“9JKL”by Natalie Jacobs July 27, 2017
It starts a lot like “Friends,” and there are a handful of shots on a sprawling New York City terrace reminiscent of the ones on Monica and Rachel’s fire escape that overlooked Ross’s apartment across the alley. But the title “Family” would be more appropriate for CBS’s new fall comedy “9JKL,” created by Mark Feuerstein and his wife Dana Klein, who was a writer on “Friends.” “9JKL” is based on Mark’s real life, when he moved back to New York and into the apartment his parents kept next door to theirs. In the show, the mother character, played by Linda Lavin, says they kept the apartment “because we knew you’d get divorced from that cold woman who didn’t know a good thing.” It is unclear if this was also true in Feuerstein’s real life.
“I just went through a break-up and my show got cancelled,” Feuerstein’s character tells a college flame he runs into in Central Park also in the pilot episode, “two things that sound really bad but could be really good.”
Thus establishes the up-beat nature of this new comedy. Things that are irritating in real life are endearing in the show, situations that would normally be depressing are looked at with positivity and encouragement.
Elliott Gould, who plays Feuerstein’s father in “9JKL,” also played the role of quirky father to Ross and Monica in “Friends.” This time, his wife Lavin is stern and overbearing where Christina Pickles was flighty and neurotic as Judy Geller.
The “9JKL” family is rounded out by a brother who lives in another of the parents’ apartments, opposite the main character Josh Roberts (a markedly less Jewish name than Feuerstein, though the character and his family are Jewish in that “cultural” kind of way on the show). In this setting, boundaries are crossed, guilt is thrown down like currency, and privacy is a four-letter word.
“Don’t tell mom and dad, they’ll want to meet her and feed her and ask her about her ability to have children,” Josh pleads with his brother about the date he got with the college crush from the park.
From the pilot, the show doesn’t seem to be breaking any new ground – similar story lines are playing out elsewhere on cable, like with “Life in Pieces,” though the execution is much different. But the writing on “9JKL” is solid and while the pacing is a little high-strung, there are likely to be a few good laughs per episode.
“9JKL” premieres on CBS Oct. 2 and is one of eight new shows to launch on the network this fall. The show airs directly after “The Big Bang Theory” which is likely to give it a boost in views to start.