The most notable accomplishment of Freddie (Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. E.T.), the sitcom vehicle for Freddie Prinze, Jr., is that it manages to be bad in two entirely different ways. On the one hand, it’s as lame and inane as its high-concept premise: a swinging bachelor’s life changes when his female relatives move in with him. There’s a ditzy sister-in-law, a sassy niece, a pushy older sister, and a wacky, Spanish-speaking grandma who hangs up statuary in Freddie’s apartment to ward off evil spirits.
On the other hand, the sitcom also manages to be as big a bummer as intelligent, ambitious dark comedies can beâ€”just without the intelligence and ambition. The sister, we learn, is recently divorced. And the ditzy sister-in-law is the recent widow of Freddie’s brother. The show uses this trauma mainly as the basis of a running joke about how much money she’s spent on shopping sprees since her husband kicked. (Manifestations of grievingâ€”always hilarious!)
The show doesn’t do anything emotionally honest with the recent loss of a husband, uncle, brother and grandchildâ€”he’s just a dear-departed plot device, the poor schlub who had to die so these stock characters could have zany times and cheaply sentimental moments under the same roof. (It’s also a mildly unsettling premise to give the son of one of TV’s most famous celebrities who died too young.) In fact, ABC held the pilot to run as the second episode, perhaps thinking it was too much of a downer. The first episode centers on Freddie and his best friend’s decision to stop dating rich women and go out with poor chicks instead. I guess Bro would have wanted it that way.
Anytime a character on a new series, a few minutes into the pilot, explicitly tells you the premise and theme of the show, you know it will be a bad show. Four minutes into Freddie, Prinze says, "When my brother died, I realized I’d lost contact with everybody I loved. Now that they’re all here, I feel like I have a family again." No, Freddie, you just have a family sitcom. With any luck, not for long.