Let me preface this unusually positive review by saying that Sherri is a Lifetime joint, not the new Arrested Development. It isn't subversive, it isn't terribly clever (aside from a few funny moments), and it lays on the Entertainment For Women frosting with a trowel. But for what it is, it's actually pretty good. I have a deep secret I'd like to share with you: when it comes to comfort food entertainment, my drug of choice is the 90's era sitcom. And I don't mean things we all secretly still like, such as Pete and Pete. Remember Cybil? I love Cybil. I could watch Christine Baranski vamp around to a laugh track all day. It's the era I grew up in, and I was born in a house with the television always on. A good episode of The Nanny gives me the same warm, centered feeling that home-baked cookies give to normal people. So imagine my delighted surprise when I sat down with MyLifetime.com yesterday and gave the Sherri sitcom a try. Has this show been waiting in a vault since 1994?
Sherri Shepherd: Mother, Comedian, Photoshop Disaster Waiting to Happen
"Sherri" is the kind-of-fictionalized story of Sherri "Tracy Jordan's Wife" Shepherd, a d-list actress who supports herself with a paralegal gig inbetween appearances on TV shows. She's dealing with being a single parent after kicking her cheating husband out. She has a supportive gaggle of girlfriends, a cute kid, and New York city as a backdrop for her wacky single misadventures. It's basically every 90's girl-power sitcom boiled into a powerful concentrate and injected into the bloated corpse of Lifetime's original programing. It could just be a stroke of luck that this zombie is a lovable Bub/Fido type and not a lobotomized murder junkie. (and yes, that last one is a Re-Animator reference. Good job, pop culture junkies!) I watched three episodes, and here's what I liked:
1: The family interaction rings true. If you ever viewed the evening programmatic abortion that was Reba, the sitcom vehicle for a musician that should have been above it, you were probably dumbfounded by the idea that a woman who got a divorce from her husband after he knocked up another woman became BFFs with that babymama within one season of mean-spirited banter. Sherri borrows that plotline, but takes it in a more believable direction: she is beyond pissed at her husband, but works on a smooth transition to singlehood to make things easier on her kid. The sitcom is firm on the premise that Sherri has too much respect for herself to take the cheater back or play godmother to the new kid. The show allows us to feel empathy for everyone in equal turns, and keeps things realistic in a not-realistic sitcom way.
2: The acting works. Sherri should never be allowed to host a talk show again, but that being said, she's an engaging lead. She's funny and personable, and she can handle a pratfall like nobody's buisness. (Yes, I think it's funny when people fall down.) The supporting cast has some great folks as well, including an icy drunk of an office manager and a funny sweetheart of a co-worker/best friend. It's nothing we haven't seen before, but the actors really give it their all, and the lamer jokes tend to float by on the good grace built up by their performances. There are some weak links (Jersey Girl paralegal, I'm looking at you), but I generally had fun watching these folks do what they do.
3: This show knows exactly what it is and has a lot of fun with it. Yeah, some of the jokes are lame, most of the resolutions to situations are unrealistic, and sometimes the moral platitudes ring false. Hello, every sitcom ever made. This show works the sitcom formula for everything it's worth, and by doing that, it frees itself from expectations to be anything else. You want a quietly crafted melodrama about people dealing with infidelity and loss? Cool, go watch Mad Men. You want to watch a sassy lady act empowered, toss out one-liners with her fun friends, and have a dance-off with her office manager to celebrate a birthday? Sherri will be a treat for you.
Let me make it simple for you. Watch the preview here: If you laugh at someone yelling "Boobs!", you will enjoy Sherri. The end.
In other words, Sherri will not land on your short list for Shows That Represent The Golden Age of Television, but it could end up being your comfort food sitcom this winter. It's like green bean casserole- make it at home, eat it with gusto, and don't tell your friends.