"Carpoolers" opens funny -- four guys on their way to work, singing along with Air Supply -- but it's downhill from there, and the slide, though quick and permanent, isn't even dramatic enough to be interesting. A low-rent "Big Shots," "Carpoolers" doesn't have enough edge to be offensive. It just isn't funny. Which is a problem, you know, for a comedy.
It's too bad, since the sum of its parts is much better than its whole. Fred Goss, a fine, funny actor, plays Gracen, the marital arbiter who has a hard time standing up for himself. Faith Ford, another solid TV presence, is his wife. In fact, the show might have done better focusing on these two, creating an up-to-date "Bob Newhart Show." Instead, it's a pale homage to male bonding, complete with requisite male "types."
There's Laird (Jerry O'Connell), the cheesy divorced Casanova; Aubrey (Jerry Minor), the timid, overwhelmed working dad; and the newbie husband-father Dougie (Tim Peper). There isn't a believable man among them, but that doesn't seem to be the point. The point is the world is harsh and complicated and a guy needs his buds, to steal his wife's new $200 toaster if nothing else. Don't ask -- the pilot deals with Gracen being afraid that his real estate agent wife is making more money than he is. Which might have been funny if this were 1975. In 2007, a man who is too afraid to ask his wife how much money she makes is simply embarrassing.
But then male bonding is too '80s for TV. Which is to say old -- and not in a retro-hip-glam way. Male bonding has been replaced by the traditional-gone-edgy trend toward friendship. Male friendship requires emotions and shared experience, as well as wacky capers.
The idea of a group of commuters is interesting, if only because if you put people into a small, enclosed space they will, inevitably, reveal things about themselves. But these aren't people, they are sitcom stereotypes, and so there's nothing we're going to find out about them that we didn't know long before they got in the car.
When: 8:30 to 9 tonight
Rating: TV-PG-DL (may be unsuitable for young children, with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)