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New series review: Tyler Perry's House of Payne (TBS)

LaVan Davis spreads venom as obnoxious Curtis "Pops" Payne.

Premiering: Wednesday, June 6th at 8 p.m. (central) on TBS
Starring: LaVan Davis, Allen Payne, Cassi Davis, Lance Cross, Demetria McKinney, Larramie "Doc" Shaw, China Anne McClain
Created by: Tyler Perry

Let's get right down to the nub. Tyler Perry's House of Payne is a torture rack.

Worse yet, the self-described "Very Funny" network, TBS, already has ordered 100 episodes of a show that manages to make UPN's old Homeboys In Outer Space sitcom seem positively Cosby-esque.

Wow, what a stinker. Yes, this is coming from a white guy, so consider the source. But no, that doesn't make this a high-quality comedy aimed at an under-served audience that will "get it."

Not all sitcoms of color can be Everybody Hates Chris, which currently is the gold standard. House of Payne strains to get even in the vicinity of awful, though. For the most part it's godawful, judging from two episodes sent for review. And shows that are this poorly made from the start seldom evolve into anything more than mediocre, if that.

Perry already has made a killing playing sassy, intimidating Mable "Madea" Simmons in a series of Diary of a Mad Black Woman movies. Some film critics have been branded racist, insensitive or clueless for failing to understand the underpinnings of their humor.

Perry, as Madea, guest-stars in Wednesday's premiere of House of Payne. Not that this helps. In what's apparently supposed to be a riotously funny scene in a school principal's office, Madea threatens to slit the big belly of the show's central character, Curtis "Pops" Payne (LaVan Davis).

"You gonna bleed chocolate milk all over this floor," Madea informs him. What fun.

Madea later says that the "two great kings" are smoking and drinking. Are your sides splitting yet?

TBS press materials quote Perry comparing House of Payne to All in the Family, Good Times and Roseanne, which "made you laugh and had heart." Would you settle for simply having your head go numb?

Pops Payne is Perry's Archie Bunker, except that he's reprehensibly obnoxious without being the least bit amusing. His J.J. "Dy-no-Mite" Evans is scheming slacker Calvin Payne (Lance Gross), who needs a fuse lit under his acting.

There's also nephew CJ Payne (Allen Payne), his crack-smoking wife, Janine (Demetria McKinney), and their children, Malik (Larramie "Doc" Shaw) and Jazmine (China Anne McClain).

They all move in with Pops after their house burns down. But of course he doesn't like it one bit, constantly ordering them to get the hell out of his castle. Exempted is his long-suffering wife, Ella (Cassi Davis), who somehow understands this lout.

Pops also has inexplicably become an Atlanta fire chief, with CJ working under him and Calvin more or less volunteering. The one-note workplace is no funnier than the one-note home base. Mechanical acting and a dated, snickering laugh track conspire to make it all even worse.

Fox-owned stations, including KDFW-TV in Dallas, also have signed on to carry House of Payne in September 2008 after TBS has first dibs. Somewhere Tyler Perry must be laughing -- not at his show but at all the people he's snookered. Very funny indeed.

Grade: F