Review: Working The Engels 1×1 (Global/NBC)

Working The Engels

In Canada: Wednesdays, 9 et/pt, Global
In the US: NBC. Airing in 2014

Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one sondaughter who had no choice but to keep them all together.

I’m in something of a dilemma here, since my lovely categorisation system has broken down. Working the Engels is a co-production between Canada’s Global network and the US’s NBC network – the first ever Canadian-American sitcom. So does it suck because it’s Canadian or because it’s on NBC?

The show starts with a lawyer dying, leaving his wife (Andrea Martin from My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and family in debt to the tune of $200,000. US or Canadian? It’s not clear since this is one of those shows of nebulous geographical location. Neither is it clear why he wasn’t in a limited liability partnership. Presumably he was a very bad lawyer.

Anyway, the kids rally round, or at least the mousey lawyer daughter (Kacey Rohl who played Abigail Hobbs in Hannibal) does, and her pill-popping, airhead sister (Azura Skye who was Jane on The WB’s Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane) and minor criminal brother (Benjamin Arthur from CityTV/HBO Canada’s Less Than Kind) come along to both help and accidentally hinder her efforts to bring the family legal practice back into the black. Except it turns out that most of the deceased’s clients were either pro bono or stupid.

Written by Miss Congeniality’s Katie Ford and her sister Jane Cooper Ford, Working the Engels‘ comparisons with the much revered Arrested Development are obvious. Unfortunately, that’s merely in terms of set-up since it’s not very funny.

The script is short on laughs and pretty much every joke is signalled a mile off and has exactly the punchline you expect. Rohl underplays, everyone else overplays in exactly the same way that virtually every Canadian sitcom you care to think of demands (cf Satisfaction, InSecurity, Seed, 18 To Life, Men With Brooms, Hiccups). The equally requisite physical comedy is ineptly handled and directed. Skye and Arthur’s characters do slightly bad things but do it so nicely, it’s hard to consider them the drop-out liabilities the script demands. The supporting characters are mere stereotypes – the overbearing female boss, the obsequious male Indian, the valley girl client and so on.

In short, there are no redeeming features. Other than a naked Asian guitar-playing character. I’d not seen one of those before but I think she’s only in the pilot.

If I wanted to find something positive to say, I’d say that it is at least well meaning and gentle, rather than insultingly poor and crass, with everyone trying to ‘zing’ each other, like so many US sitcoms of late (e.g. Mom, The Millers, Super Fun Night). I only felt the urge to turn off a couple of times while I was watching it and that was more because I was bored than because I hated it.

But that’s about it and I think the fact NBC hasn’t announced an air date for it yet should speak volumes – if NBC won’t show it, it must be bad.

Here’s a trailer anyway.