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Sons of Tucson comes up stinko

Premiering: Sunday, March 14th at 8:30 p.m. (central) on Fox
Starring: Tyler Labine, Frank Dolce, Matthew Levy, Benjamin Stockham
Created by: Greg Bratman, Tommy Dewey

It's usually not a good idea to replicate a flop, and perhaps no one involved with Sons of Tucson has ever heard of A Family For Joe.

That quickly canceled 1990 NBC sitcom starred Robert Mitchum as an ornery homeless man recruited to masquerade as the grandfather of four orphaned upper-crust kids. In return he received free food and lodging, with homey life lessons learned all around.

Fox's Sons of Tucson, premiering Sunday after Family Guy, stars beefy Tyler Labine (Reaper) as lame-brained Ron Snuffkin, who's living out of his car. Three brothers whose banker dad is in jail on an embezzlement conviction recruit him to be their bogus pop. In return he receives his own room -- in the backyard tool shed -- and $300 a week. Homey life lessons slowly seep into the proceedings, beginning in Episode 2.

Network publicity materials prefer to cast Sons of Tucson "in the tradition of Malcolm In the Middle and The Bernie Mac Show." But it's not nearly in their leagues. So don't expect many if any laughs.

The three brothers, surname Gunderson, are 13-year-old Brandon (Matthew Levy), 11-year-old Gary (Frank Dolce) and eight-year-old Robby (Benjamin Stockham).

The two youngest are thoroughly unlikable while the oldest is merely bland. Little Robby of course has the smartest mouth, which in this case means saying "I'm seeing butt crack. Are we this desperate?" while he watches hapless Ron bend over at the sporting goods store that miraculously employs him.

Robby later tells Ron to "piss off," which he might also want to say to the show itself. Poorly scripted and hopelessly contrived, Sons of Tucson never shifts into any kind of gear. Instead we get a baseball bat-wielding thug named Tony (to whom Ron owes $2 grand) and a batty, hoarding grandma who despises her oafish grandson. Double clunk.

Next Sunday's Episode 2 is no better -- and in fact might be worse. Ron recruits a passel of illegal Mexican immigrants to pose as his family for a photo-shopped album. And li'l Robby is informed, "You misspelled 'butt lip' " after Ron fouls up at a classroom career day in addition to farting twice.

Robby somehow resists saying, "I smell butt crack." But you can bet he was thinkin' it.