"Marlon," 8 and 8:30 tonight (Wednesday, Aug. 16) on NBC • Two stars (out of four)
Marlon Wayans is one of 10 Wayans siblings, many of them (including Keenan Ivory, Damon and Kim) also comedians and actors. He and Shawn starred together on the WB's "Wayans Brothers" from 1995-99.
He's solo now, though, and called his new NBC sitcom "Marlon," he said in one interview, because there are "too many damn Wayans" to keep sorted out.
"Marlon" could change that, but not because it's anything out of the ordinary. The strongest impression left by the two-episode premiere (8 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on NBC) is that Wayans' stand-up act (which he brings to St. Louis Aug. 24) is probably hilarious, and that he shouldn't be wasting his time in this loud, broad sitcom.
In "Marlon," based "loosely" on his own life, Wayans stars as Marlon Wayne (how's that for a twist?), a moderately successful stand-up comic and newly divorced father of two.
Marlon's ex-wife, Ashley (Essence Atkins), is the adult in the co-parenting relationship. Marlon, like so many sitcom men, is a big, fun-loving kid, treating everything, even a crackdown on his children's overspending, like a comedy routine.
Ashley is the sassy, spunky disciplinarian, but not as spunky as her best friend, Yvette (Bresha Webb), who might have narrowly escaped from a Tyler Perry ensemble. Marlon too has a BFF, chip-loving Stevie (Dialto Riddle), who is jobless and sleeping on Marlon's couch.
Except for its familiarity, not necessarily a liability in TV comedy, there's nothing wrong with "Marlon" except its dated joke-punchline structure, deafening audience laughter and the tendency of the cast to shout all the dialogue.
There are, in fact, laughs here, something not every contemporary TV comedy (many of which are darker and drearier than dramas used to be) can provide. Marlon himself is an appealing character, and Wayans is a dynamic, engaging actor.
If it's what he wants, good TV should be in his future.
Marlon Wayans • When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24; 6:30 and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 25-26 • Where: Helium Comedy Club • How much: $35-$45 More info: heliumcomedy.com