Preview: Uncle Buck 1×1 (US: ABC)

Not as good as the originals

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, ABC . Starts tonight (June 14)
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Not so very long ago, I ventured the opinion that remakes weren’t always inferior, awful and unnecessary – with the caveat that maybe you needed to start with something that wasn’t very good to begin with to notice an improvement. Now along comes Uncle Buck to test that theory.

I have fond memories of Uncle Buck, but only in the sense that it was the movie I took Jo Mercer to see on my first ever date, back in 1989. Those are the fond memories – I have almost no recollection of the movie itself, other than it starred John Candy. It was a date, after all. Here’s a trailer for it in case your memory needs jogging, too.

That helped a bit, actually. I also almost laughed a few times. I can see why you might want to remake that.

Now the mistake you might be making with Uncle Buck, ABC’s new sitcom with Mike Epps (“Black Doug” in The Hangover), is that it is indeed a remake of that original Uncle Buck. After all, they do share the same name. They also share more or less the same plot of a ne’er-do-well helping out his brother by looking after his kids for a weekend and despite making cataclysmic mistakes, somehow doing a good job (± some odd definition of ‘good job’). They even share a number of scenes, although largely they’re done far more weakly because who remembers Dragnet these days so why don’t we just have a kid asking some serious questions instead?

But that’s a rookie mistake. Uncle Buck is really just a remake of ABC’s black-ish, with its upper middle class, rich black family professional parents struggling to work out what it is to be black when you’re no longer back in the hood and your kids are all pampered nerds, brother Buck replacing Laurence Fishburne as the reminder of the ways of the street and the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Where it differs from this true original is having nothing cutting edge or intelligent to say. It occasionally elicits a mild guffaw, usually by treating kids amusingly badly, but largely this is weak stuff that for some reason didn’t bother to pinch half the funny ideas from even that mildly related 1989 relative’s trailer. To be fair, I quite liked the parents (Nia Long and James Lesure) and their relationship, which was mercifully gentle and loving for primetime US TV. But is it funny or better than either the (trailer for the) 1989 movie or black-ish? No. So bang goes that theory of mine.

Possibly one to show your kids as a cautionary tale, but definitely not one to show anyone on their first date.


  • 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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