Review: Life In Pieces 1×1 (US: CBS)

Life in Pieces

In the US: Mondays, 8.30/7.30c, CBS

Linking narrative. You’ve got to hate it, haven’t you? You’ve got the idea for a cracking, meaningful, funny scene. You’ve got an even better idea for a tender, romantic scene. But FFS, you somehow have to get from Scene A to Scene B and however you do it, it’s either going to ruin scene A or B or is likely to be rubbish or at least not as good. That’s crap that is.

Wouldn’t it be good if you could just stick a set of random scenes together? Just stick them together. You have a whole bunch of characters in one scene doing one thing, a whole bunch of different characters in another scene doing another thing and you just keep doing that.

What do you mean that’s a sketch show? Hmm. Right. Okay.

How about we make them all related somehow and we have them all together at the end in another completely unrelated scene? Would that work?

LIFE IN PIECES is a single-camera comedy about one big happy family and their sometimes awkward, often hilarious and ultimately beautiful milestone moments as told by its various members. Of the three siblings, middle child Matt may have just found his true love, his co-worker, Colleen; his coddled youngest brother, Greg, and his wife, Jen, are overwhelmed by the birth of their first child; and the eldest, Heather, and her husband, Tim, are dreading their impending empty nest so much, they’re considering having another baby. Their parents are Joan, the family’s adoring matriarch who would do anything for her kids – as long as she agrees with it – and John, the gregarious patriarch who’s searching for ways to soften the blow of turning 70. As the family’s lives unfold in four short stories each week, they try to savor these little pieces of time that flash by but stay with you forever, because these moments add up to what life’s all about.

Is it any good?
Nah. It’s rubbish. It thinks it’s good, but it’s rubbish.

Although there are obvious similarities in terms of format with TBS’s Your Family Or Mine, the most obvious point of comparison is Modern Family, although as this is CBS, none of the family is gay or non-white. In fact, there’s no one who isn’t white or dark-haired. Even by CBS standards, that’s pretty un-diverse.

Anyway, the reason for this comparison is that the pilot episode of Life in Pieces is exactly the same in terms of structure as Modern Family’s was: groups of siblings and their parents, all off doing their own family things, before they all come together at the end and you discover that oh my god! They’re all part of one family!

The trouble is that none of the characters have any charm. And Scene A and Scene B (and C, D, E and F for that matter), all designed to show some different part of the human dating lifecycle? Really bereft of jokes and obvious, lacking any observations that could be described as new.

Despite a good cast that includes Colin Hanks (Fargo, Dexter, The Good Guys), James Brolin (Marcus Welby MD), Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom) and Dianne Wiest (Hannah and Her Sisters, Parenthood), as well as a guest appearance by Jordan Peele of Key & Peele, there’s actually very little comedic acting. Sadoski and Peele are the ones that come closest to getting the comedy, but they’re undermined by a script so daft, it’s heading towards the unreality of Portlandia. But again, without the jokes.

It almost comes together at the end when you have the different families at Brolin’s “funeral” and they all get to interact with one another. I think I almost smiled at one point. But it still lacks anything approaching humour.

Maybe linking narrative would have been the good stuff after all. It worked with The West Wing, didn’t it?


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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