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More young men on pause in Fox's Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life


One, two, three screw-ups. Cooper Barrett and his buds. Fox photo

Premiering: Sunday, Jan. 3rd at 7:30 p.m. (central) on Fox
Starring: Jack Cutmore-Scott, James Earl, Neal Fissley, Meaghan Rath, Justin Bartha, Liza Lapira
Produced by: Jay Lacopo, Bill Callahan, Gail Berman

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Amid copious alcohol consumption and “jobs” that add up to less than nothing, three misfit male roommates sort of strive to make something of themselves.

In that vein, Sunday’s premiere episode of Fox’s Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life is subtitled “How to Survive Your Lovable Jackass.” Hee haw, those viewers who survive the whole thing might find their mouths occasionally lapsing into reasonable facsimiles of grins. Not promising anything, though. This is at best a shopworn premise that too often is guilty of shopworn lifting.

The title character, played by cute newcomer Jack Cutmore-Scott, is first seen graduating from college before being held hostage four years later. How this came to be is the gimmick du jour, with each episode flashing back to an origin story. Fox sent four episodes for review, with the second one (“How to Survive Insufficient Funds”) proving to be the best executed of the bunch. It includes an imaginative twist involving guest star Paula Abdul, who plays herself.

The “Lovable Jackass” of Episode 1 is Barry Sandel (James Earl), a decidedly plus-sized man whose needs are less than basic. Give him a new big-screen TV and he’s in hog heaven -- along with the roomies’ huge live-in pet pig. The requisite resident nerd is Neal Fissley (Charlie Saxton). But Guide to Surviving Life almost shockingly omits another latter day TV sitcom staple -- the tubby, bearded, layabout pal. What were they thinking?

Adding some stability is neighbor Kelly Bishop (Meaghan Rath), who tolerates friend Cooper’s constant screw-ups because, well, she’s attracted to him in other ways, too. Meanwhile, older brother Josh Barrett (Justin Bartha) is a comparatively prosperous attorney called on to constantly bail Cooper out. But his marriage to “fun sucker” Leslie (Liza Lapira) makes Josh yearn for the misadventures that have become a way of life for his younger bro.

The “Lovable Jackass” episode includes a drunken, pill-popping, passed out, litter-strewn “housewarming party” of the sort that Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman and his pals used to throw non-stop. A desert-set tradeoff involving hostage Cooper and his burly Mexican kidnappers also is reminiscent of BB. But this is a show that’s otherwise loyal to the Fox brand, with Episode 3 built around some 24 binge-watching and the fourth in line dropping repeated references to Bones.

The two main women characters generally are easier to take than their mostly doofus male counterparts, with Rath’s Kelly Bishop nicely showcased in a “How to Survive Being a Plus One” episode scheduled for Jan. 17th.

None of this, however, adds up to New Girl, which returns for Season 5 on Tuesday, Jan. 5th and does a far better job portraying the vexed lives of its five still youngish principles. Guide to Surviving Life makes the best case for itself in a fairly imaginative Episode 2. It otherwise aggressively stumbles along without leaving any lasting footprints. Sort of like the recent, like-minded Fox comedies Mulaney and Weird Loners, both of which now seem like rumors rather than realities.


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