The title of this new ABC comedy series “Bless This Mess” gets it half right. The show is indeed a mess.
And it is not likely to be blessed with an audience of profitable size if subsequent episodes are as woebegone as the premiere airing Tuesday night.
“Bless This Mess” suffers from a number of flaws, but the most glaring might be the way almost everyone in the show overdoes it -- most especially the two leads -- who you are supposed to like -- Dax Shepard and Lake Bell.
They play a harried New York City couple -- he a magazine writer and she a psychotherapist -- married for a year who inherit a farm in Nebraska from his aunt. And so, before you can say “Green Acres,” they’re saying “good-bye, city life” and hello, Hooterville.
The transition from New York to Nebraska takes about two minutes at the outset of the show, and suddenly, they have driven halfway across the country to a place they have only seen in pictures.
And before you can say “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” they discover that the house is a hot weather-beaten mess of rotten wood -- from the floor they fall through upon entering the place to the roof they become stranded on during a rainstorm before the episode is over.
Unlike “Green Acres,” both the husband and wife in this show seemed to be in agreement about leaving the big city to pursue the fantasy of a rural life.
Like “Green Acres,” in and around their new home they encounter a group of local eccentrics, each one more idiotic than the next and none resembling people anyone would ever meet in one place in real life, whether in the boonies of Nebraska or the center of Manhattan.
Everyone in this show is a ludicrous cliché, not least of which these two hapless urbanites. The show is supposed to be farcical, and possibly even madcap. But in the hands of Shepard and Bell, you just get a lot of shrieking and over-exaggerated mugging.
They are not up to the task, and neither are the show's supporting players, who include Ed Begley Jr. as a deranged squatter, Susie Essman as the Bell character's shrieking (and also deranged) mother and, inexplicably, Pam Grier as a local sheriff.
This show, at least in the pilot episode, possessed all the earmarks of terrible network sitcom writing and production. Let the record show that the first piece of dialogue about a penis and its relative size -- the one belonging to Shepard's husband character -- gets uttered about three minutes into the show by the Essman character.
Then later in the episode, the Begley character delivers a line that might come as a shock to Jewish viewers, and possibly others who become instinctively offended by such things. Says he, when asked by the Bell character if he would like to talk to her about his problems, “I don’t need therapy. I’m not a Jewish person!” Say what!?
Where did that come from? And a follow-up question: Are the production execs at ABC so lazy or derelict in their duties that they cannot be bothered to cross out dialogue like this and send it back for a rewrite?
By the time this episode is over, after the penis conversation and the slur about the mental health of Jewish people, both the husband and the wife have each peed on themselves (and then talk about it in detail) -- resulting from being stranded on the roof during that rainstorm.
When the episode ended, it was possible to wonder if “Bless This Mess” would emerge as this season's worst new show. With only a few weeks left in the 2018-19 season, it appears highly likely.
“Bless This Mess” premieres Tuesday (April 16) at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on ABC.