Brothers Breaks Some New Ground

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Fox's new comedy Brothers--starring former NFL'er Michael Strahan and veteran comic actor Daryl Mitchell (Ten Things I Hate About You)--seems pretty run-of-the-mill in a quick flyby. It's about two squabbling siblings--one who left home and made it big, the other who hung back and didn't--and their wacky, acid-tongued parents. Been there, done that. But wait, look just the tiniest bit closer and you'll see it's anything but.

Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times sums it up pretty well in assessing the show as flat and traditional in the comedy department, but bold and daring pretty much everywhere else. See Mitchell (and his character, Chill) was paralyzed from the waist down in a 2001 motorcycle accident and is confined to a wheelchair. This disability is addressed in the first half hour of Brothers, but it's not the focus of the show.

Mike the former NFL'er (as opposed to Michael the former NFL'er playing Mike) doesn't return home because of his brother's accident. It's not a comedy about overcoming tragedy and disability. That journey is mostly in the past when the show begins. Instead the show focuses on their contentious relationship and their dad, Coach (Carl Weathers), who's beginning to show signs of dementia. So the show is domestic and laugh-tracky and punchline crammed, but it's also trafficking in some pretty interesting, mostly unexplored (in network TV land at least) territory.

The venerable CCH Pounder proves her worth as Mom, but you can't help but wish she'd been given some better material. We saw what she can do on The Shield (and in other things), and she deserves a series where she can really stretch those legs. Though the jokes don't connect all that often, Brothers is still a noble effort that I, for one, hope sticks around for a bit. Once the pilot-filming jitters wore off, maybe the cast eased into a comic pacing as relaxed as its handling of some tough topics.

Its daring is admirable, but Brothers has to pick up on the funny before curious viewers move on to something else. Let's hope the series gets the timing right.

'Brothers' premieres tonight at 8/7c on Fox