House of Payne
TBS • Wednesday, June 6 (9 p.m.)
Actor/author/director/playwright Tyler Perry has moved from the stage and the big screen to the world of primetime sitcoms with his new series, House of Payne. The comedy series, about a multigenerational, African-American family living under one roof, stars C.J. Payne (Allen Payne) as a fireman who lives and works with his uncle Curtis (LaVan Davis) and his volunteer fireman cousin (Lance Gross). Payne is married to stay-at-home mom (Demetria McKinney) who is never at home, while raising a son Malik (Larramie Doc Shaw) and a busy body daughter Jazmine (China Anne McClain).
The premiere episode revolves around Malik’s confrontations with a school bully, which forces a family meeting with the principal to rectify the situation. When Payne’s wife (McKinney) is AWOL, C.J. begs his uncle to go on his day off. Reluctantly the uncle goes only to find out the bully is a girl.
The premiere features Keke Palmer (Jump In!) as the bully and Perry, who revives his hilarious and now legendary character Madea as the bully’s foster mother.
The series promises to touch on difficult family subjects such as drug addition, but Perry deftly works in the laughter around the drama and adds a certain amount of charm.
— R. Thomas Umstead
John From Cincinnati
HBO • Sunday, June 10 (10 p.m.)
More than a few things are going on in HBO’s John From Cincinnati. But after screening the first three episodes from David Milch’s (Deadwood) new series, I’m not quite sure how they connect.
The show centers on three generations of the surfing Yost family of Imperial Beach, California. Grandfather Mitch (Bruce Greenwood) still rides waves regularly and levitates occasionally. His son Butchie was the next big thing, before heroin addiction left him as the sole tenant of the dilapidated Snug Harbor hotel. Indeed, custody of Butchie’s 13-year-old son Shaun (Greyson Fletcher) rests with Mitch and wife Cissy (Rebecca De Mornay). Through her grandson, Cissy aspires to the glory and surf success that ultimately eluded and soured her husband and son.
There are also friends — Bill (Ed O’Neill), a retired policeman and quasi dad to Shaun and Kai (Keala Kennelly), who runs a surf shop and has a thing for the title character — and exploiters like Linc (Luke Perry) on the scene.
Then, there are weirdos like surf sycophant and attorney Meyer Dickstein (Willie Garson), greasy drug dealer Steady Freddy (Dayton Callie) and life-lamenting lottery winner Barry Cunningham (Matt Winston).
None of these oddballs compare, though, to John (Austin Nichols), whose pompadour and stare pair with a platinum credit card and the parroting of the other characters’ phrases. Which is presumably par for the course since Bill’s cockatiel plays a pivotal role.
At once intriguing and inscrutable, I want to see if John proves more idiot savant than idiot. Or vice versa. I think.
— Mike Reynolds