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TV Series Review

Say what you want about Sam Briggs, at least he makes an impression. Showing up late for dinner wearing a gigantic plastic diaper—and nothing else—tends to do that. So begins Sam's Worst Week (CBS), a slapstick catalog of sitcom misfortune and casualties that may eventually lead to a happy ending.

Sam (Kyle Bornheimer) and girlfriend Mel (Erinn Hayes) are pregnant and want to get married. But they haven't told Mel's parents yet and, since the 'rents aren't thrilled with Sam (he nearly destroyed their house during his last visit), Mel and Sam decide to make the big announcement during her dad's weeklong 65th birthday bash ... just as soon as Sam impresses the socks off everyone.

The diaper, admittedly, was no way to gain respectability. But in the poor guy's defense, right before he left for his future in-laws' place, a drunken female co-worker threw up on him. So he dropped his sloshed colleague at her house, hopped in her shower and (as fate would have it) was preparing to dry off when she awoke, took him for a pervert and threw him out, naked. From there he could've just gone home. Or maybe left a message on Mel's cell phone explaining everything. Nah, not enough comic potential. Clearly, his only recourse was to wrap himself in a trash bag, grab a cab and head over to Mel's parents' house.

"He's really not a neurotic guy," Bornheimer said of his hapless hero. "He just hasn't mastered life yet—and neither have I. He falters, but he gets back on the horse so eagerly."

Persistence is a virtue. But I have a hard time applauding a character who lies incessantly to get out of jams on a show that mines misery for comedy at every turn. Worst Week laughs at hyperactive children, one-night stands, breast pumps, sexual innuendo and slapstick violence. It takes bathroom humor out of the bathroom and dumps it on the kitchen floor—where Mel's father slips in it and gives himself a concussion.

In addition, the writers mock Mel's conservative family. When one of her sisters breaks up with a boyfriend and bawls that she was "saving herself" for marriage, Sam chuckles before realizing that she's serious. The whole thing is tawdry, crass and, at times, even painful to watch.

Worst Week isn't TV's worst show. Strangely, the program illustrates the importance and value of family even as it drags a traditional one through the mud. But do we really need a weekly half-hour of foul schadenfreude to learn that lesson? And what else is this series teaching young viewers along the way?

Episodes Reviewed: Sept. 22, 29, Oct. 5, 12, 2008


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