One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
Every fall, a handful of new sitcoms emerge, eager to bump out returning classics with a new slate of wacky, irreverent characters in wackier and more irreverent situations. Most are by-the-books takes on classic tropes that, if nothing else, abide so closely to formula they end up entertaining because of it (Fox’s Grandfathered, for example), but each year there’s usually one outlier. This show can be referred to as “the gimmick” – it’s a sitcom in which everything is by-and-large normal and traditional until the show’s candy-coated calling card is introduced, meant to upend expectations and revitalize the format (but that at the end of the day ends up doing neither).
Last year, we got Manhattan Love Story, which assumed the world wanted to know what two brain-dead twenty-somethings thought about everything. This year, we have Life in Pieces. The new CBS series proclaims it will focus on “one big family. Four short stories. Every week.” In layman’s terms, this is a micro-anthology with overarching familial connections between each character. Or, in more obvious terms, it’s Modern Family with title-card act breaks. Life in Pieces is occasionally humorous and well-acted, but in searching so desperately for a reason to appear different, it only distinguishes itself as one of the most unmemorable sitcom debuts so far this fall.
Still, its cast works in its favor. The show’s first vignette centers around Matt Short (Thomas Sadoski) and his adventures one night, post-date, to find a sufficient place to hook up with his new girlfriend. They have to fend off her ex (Jordan Peele) and his parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest, both playing a little too close to the eccentric grandparent trope). I don’t want to spoil too much about the three other short stories presented in the pilot, but I’ll mention one thing. During the second short – starring Colin Hanks and Zoe Lister-Jones as all-too-new parents – I wrote the phrase “frozen vagina glove” in my notes. The show is rightfully madcap in parts, with some ribald humor and set-pieces, but it can all come off as kookiness for kookiness’ sake at times, especially the final story, which essentially rips the show out of any believable reality and firmly sets it into “sitcom world.”