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Television review: 'Retired at 35'

George Segal and Jessica Walter won't go quietly into the night, and there are good reasons why.

January 19, 2011|By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic

Given the success of TV Land's first sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland," it was inevitable that a second would be forthcoming, and predictable too that it would again enlist and target the older demographic that is the nostalgia-forward network's natural constituency. Setting sail Wednesday night, "Retired at 35" has at its prow George Segal (b. 1934), who logged seven seasons in "Just Shoot Me!" in the late '90s and early '00s, and Jessica Walter (b. 1941), who spent three years not long ago being brilliant on "Arrested Development." (She also appeared as Segal's ex-wife on "Just Shoot Me!") And now they are here.

The retiring 35-year-old is Johnathan McClain, who has flown in from New York — and are his arms tired — to visit parents Segal and Walter in the Florida retirement village where they are unspooling their golden years. It is also the town where he grew up and maintains a best friend (Josh McDermitt), whose ambition has taken him no further than pool boy, and a high school crush (Ryan Michelle Bathe), who is glad to see him. The fact that he lives in New York impresses everyone unduly, but within half an hour he will have quit his job and moved home.

The first episode is overloaded; before you even have time to get your coat off, it grabs you by the lapels and looks you dead in the eyes, demanding that you find these frisky oldsters, with their noisy ways and sex talk, hilarious and charming. Giving you no chance to catch your breath, it throws in a resentful kid sister (Casey Wilson) and her totally gay boyfriend. The jokes do their work with the steely bland efficiency of a blackjack.

Title aside, the show is less about McClain's early retirement than it is a farce about the mild-wild times of the mature — the rule where they live is "no cellphones, no ties and after two months, widows are fair game" — with the youngster stumbling along behind. (The point is he has not yet learned to live.) Though his presence inadvertently prompts his parents' split, it paradoxically invigorates their relationship, allowing them to use the phrase "Hit it and quit it."

There is something about senior citizens engaged in randy humor that can make them seem less rather than more adult, possibly because it makes them look somehow manipulated. Similarly, the way that Segal says "texturizing" for "texting" and "Facialbook" for "Facebook" is completely phony and off-putting. My initial reaction to "Retired at 35" was to throw a protective arm across my eyes. (McClain's character is likewise discomfited.)

Still, any actor who signs on to a situation comedy is threatened at some point with a loss of his dignity, and after the introductions were out of the way and Segal got out his banjo and cigar — not a euphemism, and contractually guaranteed, perhaps — I grew relaxed enough to recognize that, yes, these people are professionals, and they do know their stuff.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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