Lori’s List: ‘Surviving Jack,’ Hannibal Buress, ‘Mr. Selfridge’
By LORI RACKL TV Critic March 23, 2014 6:22PM
Teenage Frankie (Connor Buckley, left) gets unorthodox advice from his father (Christopher Meloni) on “Surviving Jack,” a new Fox sitcom set in 1991. It debuts Thursday. | FOX
Updated: March 23, 2014 7:17PM
“SURVIVING JACK” (7:30 p.m. Thursday, WFLD-Channel 32): Television needs another nostalgic family comedy with a “Wonder Years”-style voiceover like it needs another singing competition. But there’s an acerbic charm to Fox’s 1991-set sitcom that elevates it above similar newcomers “Growing Up Fisher” and “The Goldbergs.” Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: SVU”) plays a better-looking, better-educated Al Bundy whose no-frills view of the world and unorthodox advice generate some genuine laughs. Connor Buckley (“Deception”) is the ideal foil as his soft-hearted teenage son. The period soundtrack, as EMF would say, is “Unbelievable.” Rating: ★★★
“SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” (10:30 p.m. Saturday, WMAQ-Channel 5): Television’s Louis C.K. drought is about to come to an end. The revered comedian-actor-writer-director-producer does his second stint as host when “SNL” returns from hiatus. C.K. last helmed the sketch show in 2012, when he delivered a hilarious take on Abraham Lincoln and licked the flesh off Kate McKinnon’s face. That also was the last time his droll, self-titled comedy aired original episodes on FX. “Louie” is back for season four with a pair of new episodes May 5.
“HANNIBAL BURESS: LIVE FROM CHICAGO” (11 p.m. Saturday, Comedy Central): After years spent cutting his comedic teeth at Heartland Café, Weeds Tavern and Zanies, it’s only fitting that the West Side native came home to Chicago to tape his stand-up special at the Vic. The actor-writer’s hourlong routine zigzags from gags about pickle juice and timeshares to drugs and domestic violence. The latter is dangerous water for any comedian to navigate, but Buress’ unassuming, self-aware approach allows him to swim more than sink. We soon could be seeing even more of Buress, 31, on Comedy Central, where he has a small role in the bawdy new series “Broad City.” The cable network has picked up a pilot from the Whitney Young and Steinmetz High School alum. Rating: ★★★
“MR. SELFRIDGE” (8 p.m. Sunday, WTTW-Channel 11): This poor man’s “Downton Abbey” about London’s retail king is even more bloated and boring in season two. It opens in 1914 as Harry Selfridge’s eponymous department store celebrates its fifth anniversary and the threat of World War I looms large. The personal and professional problems of the shop’s myriad employees feel tedious and redundant, but at least Jeremy Piven has toned down his bombastic performance in the titular role. Rating: ★★