3 new sitcoms and a vampire drama
Bawdy "Millers"; hyper "Sean"; and a lukewarm "Welcome" premiere, along with "The Originals."
* THE MILLERS. 8:30 tonight, CBS3.
* WELCOME TO THE FAMILY. 8:30 tonight, NBC10.
* SEAN SAVES THE WORLD. 9:30 tonight, NBC10.
* THE ORIGINALS. 9 tonight, CW57. Moves to 8 p.m. Tuesdays next week.
"OH, RELAX. It's a fart. Some people think they're funny." That's Margo Martindale's character talking with her uptight son (Will Arnett) in the premiere tonight of CBS' "The Millers."
But it might as well be the Emmy-winning Martindale addressing fans who loved her as the poisonous Mags Bennett in "Justified" and the ruthless Russian handler Claudia in the FX spy drama "The Americans" and who can't quite get their heads around the idea that she's been reduced to CBS sitcom flatulence.
We should get over it, because Martindale has. In "The Millers," easily the best of the three sitcoms premiering tonight, she gets to show her chops as a physical comic, and at least her character's take on silent-but-deadly is as hilarious as it is honest.
Created by Greg Garcia ("My Name Is Earl," "Raising Hope"), "The Millers" stars Arnett as Nathan Miller, a local news reporter whose career seems to be going only slightly better than his recently ended marriage did. When his long-married parents, (Martindale and Beau Bridges) finally learn about the divorce, his father, Tom, decides that a 43-year marriage is long enough and goes to live with his daughter and son-in-law (Jayma Mays and Nelson Franklin), leaving his wife, Carol, behind with Nathan.
Tom is written as so helpless it's a wonder he remembers to breathe on his own. But Bridges is another pro, and together he and Martindale pretty much steal the pilot from everyone around them, even JB Smoove ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), who plays Nathan's friend and cameraman.
Where the show goes from here is anyone's guess: Tom has to make some progress, or he's going to fall into the toilet and drown, and Arnett and the rest are too good to waste on parents-don't-understand jokes.
Martindale, having proved she's not slumming, shouldn't have to keep proving it. "The Millers" could be worth her time - and ours - but it's not quite there yet.
What the readers said
This year's Everybody's a Critic panel - a dozen Daily News readers who screened pilots with me a couple of weeks ago - awarded "The Millers" a 6.6 on a scale of 1 to 10, with individual scores ranging all over that scale.
"I found the funniest thing about this show were the parents," wrote Edwin Dugan, of Mayfair.
"Very upbeat and entertaining," wrote Christina Pale, of Fox Chase. "This is one show that would get my family together all at once to enjoy [it]."
"Beau Bridges was a big surprise, because the promos made him just seem almost addled to me," wrote Adrian Hickman, of Havertown. "Also glad to see JB Smoove."
"Will Arnett was hilarious in this episode, but I think his mom stole the show," wrote Mike Mannato, of Norristown.
'Sean' and the undead
There's no other way to say it: Someone needs to be the straight man in "Sean Saves the World," NBC's way-too-wacky comedy about a gay single father (Sean Hayes, "Will & Grace") - and it shouldn't have to be the actress (Samantha Isler) playing his 14-year-old daughter.
But with Linda Lavin as his wacky mother, Thomas Lennon ("Reno 911!") as his wacky boss, Megan Hilty ("Smash") as his wacky co-worker and friend-with-breasts and Echo Kellum ("Ben and Kate") as his other (cleavage-free) wacky co-worker/friend, there is no one left.
Don't look at Hayes, who, like the character he played opposite Hilty last season as a guest star in "Smash," seems uncomfortable whenever he deviates from his preferred setting of over the top. But when everyone's over the top, it gets exhausting.
Also new tonight:
* The opening episode of the CW's "The Originals," a New Orleans-set spin-off of "The Vampire Diaries" that focuses on a family of thousand-year-old vampires, doesn't require intimate knowledge of the doings in Mystic Falls to be admitted, something I can say for sure since I haven't watched "Vampire Diaries" since early in its first season.
This one, which stars Joseph Morgan as the ruthless vampire-werewolf hybrid Klaus Mikaelson and Daniel Gillies as his somewhat less cold-blooded half-brother, Elijah, strikes me as what "Dallas" might have been if J.R. and Bobby had been immortals. And living, of course, in the Big Easy.
* There's nothing terrible about the pilot of NBC's "Welcome to the Family," but nothing that explains how it attracted Mike O'Malley ("Glee"), Mary McCormack ("In Plain Sight"), Ricardo A. Chavira ("Desperate Housewives") and Justina Machado ("Six Feet Under"). They play the parents of graduating high-school seniors (Ella Rae Peck and Joseph Haro) who are about to make the two couples grandparents - and, maybe more surprisingly in 2013 - in-laws.