In the US: Thursdays, 8.30pm, CBS All Access
Producer Chuck Lorre has pretty much all of CBS’s comedy output sewn up – and has done so for decades now. Name a CBS sitcom, past or present, and it’s almost certain you’ll name a Chuck Lorre sitcom – The Big Bang Theory, Mike and Molly, Mom, Young Sheldon, Two and a Half Men et al. Now he’s turning his eyes to owning the CBS Internet as well, with B Positive his first CBS All Access show.
While created by industry stalwart Marco Pennette (Kate & Allie, Caroline and the City) rather than Lorre himself, B Positive is both a very traditional multi-cam sitcom and a very traditional Lorre sitcom. Lorre may have branched out into gentler shows of late, but B Positive is a big chunk of old school misanthropy, dressed up in a slightly gentler outer coat.
The basic plot of B Positive is pretty contrived, even by sitcom standards. Newly divorced dad Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) learns that he’s suffering renal failure and is prepared to say his goodbyes to his daughter and estranged wife Sara Rue (Impastor) as he can’t find a suitable B+ kidney donor.
Then he happens to be at a wedding where one of the bridesmaids (Masters of Sex‘s Annaleigh Ashford) turns out to have gone to high school with him. He reveals all – and she spontaneously agrees to give him one of her kidneys. Trouble is, not only is she a massive substance abuser, she also suffers from a mild case of multiple personality disorder – and so doesn’t remember what her other self promised him.
B Positive largely squanders Lorre’s work on Mom in giving nuance to substance abusers, by making Ashford and her party girl alternative personality a “track wreck”. There’s very much a “Women: Know Your Limits” quality to the show. Her regular personality isn’t that much better, although she is surprisingly a driver for elderly people at a care home and does offer separately to give Middleditch her kidney.
Meanwhile, Middlemitch is largely reprising his Silicon Valley role, just with perhaps a little more gumption and a little less anxiety, making him the king of the milquetoasts brought out of his shell by Manic Pixie Dream Girl Ashford.
It’s all very unedifying stuff that has an occasionally good gag, but not enough for sustained viewing.
On the B Positive bus
So why am I even contemplating watching even one more second of this, given how substandard the first episode was? One simple reason: I’ve seen the supporting cast list for the rest of the series, most of whom aren’t in this first episode.
Top of the list is Briga Heelan (Ground Floor, Great News), who’s a fine comedy actress, but there’s also Linda Lavin (Alice) as a gay resident of the old person’s home and Bernie Kopell (Get Smart, The Love Boat) as another resident.
I don’t know if even they will be enough to win me over and overcome the scripts. But they’re enough to make me want to give it a try at least.