Bill Engvall is best known for his stand-up comedy as part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. He also co-starred on Blue Collar TV, a sketch show on the now defunct WB. Here, he plays Bill Pearson, a family therapist with a family of his own -- his wife, Susan (played by Nancy Travis) and his three children. Again, the plots of the first two or three episodes aren't really anything new, but there's definitely some laughs left to mine from some of this material. When Bill's oldest son gets a shot at being the quarterback for his high school football team, Bill takes an overzealous interest to the point that his son bans him from attending the football game.
Nancy Travis is no stranger to the sitcom world, and she provides much needed professionalism, raising all of the others' games. Engvall is surprisingly good, thankfully avoiding the tired cliche of fat dumb father which has been so commonplace the last few years. Bill isn't a perfect dad, but he's no dummy either.
The show is executive produced by Mike Leeson, who had a hand in creating several shows including The Cosby Show. The influence of that show is very present here, far beyond the stand-up turned sitcom actor similarities. When Bill is faced with taking his family to Hawaii or using the money to get a life saving operation for the family dog, Bill ultimately makes the right choice. In the same way that Claire Huxtable would tolerate her silly but wise husband, Susan does the same for Bill. You get the sense that the two characters still love each other in their marriage.
Engvall is a brave soul. In a big scene in what was originally the pilot (but has now been scheduled to air later in the series run) Bill suggests to Susan that if they are going to argue, they should do it in the nude. She agrees to it, just to get the argument over with. Let's just say Engvall must not be too body conscious for this scene (Travis shows much less skin, but the point is made).
The kids, all relative newcomers are surprisingly strong actors. It's rare to find good comedic timing in child actors, and these kids still need some practice, but they have generally good instincts and pull of most of their jokes with few cringes.
Overall, the show is a good fit for the TBS brand, and a welcome return to family comedy. With 'House of Payne' performing so well, hopefully The Bill Engvall Show will have time to really find its rhythm and become just as popular. It certainly deserves a chance.
Dont't forget to also check out: Untitled Bill Engvall Project