The half hour sitcom, “Life in Pieces,” premiered on Sept. 21. The show is about a family, which isn’t an original idea. What makes it original is that it’s divided into four parts. Each part is devoted to a different set of family members. This column has advocated in the past for more quick comedies geared towards adults, and this comedy certainly delivers in that area. Because it’s divided into four parts, it is like seeing a series of rapid, independent sketch comedy acts. Unfortunately, the show just isn’t that funny.
For instance, it is not a good sign that the best part of last night’s episode is Jordan Peele, who is not even playing a family member. He is briefly in the beginning, and he’s the funniest, laugh out loud thing in the whole episode. The other actors have moments where they shine; Colin Hanks has a funny scene involving a glove and a vagina. Still, no one seems like comedy gold except for Peele. Again, this show is a sitcom, so it doesn’t bode well that the only actor who seems like a professional comedian is not even a member of the main cast.
The show does not lack for talent, but it is lacking in comedic talent. The main actors just aren’t able to pull off the comedy routines like Peele can. He has had four years doing sketch comedy on “Key and Peele,” and his hard work has paid off. The main cast appears to need more practice at being humorous, and this suggests that some of them may have been cast more for their names than for their ability to produce good comedy. Their remarkable talents are best suited elsewhere.
Unless the cast can get some coaching, this series will most likely not succeed. The quick vignettes on the show are a good idea, but they require skilled comedians to make them work. Admittedly, given the content of the show, it might be hard for any performer to find his or her comedy footing. Dating, childbirth, the first kid going to college, and a funeral can be heavy topics.
Peele had a good solution to this problem. He overcame the seriousness of his role (devastated ex-fiance) by not playing his role straight for even a moment. The other actors may want to take his cue and choose to be a hundred percent focused on the comedy (or play it straight and make it closer to a dramedy). Starting out the show with Peele’s humorous take on his role and then ending with a morbid, fake funeral that genuinely upsets Diane Wiest’s character doesn’t work. One moment the show is going for the laughs and the next it’s attempting to be serious and touching. That’s a hard act to balance, so Peele didn’t even bother to balance it.