

That was a clever touch, but there was nothing clever when the discrepancy was hastily dismissed by Ron, who claimed he was a supporter even back then. That's it? And Ron's pretty future "love interest" (even MORE implausible) just accepts it, like she's too stupid to piece it together? Or does Fox just think VIEWERS are?


Sons of Tucson is too simple and plodding to be a guilty pleasure, or even suitable for young viewers. The middle child gets saddled, by his older brother, with the catch phrase "What Up Slut?" That might be funny, or acceptable, if this were Daria or Glee, but this show wants to be family-oriented one minute and hip to teens the next. It never mixes well.

I'm hoping this sitcom soon gets sent to the non air-conditioned tool shed in which the kids originally forced Ron to live. I wonder: did Fox just want a "stand-in sitcom" to hold the time slot until next fall?




ceolaf said:


I know I doled out some pretty harsh criticism last time, but this is SO-OOO much better.

You set it up with values and context. You then explain your overall view. And you go on to specific details to make your point.

Then, in the end, you remind the reader what you think -- and by implcation what they might think. Final closing: a real verdict.

You've got analysis throughout, both intelligent and timely.

Where you are right or wrong, I'll never know. Because you have convinced me NOT to watch this show.

(The only negative criticism I would give would be to tie it back to your original in the first and second sentence. Some like Fox getting what is has paid for (but better than that), or proving the importance of real show development. But that is, at worst, the difference between an A and an A- by a very tough grader.)


Comment posted on April 8, 2010 8:12 PM

ceolaf said:


1) Your student has shown wonderful growth. I hope you deserve some of the credit, but I am sure you'd agree that he gets the lion's share of the credit on that.

2) I'd be happy to see him review more shows, if that's how he is going to write.

Comment posted on April 8, 2010 8:14 PM

Tom said:

As someone who learned a lot from DVB about making television criticism and reporting easy-to-read, understandable and on-target, I have to think you're paying similar attention.

This is good writing presented well.

When I saw the pilot last year, I was unimpressed, but I don't think I could have written a review as good as yours.

Comment posted on April 9, 2010 6:22 AM

Tausif Khan said:

Cancellation is not a mark of failure. Joss Whedon, David Lynch and David Milch have all had shows canceled no one would agree that these guys are failures.

Comment posted on April 9, 2010 10:36 AM

Rich said:

Well thank you all. It was a somewhat strange experience as I really wanted to like the show. I have been a fan of Tyler Labine since the short-lived WB's "Dead Last" in 2001.

I was very sad that Joss Whedon wouldn't make the needed adjustments to make "Dollhouse" more accessible. It was very frustrating for me to watch "Heroes" crawl like a wounded animal into the mess it is now (basically Vol #4& 5). It's not fun to write a negative review unless you really do despise or loath something.

I really thought this show had potential and promise- it just was too painful to keep watching. Hopefully someone will learn from this experience.

Comment posted on April 10, 2010 9:50 PM
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