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How A Pair Of Pretty Boys Got Their Groove Back


"Grandfathered" and "The Grinder" - those are the names of two new comedies that debut together on Fox tonight, both about middle-aged men trying to get their lives together. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says both shows make fun of their charming but aloof leading men.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: On "Grandfathered," John Stamos plays Jimmy Martino. He's a handsome, 50-year-old, womanizing bachelor who also happens to be super cool. How do we know he's super cool? Because his soundtrack says so. When he feeds women lines about wanting to settle down and raise a family, Bruno Mars and a horn section back him up.


JOHN STAMOS: (As Jimmy Martino) Don't get me wrong, I love my life. But, I'd give it all up just like that for a family.


MARK RONSON: (Singing) Hey, hey, hey, oh. Stop.

DEGGANS: Of course, this is a network TV sitcom, so Jimmy's nonsense about settling down is soon tested when an awkward young guy walks into the restaurant he owns and breaks some life-changing news to him.


JOSH PECK: (As Gerald) My mom is Sara Kingsley. You dated for a while in 1989. After you guys broke up, my mom discovered she was pregnant with me. Oh, one more thing. This is Edie, your granddaughter.

DEGGANS: At this point you can probably guess the rest of what happens in "Grandfathered," which would be subtitled how Jimmy gets his groove back with the family he never knew he had. Stamos works his trademark George-Clooney-if-he-stayed-on-TV charm. He's a man-boy trying to mature by helping his son.

The show's predictability is balanced by great casting. The always-excellent Paget Brewster plays Jimmy's ex, Sara, who's written like a typical TV scold. She's nagging and always critical. Producers try to make this tired trope look cool by having the character call herself out.


PAGET BREWSTER: (As Sara) Stop making me say lame things like that. I'm cool. I watch "Portlandia." I almost went to Coachella last year until I decided not to.

DEGGANS: But you don't solve the problem of a stereotype by simply pointing it out. Another super cool 50-something looking for a new life is Dean Sanderson, Jr., Rob Lowe's character on "The Grinder." Dean is the dashing star of a popular TV show about an ace lawyer, called "The Grinder."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As narrator) Previously, on "The Grinder..."

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Why don't you say that again so that everyone can hear you?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) I wasn't on the rooftop.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) She wasn't on the rooftop.

DEGGANS: His brother, Stewart, played by "Wonder Years" alum Fred Savage, is an actual attorney who is not handsome or cool, especially when speaking in court.


FRED SAVAGE: (As Stewart) Your Honor, my client, Victor Ramirez, has resided at 887 Oak for nine years, and on June 5, landlord Avril T. Krantz attempted to raise monthly rent to $750, violating section 2-98 of the Idaho general statute.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) I have a question. Have you ever talked before?

DEGGANS: Older brother Dean thinks he can help. After his show, "The Grinder," goes off the air, Dean decides to find meaning in life by joining his brother's law practice. When Stewart objects, Dean drops an argument worthy of "The Grinder," asking him, wouldn't you want to have a heart attack next to "ER" star Noah Wyle?


ROB LOWE: (As Dean) You don't think Noah Wyle could step in and help?

SAVAGE: (As Stewart) Yes, he could help by calling a doctor.

LOWE: (As Dean) So you would rather go into cardiac arrest next to someone who didn't a play doctor on television rather than Noah Wyle, who did, and probably picked stuff up along the way?

DEGGANS: Lowe is perfect as a clueless, self-absorbed actor trying to be a good guy. And his show is a good match with Stamos's program about a clueless, self-absorbed restaurant owner trying to be a good guy. Still, the stories in these pilot episodes are too formulaic. These shows need to give their strong supporting cast more room to shine, especially the thinly-written female characters. If they can pull off those changes while holding onto their stars' charm, maybe both shows will draw enough viewers to give these man-children a few more seasons to grow up. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.