The by-the-numbers adaptation falls flat

By Ray Rahman
June 14, 2016 at 10:33 PM EDT
ABC/Tyler Golden

Uncle Buck

S1 E1
  • TV Show

Rebooting an iconic John Hughes-John Candy movie is a risky proposition, even for the family-comedy wizards at ABC. In fact, it’s already been tried by one network: CBS took a stab at it back in 1990. As you might have guessed, it did not do well. Could this new iteration, which comes more then 25 years after the original film, actually pull it off?

The short answer is, not quite. This by-the-numbers adaptation doesn’t have the quirk or emotion that made the original so memorable. The writing is uninspired and too many of the gags fall as flat as pancakes (which, yes, do play a part in the sitcom).

But there is some good news. The sitcom boasts a key building block in the form of Mike Epps, the funny, charismatic comic actor who assumes the title role. His Buck is more sleazy schemer than the movie’s slobby slacker, but Epps has a Candy-esque ability to win over an audience, even when the show itself fails to connect.

The first episode introduces Buck to his brother Will’s family when Will (James Lesure) and his wife Alexis (Nia Long) plan to head out of town, but first need to find a babysitter to watch their three precocious kids. Needless to say, Buck isn’t up to the task — under his watch, the kids go to a club, visit a very adult house party, and learn too much about sex. The high jinks are highly bland and full of forgettable dialogue and jokes that barely register.

At 45, Epps has been in need of a vehicle for some time now. The standup has been floating around the edges of Hollywood for years, and in 2014, he scored a sizable role on the cast of Survivor’s Remorse, the LeBron James-produced Starz comedy about a basketball player’s journey in the pros. As Uncle Julius, a key part of the show’s central entourage, Epps regularly steals scenes from the crowded cast — most of the laugh-out-loud moments inevitably involve him.

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So it makes sense to transition him into something bigger. But Uncle Buck probably will not be the answer. Sure, it’s pretty fun to watch him turn a Girl Scout cookies sale into an illicit, The Wire-style gang operation in tonight’s second episode. But after two generally unremarkable back-to-back episodes and so many tired exchanges (“My wife’s got a point, Buck — she’s always got a point”), one can only hope that the show eventually finds a way to live up to Epps’ potential — or that he finds a show that can.  

Uncle Buck

  • TV Show
  • 09/08/90
  • In Season
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  • Uncle Buck