"Older and Wiser, But Still Funny"
What You Need To Know:
The pilot episode of CAROL’S SECOND ACT is funny and touching. There’s also some fun physical comedy, with a great slapstick moment revealing a new side to Patricia Heaton, the program’s star. The pilot episode has a light moral worldview. It reminds viewers the medical profession is a noble one, containing people who want to help others. However, the pilot episode of CAROL’S SECOND ACT also contains some light foul language and comical references to one character’s lesbian identity.
Patricia Heaton has become the queen of comedy on television for over two decades, having won multiple Emmys for her nine-season role as Debra Barone on EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND and then hitting pay dirt with another nine-season hit, THE MIDDLE. In both, she played wives and mothers with whom America could relate to while being a reliable source of clean family entertainment, no doubt due to her outspoken Christian conservative beliefs.
Heaton is back with yet another winner in the new CBS sitcom CAROL’S SECOND ACT, but this time she wisely mixes things up a bit. Rather than focusing on domestic life as a wife and mom, Heaton’s new character, Carol Kinney, is a woman in her mid-50s who has decided, because of an unseen husband who left her to “find himself” and a grown daughter, to retire from teaching and pursue her real dream of becoming a doctor.
The pilot episode finds Carol as an intern at the fictional Loyola Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles, where she’s alternately too giddy in her excitement about being a doctor and yet also proves to be a calming, wise presence due to the decades of life experience she has over her fellow interns. Those interns include a woman named Lexi (Sabrina Jalees) who is the first in her family to go to college, much less med school; an initially over-confident, yet surprisingly sensitive, guy named Daniel (Jean-Luc Bilodeau); and an overly PC guy named Caleb (Lucas Neff), who fills the goofy doofus role in the series. Initially, the interns are rivals.
The pilot episode is written by the longtime writing team of Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, who co-wrote the incredibly crass feature-film comedy BOOKSMART earlier this year. However, they keep things relatively clean yet smart here. As a result, the relationships quickly gel in a positive fashion. The funny foursome of interns play well against their two supervisors, the tough as nails, no nonsense chief intern Dr. Maya Jacobs (Ito Aghayere), and the goofy senior doctor of the intern program, Dr. Frost (Kyle McLachlan, in a surprisingly strong change of pace from a career in mostly serious and even nefarious roles).
The main plot in the pilot episode, aside from introducing the characters, involves a male patient who’s suffering from migraines and thinks they’re from a car accident. However, Carol notices some unusual details of his condition. She winds up providing a surprising diagnosis that lends the show some touching moments, played in a way that’s rare in sitcoms shot before a live studio audience.
There’s some fun physical comedy mixed into the pilot episode, with a great slapstick moment that reveals a side TV viewers haven’t seen from Patricia Heaton before this. The pilot feels slightly claustrophobic by being set in just three or four rooms of a hospital, but hopefully future episodes will mix in other aspects of Carol’s newly single life with equally comic aplomb.
The pilot episode has a light moral worldview. It positively reminds viewers that the medical profession is a noble one, with people who want to help others and save lives. Also, a character’s left-leaning, politically correct attitude is satirized. The main downsides in the episode are some light foul language and a few brief jokes that seem to reveal that Lexi is a lesbian. Also, divorce is treated lightly as a joke a couple times.
The show’s ability to be deeper than usual emotionally stems both from the ace writing duo (they have prior credits on multiple acclaimed series) and Director Pamela Fryman, one of the most talented veterans in TV comedy. Put it all together, and CAROL’S SECOND ACT should be a successful third act for Heaton that could also play for years to come by providing some family-friendly comedy that’s also smart and witty. That said, caution is advised for older children and young teenagers.