TV series veteran John Stamos elevates Fox’s Grandfathered into a heartwarming half-hour comedy. The premise is incredibly simple: a 50ish good-looking bachelor spends his time managing a trendy restaurant and bedding hot women whose names he quickly forgets. And then one day he discovers he’s not only a dad to a grown son, Gerald (played by Josh Peck), but also a grandfather to an adorable baby girl. Hijinks ensue as he struggles to wrap his mind around the fact that A) an ex gave birth without telling him and B) that he’s old enough to be a granddad.
To go into slightly more depth about the setup, the restaurant Stamos’ character Jimmy owns is named Jimmy’s. It has a celebrity clientele which will likely mean we can expect random celebs to show up in cameos throughout the season (there were a handful sprinkled in the pilot). Jimmy knows how to flatter his customers, working the restaurant’s guests and treating each as if they’re the single most important person to ever come through his restaurant’s doors. But even with his personal touch, the pilot episode reveals business is trending down as a rival trendy restaurant is pulling away Jimmy’s customers, something which will also likely play into future episodes more so than it did in this first one.
Peck’s Gerald isn’t nearly as suave, sophisticated or self-assured as Stamos’ Jimmy. There’s not much of a resemblance in their personality or behavior, but after seeing a photo of Gerald’s mom Jimmy is quick to believe he is the father of this young man standing awkwardly before him. In this day and age he’s actually a little too quick to believe it without asking for a paternity test, but that wouldn’t set up Jimmy as the nice guy he needs to be in order for audiences to forgive him for not knowing he had a son.
Stamos plays the reaction shot as Jimmy’s being introduced to his granddaughter perfectly, following it up by continuously stumbling over “grandfather” as if it was a word plucked from some unknown foreign language.
Series creator/writer Daniel Chun (The Office) scripted this one perfectly in Stamos’ wheelhouse as his charm allows Jimmy to get by with calling the baby an “it,” reacting without thinking and slapping an employee who calls him a grandfather, and instantly regretting how he attempted to send his newfound son off with just a business card so they could maybe connect some time in the future. The audience will quickly forgive Jimmy because of how much we like Stamos…unless of course you don’t in which case there’s no reason to tune into Grandfathered as the series rests squarely on his shoulders.
Chun did a fine job with casting the supporting players, in particular Paget Brewster who plays Sara, the ex who brought up Gerald without ever reaching out to Jimmy. Does Jimmy still have feelings for Sara? I hope so as that would mean more screen time for Brewster. Kelly Jenrette as Annelise, Jimmy’s lesbian assistant restaurant manager, delivers some of the first episode’s best lines. Annelise is a straight-talker who doesn’t put up with any nonsense, even from her boss. Both Sara and Annelise are strong, intelligent female characters and both Brewster and Jenrette match up well with Stamos.
Where can Grandfathered go now that Jimmy knows he has a family? How long can Stamos continue to play reluctant dad/granddad without the jokes getting old? Will Grandfathered turn into just another family comedy or will it be slightly edgy but with a lot of heart like the pilot? So many questions that will have to remain unanswered for a while as the series heads into season one. It’s great to have Stamos back on primetime TV, so I for one am hopeful Grandfathered will evolve into a tasty treat for adult audiences.
Fox’s Grandfathered premieres on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 8pm ET/PT.
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