TV Review - Surviving Jack

Connor Buckley (left) and
Christopher Meloni in "Surviving Jack"
The single-camera sitcom premiered on FOX on March 27. By May 7, it was announced that the series had been cancelled. It had only aired about a half-dozen episodes before the network gave up on it. I gave up on it only after three episodes. I had high hopes for the series because it starred Christopher Meloni (HBO's Oz and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) who finally got to show off his comedic side, which is a strong side that he rarely gets to reveal. He is quite funny though.

Those hopes were diminished being that the series was based on the book by Justin Halpern. A CBS series based on work by Halpern was cancelled as well. That CBS series was similarly about the relationship between a father and son. That concept and the performers were stronger because the two actors worked better off each other. Here, Meloni is pretty much alone and has to carry the weight by himself. The cast simply isn't as strong.

It doesn't help that the writing isn't as strong either. The jokes are simply tired or tame. The premise is that a teenage boy is narrating his relationship with his tough father Jack, played by Christopher Meloni. Jack is tough. He's a doctor who's seen a lot of tough things, a lot of life and death things, and he's developed a great coping mechanism, which might make him seem unsympathetic but he's merely pragmatic, a realist and at times brutally honest.

Unfortunately, in the history of TV dads, Meloni's Jack is not as tough or brutal as so many others. He could have stood to be more stern or more biting. As such, he's not as funny to watch. He's not as stern as James Evans, played by John Amos, from Good Times (1974). He's not as biting as Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O'Connor, from All in the Family (1971). He's certainly not as funny as Al Bundy, played by Ed O'Neill, from Married With Children (1987).

I was reminded of Married With Children in particular because this series seems to be set in the 1990s and Jack's daughter Rachel, played by Claudia Lee, is almost a clone of Kelly, the daughter in Married With Children, played by Christina Applegate.

In his apparent unsympathy, Neil Flynn who plays the dad in the current ABC series The Middle is vastly more interesting and funny than Meloni is here. Yet, it's not Meloni's fault. It's more or less the material that is stifling him.

One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DL.
Running Time: 30 mins.


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