Mini-review: Family Tools 1×1 (ABC)

Did you know a worse version of White Van Man was possible?

In the US: Wednesdays, 8pm ET, ABC

There seems little point in giving Family Tools a full review, what with it being largely rubbish, but also having received the lowest ever ratings for a comedy debut on ABC, but for the sake of completeness, I feel I should at least mention it.

Anyway, cast your mind back a little way and you’ll recall a terminally unfunny BBC3 sitcom called White Van Man. Starring perennial BBC3 favourite Will Mellor, it was all about a man with dreams who had to give them up to take over his dad’s handyman business. Fairly typical then of UK sitcoms: working class guy has his dreams crushed because of family (cf Steptoe and Son, Only Fools and Horses) – cue the bittersweet humour.

Bizarrely, despite the original not actually being funny, ABC decided to pick up a US version to series. Of course, no way is all that misery and frustration going to wash in the US, the land of dreams and achievement. Who has time for that in a sitcom? What a downer. At least, that was the thinking at ABC, which did the standard thing of modern US sitcoms and made Family Tools all about a buffoon (Kyle Bornheimer) who fails at everything. Nevertheless, when he has a heart attack, his father (JK Simmons) reluctantly hands over the family business to him because there’s no one else who’ll take on the job.

And, amazingly, it’s even less funny than White Van Man. Whereas most of the original’s attempts at humour revolved around Will Mellor’s frustrations at the stupidity around him, Family Tools‘ humour revolves around Kyle Bornheimer’s amazing witlessness – it’s almost like they started with a name (‘White Van Man’ doesn’t translate into American English very well) and modelled the show on that. No one’s that much smarter than Bornheimer, but he’s an idiot. And you must laugh at idiots, mustn’t you, particularly if they’re working class.

No one comes out of this well, not even old pros Leah Remini (King of Queens) and JK Simmons (The Closer, Oz, Law & Order), who appear to have had subtlety bypasses. The script has all the humour of an anthrax alert and the production values, geared up at every stage to say to viewing-idiots “This is funny!” in case they hadn’t realised in their near-vegetative states, will set your teeth on edge.

Don’t watch it.




  • Toby O'Brien

    ('White Van Man' doesn't translate into American English very well)

    I'll say! When I saw the headline about this show getting picked up for an American version, I thought it was going to be about a kidnapper…..

    I think Bornheimer may be inheriting the title of “show killer” from Ted McGinley…..

  • Toby O'Brien

    ('White Van Man' doesn't translate into American English very well)

    I'll say! When I saw the headline about this show getting picked up for an American version, I thought it was going to be about a kidnapper…..

    I think Bornheimer may be inheriting the title of “show killer” from Ted McGinley…..

  • Toby O'Brien

    ('White Van Man' doesn't translate into American English very well)

    I'll say! When I saw the headline about this show getting picked up for an American version, I thought it was going to be about a kidnapper…..

    I think Bornheimer may be inheriting the title of “show killer” from Ted McGinley…..

  • Entertainingly, a lot of US sites, when they reported the news of the adaptation, called the original “White Man Van” because they had literally no idea what it meant. That would have been a very different kind of show, too…

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