July 18, 2009 in Features

Formulaic ‘Engvall’ returns

Kevin Mcdonough, Universal Press Syndicate
 

Bill Engvall is a funny guy. His show: not so much.

Now in its second season, “The Bill Engvall Show” (9 and 9:30 p.m., TBS, TV-PG) makes an obvious effort to re-create the family sitcom of old. It comes complete with dithering dad (Engvall), a wise but understanding and sexy mom (Nancy Travis), three cute kids (one looks strangely like Jerry Mathers of “Leave it to Beaver”) and even a wacky neighbor (Tim Meadows).

The laugh track is loud and intrusive, and the sets are generic and assembled thoughtlessly from stuff you could find in any catalog. With unemployment rising, it’s a tad difficult to whip up much empathy for characters when the show’s central “crisis” concerns Dad’s inability to afford a Cancun spring break for his high-school daughter.

•For the past few years, Lindsay Lohan has been making headlines based on bad, weird and often incomprehensible behavior. It was easy to forget that she was once a convincing and sympathetic teen star in such films as “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls.”

She returns a little older and no worse for wear in the made-for-TV comedy “Labor Pains” (8 p.m. Sunday, ABC Family, TV-14), a film so ambitious about pushing the boundaries of “family” programming that it seems to be daring its audience to hate it.

I pretty much liked it, but more for the background shenanigans than the main story.

Lohan portrays Thea, an attractive 20-something beset by cruel fate and even crueler co-workers. How poor is she? She rides the bus. In Los Angeles.

She had to leave college after the accidental death of her parents to raise her younger sister, an ungrateful and judgmental brat.

Stuck in a dead-end job at a low-end publisher of arcane military history, Thea suffers her fool of a boss (Chris Parnell, “30 Rock”) in order to pay for her sister’s education. But when he impetuously threatens her with termination, she fakes a pregnancy to save her salary and situation.

A game supporting cast includes Janeane Garofalo as a talk-show host, Luke Kirby as a handsome publisher who promotes Thea to head the new “Family Division” and “American Idol” veteran Kevin Covais as a creepy intern. Creed Bratton (Creed from “The Office”) also shows up for a short, memorable cameo.

Tonight’s highlights

Silas continues his controversial land deal on “Kings” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (10 p.m., CBS): Russian intrigue ends in murder.

Fans of “Dirty Sexy Money” (10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) can watch the remaining episodes as ABC burns them off this summer. Tonight: the Darling family Thanksgiving.

Sunday’s highlights

Arthur is smitten on “Merlin” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

Jason Alexander stars in the conclusion of the miniseries “Meteor” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

“Masterpiece Mystery” (8 p.m., KSPS; 9 p.m., KCDT and KUID) presents “Miss Marple: They Do it With Mirrors.”

Samuel L. Jackson hosts the 17th annual “ESPY Awards” (9 p.m., ESPN).

“Design Star” (10 p.m., HGTV) enters its fourth season. Candice Olsen, Vern Yip and Genevieve Gorder officiate.

Ray’s neighbor strikes again on “Hung” (10 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

Cult choice

A Greek warrior enters the underworld to rescue his wife in the supernatural 2009 adventure “Hellhounds” (9 p.m., Sunday, Syfy, TV-14), directed by Rick Schroder.


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