Jeffrey Tambor was brilliant at exuding arrogant stupidity as the smarmy talk-show sidekick on The Larry Sanders Show, but as Jake, a divorced dad on Everything’s Relative, his character just exudes stupid arrogance.
The show, produced by some of the folks who brought you The Golden Girls and The John Larroquette Show, is supposed to focus on his son Leo (newcomer Kevin Rahm), an L.A. comedy writer with a hit-or-miss romantic life and a conflicted relationship with his family. Besides Jake, there’s his flibbertigibbet mom, Mickey (Jill Clayburgh), and an obnoxiously self-absorbed brother (the all-too-convincing Eric Shaeffer). But Rahm’s character is so underwritten, he can’t possibly compete with the overwrought neuroses projected by Tambor’s and Clayburgh’s characters.
The result is a sitcom without a center — or rather, something worse: one with a hollow center, orbited by tiresome supporting players. Tambor’s Jake is a sleazeball who thinks every saleswoman is flirting with him; Clayburgh, who radiated vulnerable strength in movies like An Unmarried Woman and Starting Over, is reduced to playing a sad-eyed clinical therapist far too heavily involved in the life of her son, and still consumed by her failed marriage to Jake. (The funniest line in the pilot is Leo’s weary observation ”Believe me, the fact that you wrote the book on obsession has not escaped me.”) NBC is looking to move away from workplace comedies and into the family-sitcom business, but this is one clan that might benefit from moving as far away from each other as possible. D+