It’s been eight weeks since the fall TV season began, but by the time you finish watching the debut of ABC’s sitcom Malibu Country Friday night — which you’ll do only if you foolishly defy my profoundly sincere advice to the contrary, in which case you’ll deserve the torment you suffer — it will seem more like 11 years. That’s because you already saw Malibu Country when it was called Reba and premiered in 2001 on The WB network, which is now dead, a fate you will envy if you don’t heed my warning.
I know TV critics often get carried away with their own esoteric knowledge of TV ephemera. (I’m the guy who compared Lost to The New People, an ABC drama that lasted half a season back in 1969, of which there are no known surviving viewers.) But comparing Malibu Country to Reba is not a daringly avant-garde act of literary detective work. Consider:
Reba starred country singer Reba McEntire as a beleaguered single mom named Reba who booted her dentist husband after she caught him having an affair with his hygienist. Malibu Country stars McEntire as a beleaguered single mom named Reba who booted her C&W star husband after she caught him having an affair with his backup singer. Give or take a root canal — to which viewing either show is distinctly comparable — it’s hard to see the difference.
The ostensible comedy in Malibu Country stems from culture clash: McEntire has moved her two teenagers from Nashville to Los Angeles while she tries to rekindle the singing career she gave up to have them. But even if you buy the premise that 2012 Nashville is a redneck hellhole barely familiar with indoor plumbing (big laugh in episode one: Reba meets her first gay person!), the show’s performances and punchlines mostly fall flat. The single exception is Lily Tomlin as McEntire’s cranky mom, who inadvertently discovers the joys of medical marijuana — definitely a two ringy-dingy job.