Third-episode verdict: Me, Myself and I (US: CBS)

Me, Myself and I

In the US: Mondays, CBS, 9.30/8.30c

Normally, CBS’s comedies are something to be endured and its dramas are more concerned with procedure and the bad guys getting killed or arrested than with regular life and emotions. So Me, Myself and I is something of a surprise on all counts. It’s a triple biopic of one man, as we get to see his life as a teenager who’s just moved to LA (Jack Dylan Grazer), as a 40-year divorcee trying to raise his daughter while kickstarting his career as an inventor (Bobby Moynihan), and ultimately as a newly retired, successful industrialist (John Larroquette). We see how he meets people important in his life, how he loses them or keeps them, and how events contribute to making him the man he becomes.

And despite being on CBS, it’s actually rather lovely and well written. The teenage years see Grazer going through the indignities of school life and first love, while dealing with the new family into which his mum has married; the middle years are more geared to showing the troubles of being a dad, surviving a divorce and struggling along without any money; and the retirement years show how everything comes right in the end – although it needn’t be the end, as there are still plenty of adventures to be had.

Usually, there’s also the establishment of a plot that starts in childhood, gets a twist in middle age before the pay-off arrives in old age. This is well handled and clever when it does it. Sometimes, it’ll go non-linear and have the pay-off in the future before you’ve seen what it’s the pay-off to in the past – yes, a CBS comedy that expects you to pay attention. It’s schmaltzy, sure, but beautifully so. And yes, I’m of an age when pretty much anything can make me cry, but I’m happy to admit Me, Myself and I frequently sets the tears rolling.

Surprisingly, given this is heavily touted as a vehicle for Moynihan, he gets the short straw. Most times, his story’s tragic whether it’s having to move into his best friend’s garage or having to sell off cherished possessions so his daughter can go glamping. Meanwhile, Larroquette gets to enjoy the pay-off from all his life’s efforts, sacrifices and good decisions, all in a mildly sci-fi futuristic environment, and Grazer is basically doing a charming 90s Wonder Years.

Where Me, Myself and I had problems was that it’s supposed to be a comedy. And while it was certainly amiable and comedic, it wasn’t actually very funny and rarely had jokes that might make you laugh out loud. Episode three changed that, with the show starting to feel like it had gained some confidence and could also take advantage of its futuristic setting. For example, Larroquette’s character starts to get a cheesy, on-the-nail soundtrack to his conversation in a diner, only for it to be revealed that it has a ‘smart jukebox’ that listens to conversations and finds the most appropriate music to accompany them.

Characteristically, there’s pathos to that joke, too, since Garzer’s step-father is an early adopter of a video camera in the earliest storyline but has difficulty with his iPhone in the middle storyline, which Moynihan then has to sort out, before Larroquette ultimately encounters his difficulties – sooner or later, technology becomes too complicated for us all.

Me, Myself and I is a surprising slice of loveliness on a network not renowned for anything more than guns and ammo. Don’t go in expecting to belly laugh, just a look at life’s potential for happiness if you take the long-term view.

Barrometer rating: 2

Barrometer Me Myself & I