Chemistry’s not enough in ‘Brothers’

Daryl “Chill’’ Mitchell and Michael Strahan work things out. Daryl “Chill’’ Mitchell and Michael Strahan work things out. (Greg Gayne/Fox)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / September 25, 2009

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You’ve got to love sibling rivalry jokes to tolerate “Brothers.’’ I mean, really, really love them. Because this new Fox sitcom is a dripping faucet of sibling rivalry jokes.

A few minutes into “Brothers,’’ which has a special hourlong premiere tonight at 8 on Channel 25, I learned something about myself: I am definitely not in love with sibling rivalry jokes. Watching this show was the worst kind of sitcom experience - mediocre material, piercing laugh track noise, wasted talent, and a memory-impaired father who is fascinated by the fact that some men shave their “wiggly-dos.’’ Yeah, wiggly-dos.

The concept is that ex-NFL star Mike - played by real-life former football star Michael Strahan - is broke and has to move in with his family. Along with his wiggly-do-obsessed dad (Carl Weathers) and his shrewd mother (CCH Pounder), Mike must now spend time with his wheelchair-bound brother, Chill (Daryl “Chill’’ Mitchell). The brothers have a history of bickering, and Mike’s peripheral role in the accident that led to Chill’s paraplegia has further strained their relationship.

So Chill goes after the gap-toothed Mike endlessly: “You know what you should do with your two front teeth? Introduce them.’’ And Mike makes wheelchair jokes: “Don’t pull up on me like that. Put some baseball cards on those spokes so I can hear you coming, man.’’ It’s nice that the writers don’t treat Chill with kid gloves because of his disability; but still, the material is stubbornly flat. And that’s particularly unfortunate at a time when TV comedy is so short on characters of color.

Mitchell and Strahan do make the best of the bad situation with their natural chemistry. And Pounder, better known for her dramatic work on “The Shield’’ and “ER,’’ tries to be breezy - although you can feel her trying too hard at points. She’s the source of a few sentimental moments in the script that ultimately ring false.

This season, there are good comedies to choose from - some new, such as “Modern Family,’’ “Community,’’ and “Bored to Death,’’ and some tried and true, such as “Curb Your Enthusiasm,’’ “How I Met Your Mother,’’ and “The Big Bang Theory.’’ There’s less reason than ever to tune into a poorly written show such as “Brothers,’’ with its stale plots and predictable punch lines, unless, of course, you really love sibling rivalry jokes.

BROTHERS Starring: Michael Strahan, Daryl “Chill’’ Mitchell, CCH Pounder, Carl Weathers

On: Fox, Channel 25

Time: Tonight, 8-9

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