NBC’s formulaic new sitcom, “Marlon,” would be dismissible were it not for the fact that Marlon Wayans is the star of the series, which launches on Wednesday with back-to-back episodes.
Wayans is a proven talent, so that part isn’t surprising. What is unexpected is finding Wayans starring in an old-fashioned show reminiscent of the recently canceled “Last Man Standing.” Like that show, “Marlon” works well enough because of the comedic appeal of its star.
Created by Christopher Moynihan, “Marlon” is about a dad who’s a successful online personality and who has a friendly relationship with his ex-wife Ashley (Essence Atkins) as they raise their two kids, Marley (Notlim Taylor) and Zack (Amir O’Neil). Both of the kids’ roles follow well-used templates: Marley is getting to the age where she’s interested in boys, freaking her father out, while Zack is the young wise-ass.
The tattered pages of the rule book say you have to have a comic sidekick for mom, and her name here is Yvette (Bresha Webb), who’s always on hand to get under Marlon’s skin and to provide punchlines for Ashley. Marlon, meanwhile, has a permanent couch occupant named Stevie (Diallo Riddle), whose presence reminds us that for all of Marlon’s outrageous behavior, at least he has a stable job, loves his kids and wants to ensure that his family is taken care of.
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Marlon himself is the biggest kid in the show, and as such, the one element that at least nudges “Marlon” toward the 21st century. No matter what the situation, Marlon can be counted on to overreact. When Ashley ponders breast augmentation, Marlon freaks out because he thinks she’s doing it to attract men.
When Marlon and Ashley consider that sex between exes isn’t off the table, Marlon freaks out when he concludes that Ashley wants them to get back together.
Marley shows an interest in boys; Marlon freaks out.
No matter what the situation, Marlon freaks out, usually with comically successful results.
Marlon’s freak-outs may not make a lot of logical sense, but they are basically stand-up bits. In fact, each episode opens with Marlon doing a mini-monologue before the story begins.
The rest of the cast is fine, but the character of Stevie feels vestigial. Riddle is OK, but it’s almost as though Moynihan and Wayans wanted a bland supporting male character so that Wayans would never be in danger of being upstaged.
Although “Marlon” does not come close in quality and sophistication to “Modern Family” or even “The Middle,” it’s modestly enjoyable and a smart move on NBC’s part. The network is airing two episides of the show every Wednesday through Sept. 13, while ABC’s occupants of that time slot, “Modern Family” and “American Housewife,” are on hiatus.
‘Marlon’ premieres at 9 p.m. Aug. 16 on NBC.