"The Second Half" introduces stand-up comic John Mendoza as a likable slob of a Chicago sports columnist adjusting to his new lifestyle as a divorce. What the NBC premiere (at 9:30 tonight on Channels 4, 36 and 39) doesn't introduce, though, is enough sharp writing to sustain interest in him even for a half hour.
John Palmaro (Mendoza) lives in a virtually bare apartment next door to his sister, Denise (Jessica Lundy). His crisis of the moment is where to put his visiting daughters, teen-ager Cathy (Ellen Blain) and 9-year-old Ruth (Brooke Stanley), who arrive for the weekend unexpectedly. It's a crisis that doesn't generate much laughter.
"The Second Half" does have its moments, specifically when he-man John is confronted by an irritatingly fussy airline agent, and John does have a gruff, sardonic charm that wears well. Yet Cathy's snottiness is especially grating (even taking into account her confusion over her parents' divorce), and the episode's core story is especially barren.
Future episodes have John appearing in the newsroom, where, presumably, the climate for humor may improve.