THE PRECAP: If CBS was looking for a comedy more contrived than 9JKL and less funny than SUPERIOR DONUTS, they hit paydirt with LIVING BIBLICALLY. A talented cast is wasted on a clunky premise and inferior writing.
THE PREMISE: After the death of his best fried, a film critic and father-to-be makes a snap decision to become a better man by living his life according to the letter of the Bible. Based on the book “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs.
CBS bought the television rights to Jacobs’ best-seller in late 2015. Why the project took so long to hit the small screen is anyone’s guess, but it definitely wasn’t time well spent. Everything about Living Biblically feels sub-par and uninspired. Production design is claustrophobic, cluttered and cheap looking. The writing is so woefully lazy and gutless, the show doesn’t work as comedy, satire or social commentary. It just lays there like a flat tire covered by a wet blanket.
The cast is well-stocked with familiar faces, all of whom have fared better in previous television work. Jay R. Ferguson (The Real O’Neals) plays Chip Curry, our newly minted Bible devotee. His spiritual adviser is Father Gene, a skeptical Catholic priest played by Ian Gomez (Cougar Town). David Krumholtz (Numb3ers) is also on hand, saddled with the thankless role of Rabbi Gil. Here, he’s little more than another lame iteration of the schlubby Jewish sidekick trope. As Chips’s wife Leslie, Lindsey Kraft (Grace and Frankie) fares only marginally better. Her character seems to exist solely as a device to enable Chip’s biblical barnstorming. A complete lack of chemistry with Ferguson doesn’t help matters.
In addition to doing nothing compelling with the religious aspects of the show, Living Biblically is also a workplace comedy that manages to make its chosen workplace both irrelevant and annoying. Chip works at a small newspaper (yes, a newspaper) run by Ms. Meadows, a ball-buster of a boss, way over-played by Camryn Manheim (The Practice). Even if you give a pass to some of her scenery chewing and assume it’s overcompensation for all the clunky dialogue, Manheim still wears out her welcome. Rounding out the cast is Tony Rock (All of Us) as Vince, Chip’s co-worker and friend. He’s also black, which unfortunately earns him “sassy, wisecracking buddy” status in a series this fallow and toothless.
It’s hard to figure out who CBS thought Living Biblically would appeal to. If theology isn’t your thing, the premise alone is probably enough to keep you away. Evangelicals won’t be thrilled to see religion reduced to a sit-com gimmick or the good book mined for jokey plot devices. It’s not smart enough to generate buzz from taste makers or funny enough to bring in a wide audience. There’s little of interest to millennials and absolutely nothing to make streaming junkies take a binge break. The most likely explanation for the series green light: Johnny Galecki. The Big Bang Theory star is one of the executive producers. Too bad this apple fell far, far away from that comedy tree.
Living Biblically airs Mondays at 9:30 pm E/P on CBS. Also available OnDemand.