9/21/15, 8:30 PM, CBS
Since Parenthood wrapped up 7 months ago, I’ve been looking for the next family ensemble show to fill the void left behind by the Braverman’s. So when I started seeing commercials for CBS’ latest sitcom Life in Pieces, I was certainly intrigued. Yes it’s another single camera family sitcom ala Modern Family, but its 4 tier approach to telling the various stories of the extended family we see here opens up the narrative potential for the series. So how did this introduction to the family turn out? Let’s take a look.
“First Date” introduces us to Matt (Thomas Sadowski) who is on a date with his co-worker Colleen (Angelique Cabral). The date itself went great, but when it comes to getting it on, they are constantly interrupted at each location. First at her place by Chad (Jordan Peele), her ex-fiancee who co-owns her house and refuses to leave while staring and crying at them along with his dog, Princess. Then at Matt’s place, which it turns out is his parents home who are back early from a bar mitzvah. And then finally in his car by a cop who mistakes Colleen for a hooker. “The Delivery” introduces us to new parents Greg (Colin Hanks) and Jen (Zoe Lister-Jones) as they head home with their newborn daughter and orders from their doctor not to have sex for six weeks and to not look “down there” along with medical gloves to fill with water and put in the freezer. Upon coming home, Jen does and likens it to when the Predator took off his mask. Greg then gets the hand shaped blocks of ice, inserts one of the fingers and then wonders aloud “What has happened to our relationship?” “The College Tour” has parents Heather (Betsy Brandt) and Tim (Dan Bakkedal) taking their son Tyler (Niall Cunningham) on his first college visit with their two younger daughters Samantha and Sophia (Holly J. Barrett and Giselle Eisenberg) in tow. After embarrassing Tyler with stories of first times (“You lost your virginity to a couch?”) and forcing a turkey sandwich on him, empty nest syndrome starts to set in between the two. Which is interrupted with Samantha telling Sophia that Santa isn’t real, Heather answering “Made up.” to Sophia’s questions except for the existence of God and then Samantha getting her first period. Out by the ice room, Heather jumps Tim’s bones and tries to convince him that they should have a 4th child, which is then ruined by an argument over each other’s fertility. And they all come together at “The Funeral” where grandparents John (James Brolin) and Joan (Dianne Wiest) are throwing a fake funeral for kooky John per his 70th birthday wish. They go along with it at varying degrees of commitment (Matt is baffled while Greg reads a poem and Heather, Tim and the kids sing “Candle in the Wind”), but the revelry is interrupted when Joan cries and then yells at John over how morbid the whole thing is. John realizes this was a bad idea and admits that because life is made up of all these tiny moments that stay with you forever (thus getting our theme of the show), he’s not sure how many he has left. And the pilot end with him trying out the coffin, the lid closing and getting stuck and the family wheeling out said coffin to the Jiffy Lube across the street to get the tools to break their father out.
It’s hard to talk about the various plots that we see in this first episode since calling them plots in the first place would be overly generous. The first two segments only last about four minutes and all three are there mostly just to set up the characters and their dynamics (along with a bunch of vague sex and bodily function jokes that only arouse mild amusement than actual laughs) before bringing them together in the last and best segment. It’s during “The Funeral” where we see the family dynamic between all of them and how despite John continually referring to Jen as “Greg’s wife” even though she’s been in the family for the last 5 years, they do clearly love each other and act as a family should. Ultimately, the real strength of the pilot and the series going forward is the cast. And given that the cast is a murderer’s row of drama and sitcom veterans that do work well together in the little time that we see them, I think it bodes well for the future of the series.
The pilot for "Life in Pieces" barely has any plot, but sets up the characters, their dynamic and the structure and genial tone for the series to make it interesting enough to keep watching.