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Television reviews: 'Breaking In' on Fox, 'Workaholics' on Comedy Central

Two new workplace comedies are dominated by youthful casts (despite the presence of 'Breaking In's' Christian Slater, 41). And in the case of "Workaholics," even younger humor.

April 06, 2011|By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
  • Oz (Christian Slater, right) has some advice for Cameron (Bret Harrison) in the new Fox series "Breaking In."
Oz (Christian Slater, right) has some advice for Cameron (Bret Harrison)… (Jordin Althaus, Fox )

Two series that may be loosely described as workplace comedies premiere Wednesday night. Both are dominated by what we here around the cracker barrel describe as young folk.

Christian Slater (41, not one of the young folk) is the marquee name, but appealing everyguy Bret Harrison from "Reaper" is the star of Fox's "Breaking In." Set at a firm that vets high-tech security systems by, as the sign says, breaking into whatever they're supposed to protect; it's a have-cake, eat-it-too scenario that allows for the fun and excitement of illegal activity with none of the legal consequences, though truthfully, to judge by the first two episodes, the capers are more a condiment than a course.

Neither Harrison nor Slater, whose all-knowing Oz runs this outfit, have strayed far from their previous series. Slater's "The Forgotten" had him as the leader of a team of amateur cold-case investigators, and Harrison (character name: Cameron, a master hacker) begins "Breaking In" almost as a replay of "Reaper," drafted, much against his will, out of a life of perpetual underachievement into one of dangerous adventure — though here the drafter is not the Devil, but only devilish. In either case, a boy will become a man.

Cameron's new workmates, each with a "Mission: Impossible" specialty, include safe-cracking Melanie (Odette Annable), immediately the object of his shy desire; fanboy Cash (Alphonso McAuley), who is practical; and Josh (Trevor Moore, from "The Whitest Kids U'Know"), a sort of chameleon (and the Dwight Schrute of the piece). The pilot works a little hard — not one but two characters get catchphrases, which happily evaporate by the second episode — but plenty of good things come out in the effort, and better things seem likely to come.

Comedy Central's "Workaholics" — the title is ironic — is a 10-episode series from the Internet jesters Mail Order Comedy. In its low-bar, Generation Millennial way, it is a classic sort of comedy, built around a trio of baselessly confident yet socially backward post-collegiate slackers whose off time is spent mainly getting high, pulling pranks (on one another, mostly) and striking out with women. Anders Holm is the tall, marginally responsible one; Adam Devine, who has seen a Jack Black movie or two, is a compact troublemaker; and long-haired Blake Anderson is out somewhere in space. They share a house at night and a cubicle during the day. The jokes are overwhelmingly genital, scatological and stonerish; we are meant to find them sophomoric, icky and hilarious.

"It's weird how unembarrassed I am by that," Devine says of what it took for him to arrange one practical joke, the particulars of which I will leave to your watching. That statement may be a metaphor for a whole generation's sense of humor — the kids who grew up on "Jackass" and endless reruns of "Office Space." I can't say I found much of "Workaholics" especially funny, but neither do I have it in my heart to hate it. On a craft level, it's very nicely made, the actors are weirdly appealing, and its spirit is not mean, but sweet.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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