'Kevin Can Wait' First Look Review: Yes the Hell he can

Chad White

Kevin Can Wait
“Pilot”
Season 1, Episode 1

I’m all for “Goballing.”

This is a first look review of CBS’s new series starring Kevin James, Erinn Hayes, and Taylor Spreitler.

Damnit, CBS. Damnit damnit damnit. You’re the king of mediocre modern day sitcoms and yet you’re also the king of ratings. For years, I never understood why people enjoy shows like Big Bang Theory or Two Broke Girls. They’re loud, brash and forecast every outcome of their jokes. And yet, they get swamped in views. But then I watched Kevin Can Wait, Kevin James’ return to television after the super successful and equally funny King Of Queens – which also aired on CBS. Admittedly, I went in looking to pick a fight but I came out not optimistic but something close to it. James’ new show – while riddled with clichés, lame jokes, and zero heart – did its job in making me laugh (more than once).

James stars as newly retired officer Kevin Gable. He’s just trying to get used to civilian life by means of celebrating every day like he’s turning 12. He and his crew of fellow retirees are planning water park visits, cross country motorcycle trips and an odd combination of go-karting and paintballing. This wouldn’t be a sitcom if their plans weren’t hampered though.

Kevin’s wife, played by the always wonderful Erinn Hayes, wants him to slow down and enjoy his days. On top of that, the couple has three children – two of whom have maybe two lines each in the first scene then just up and disappear – with the eldest (Taylor Spreitler) dropping her promising university schooling to work in a diner and support her loser boyfriend, Chale. I’d go off on how much disdain I hold for Chale after only a few minutes with the character and how punchable his face is but this is only a first look review.

James wrote the script with The Drew Carey Show co-creator Bruce Helford and frequent James collaborator Rock Reuben. Like the volume of all CBS sitcoms, this show screams Kevin James. Every joke he spouts is comfortable and his presence is known both on and off screen. Similarly, both Hayes and James put everything they have into every line. It’s like a return to sitcoms of the eighties and nineties.

From minute one, modern aspects and forgotten relics are brought up. Exposition is given in lame duck lines like “I’m a school nurse and I have to get to the school where I work!” and the constant reminder that Kevin is a retired cop. Then there’s topics about men only enjoying beer and food. We get it; you’re fat, Kevin. And the worst culprit is when Kevin and Donna sit down at the kitchen table to discuss paper bills. They’re really reaching for some nostalgic feeling.

But what could have completely saved the story is if it delineated from the norm. Kevin spends two full days on retirement only to have his extra income scratched because his daughter and future son in law are moving into their spare guest home/garage. This show would’ve had so much to work with had it not forced the main character into samey characterization of other sitcom dads. So much could’ve been done with Kevin staying at home and getting into wacky retired hijinks. Instead, we’re left with another boring sitcom stint. But at least it had some solid jokes.

Should you watch Kevin Can Wait?

Kevin really can wait. While it had great jokes every now and then, Kevin Can Wait is more of the same in terms of sitcom bait. It’s time for CBS to find a new formula.