Wednesday, January 23, 2008

TV preview: Welcome to the Captain

• CBS unveils another strong Monday comedy.

Premiere: 8:30/7:30c, Monday, Feb. 4
Verdict through two episodes: &&&1/2

It's hard for any sitcom in the 2000s to shake that sense of laugh-track insincerity and stake out original ground, but it doesn't take long for Welcome to the Captain's charms to do the trick. Aiding the cause is an impressive cast with the likes of Raquel Welch, Jeffrey Tambor (The Larry Sanders Show) and newcomer Fran Kranz, who eases gracefully into his leading role. (There's also Chris Klein [American Pie], who comes across like Jim Carrey Jr. — overly expressive to the point of absurdity). These characters are residents of a storied Hollywood apartment building, El Capitan (known by residents as "The Captain"), where Josh (Kranz) has just moved in and is eyeing another new tenant, Hope (Joanna Garcia). Recurring themes include Uncle Saul (Tambor) and doorman Jesus (pronounced like the Christian figure) busily gossiping over the goings on in The Captain and Saul attempting to woo veteran starlet Charlene (Welch). Josh spends much of the first two episodes trying to endear himself to Hope, an aspiring acupuncturist. The second episode, "Weekend at Saul's," finds Josh hiding out with Saul in his vacation getaway (it's in the upper reaches of the same building), and is the stronger of the first two installments. The ensemble is intriguing, and the pacing doesn't match the predictable ebb and flow of the typical sitcom — the funny is laced with genuine melancholy, as it should be. Cutely quirky (in a good way), Welcome to the Captain feels, right out of the gate, like a show that ought to be around for a while.

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