The nostalgia trend is still going strong on television — and not just with sequels, reboots, and remakes, but also with sitcoms practically built around the star power of well-known actors. Fox is promoting big names this fall season, including its new sitcom Grandfathered, starring John Stamos.
Make no mistake: John Stamos is handsome, charming, and endlessly charismatic. He’s a perfect choice to anchor this sort of sitcom, a sweet but funny comedy about an incredibly attractive ladies’ man/aging bachelor suddenly finding out that he’s a grandfather. As Jimmy, Stamos is comfortable working with children — and the scenes in which he plays with granddaughter Edie (Layla and Emelia Golfieri) are certainly reminiscent of his Full House days — and he’s equally comfortable pulling out the smooth moves to charm women and the patrons at his fancy restaurant. Stamos is a perfect television family man: You can trust him with your child and you want to sleep with him. So, Uncle Jesse but as a grandfather.
Beyond that, there is certainly something enjoyable about Grandfathered. It’s far sweeter than the marketing implies, aiming for a blend of dirty jokes and heartwarming moments between family and possible-relationships. The pilot is heavily expositional, yet not in an unwatchable way, as we first meet Jimmy (even his name speaks to the character’s childish ways and inability to grow out of his sex-obsessed twenties), a successful restauranteur and 50-year-old bachelor. Within the first few minutes, we also meet his son Gerald (Josh Peck, forever underrated) and granddaughter Edie — the same time that Jimmy first meets them. Understandably, he freaks out a little bit; despite how often he tells women that he really just wants to settle down and have a family, he actually abhors the idea so much that he doesn’t even allow children in his restaurant.
From there, the pilot follows the expected route. Jimmy confronts his ex-girlfriend, and Gerald’s mother, Sara (Paget Brewster). We meet Edie’s mother, Vanessa (Christina Milian), who views Gerald strictly as a friend (Edie’s the result of a one-night-stand). Jimmy and Gerald bond a bit when Gerald asks him for help with Vanessa, and how to turn himself into a viable candidate to be her boyfriend. There is the requisite montage of the two talking about women (Jimmy talks of a past love and tells Gerald where the G-spot is) and a later requisite montage of Jimmy adorably bonding with his new granddaughter.
The entire pilot plays out exactly as you’d predict a sitcom with this premise would play out. Jimmy struggles to balance babysitting Edie with impressing celebrities at his restaurant, he has to choose between family or work, there are strange cameos (including, yes, a Full Houselink), something happens that forces Jimmy to immediately grow up and kick into paternal mode. He eventually learns to say the word “grandfather,” instead of stuttering it out in horror.
But despite being predictable — it’s a pilot, and we need this occasionally dull 22-minutes to introduce us to this world and these characters — Grandfathered actually stands out in this crowded comedy slate. Stamos and Brewster are, as always, great and have an easy, adorably hateful but secretly-in-love dynamic going on throughout. Stamos and Peck also have an easy chemistry as father and son. And Peck, perhaps best known for Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh, has already proved himself to be a funny, capable comedian with great delivery and timing (see: The Mindy Project, in which he did great things with cringe-y writing and The Rebels, in which he did great things with a terrible script). He’s great here, shifting seamlessly between ecstatic father, wary son, and insecure young man trying to impress the hot girl, all in a way that works together to create an already-solid character.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Grandfathered develops after its pilot episode (reviewing any show on just its pilot is tough and unfair, but doubly so when it comes to comedy pilots), and whether it can find creative ways to go past the “Jimmy freaks out about being old/Jimmy has to be a grandfather AND a cool bachelor” plots. But Fox has done more with less — New Girl— and the pilot proves it has potential.