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NBC's Marlon brings on too much Marlon


Marlon Wayans very much dominates the throwback sitcom Marlon. NBC photo

Premiering: Wednesday, Aug. 16th at 8 p.m. (central) with back-to-back episodes on NBC
Starring: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Notlim Taylor, Amir O’Neil, Bresha Webb, Diallo Riddle
Produced by: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez, Christopher Moynihan, Michael Rotenberg, Andy Ackerman

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The rest of the cast oftentimes might just as well be cardboard cutouts.

NBC’s Marlon, getting a belated late summer launch, is very much a vehicle for star and co-executive producer Marlon Wayans. So much so that the theme song has just one word -- his first name repeated rapid-fire. That’s before all those new vistas in scenery-inhaling, with Wayans holding forth with loud, animated man child riffs on whatever sets him off.

An accompanying and very cooperative laugh track, sprinkled with occasional awwwws or unwarranted applause, gives the entire enterprise a decidedly yesteryear vibe. NBC is burning off the 10-episode order at the rate of two per Wednesday, although that’s not necessarily a death knell. Two Augusts ago, The Carmichael Show got the same treatment by NBC after an even smaller order of six episodes. It ended up running for three seasons before star Jerrod Carmichael decided to cut bait and pursue other projects.

The Carmichael Show dared to be current in addressing hot-button issues of particular concern to many African-Americans. Marlon has no such intentions, based on the first four episodes.

Marlon Wayne (Wayans) is mostly intent on hanging out at his amazingly tolerant ex-wife’s house, where their two kids also reside. They divorced after the freewheeling Marlon demonstrated a strong proclivity for skirt-chasing. But Ashley Wayne (Essence Atkins) mostly laughs all of this off, allowing Marlon to come and go as he pleases -- which seems to be 24/7.

This allows Marlon to freak out at length when Ashley allows herself to re-enter the dating pool by going to dinner with a hunky dude. Or when daughter Marley (Notlim Taylor) dares to have her first crush on a boy she invites over to the house. Or when Marlon is forced to clear out a storage unit that’s been untouched since 1997 because he wants to hold onto past memories. Or when Marlon frets at length over joining a “38 percent club” of exes who have had sex again.

Also in this mix is Ashley’s typically tarty best friend, Yvette (Bresha Webb), and Marlon’s roommate Stevie (Diallo Riddle), a more intellectual sort but basically a freeloader. The Waynes’ son, Zack (Amir O’Neil), is pretty much lost in this shuffle. But in reality, the entire cast is extraneous whenever Marlon goes off. Furthermore, each episode begins with the star very much in the camera’s face with a snippet from his “The Marlon Way” webcast.

The closing minutes of Marlon are also strictly rinse and repeat. After much bombast -- “I ain’t sayin’ you a ‘ho’, but that’s on the spectrum” -- Marlon melts down into puddles of sensitivity, a l a Jackie Gleason’s volatile Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners.

“I’m just afraid to lose you,” he tells Ashley at the end of the premiere episode. Marlon says this even though he’s immensely proud of being on “hundreds of dates” since their divorce.

Atkins, as his ex-, logs a lot of time reacting to whatever pours out of Marlon’s mouth. On cue, she smiles, laughs and occasionally takes mild offense. It’s a notably mechanical performance in deference to the star’s numerous star turns.

Wayans certainly doesn’t lack for energy, and some of his discourses are lightly amusing in fits and spurts. There’s an overall staleness, though, to both the format and the humor.

“I’m just going to make a perfect divorce ‘perfecter,’ “ by having sex with his ex-, Marlon proclaims to Stevie in Episode 4 before very predictably getting cold feet when Ashley comes on stronger than he expected. Worried that this is suddenly a case of “tap it and trap it” rather than “Lube her and Uber,” Marlon hides out in the bathroom and then makes another excuse: “I didn’t get to wash in there. I just took a ‘ho’ bath.”

Don’t expect to take any ha-ha showers. Marlon isn’t up to that task either. Instead it over-blows everything in service to a star who doesn’t know how or when to stop.

GRADE: C-minus

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