family-tools-abc

When Does It Start: Wednesday May 1st at 8.30pm on ABC

In A Nutshell: Prodigal son returns to take over his father’s handyman business…

What’s It About: Jack Shea (Kyle Bornheimer) just can’t seem to get a break. He’s failed the army and flunked out of seminary three times. But when Jack’s father (J.K. Simmons) is diagnosed with a heart condition, the wayward son must return home to help run the family handyman business – whether dad likes it or not. Family Tools is based on the British format White Van Man which ran for two season from 2011 – 2012.

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Plus Points: Full disclosure – I used to work with comedian Adrian Poynton, who wrote and created White Van Man and now this US version.

Launching a midseason comedy is never easy, but ABC managed to do a pretty good job with How To Live With Your Parents a few weeks ago. Ultimately it comes down to compatibility. How To Live felt like a decent partner with its lead in Modern Family. In a similar way Family Tools feels like it might fit with its lead in, The Middle. ABC won’t be expecting Tools to grow The Middle’s audience, they just want it to maintain as many viewers as possible and deliver a decent number for Modern Family. So if Family Tools does indeed click, ABC will have a robust Wednesday night line up going into the Fall after a LOT of trial and error!

There are no real stars here but audiences are certainly familiar with the Family Tools’ cast. J.K. Simmons is well known from The Closer, the original Spiderman trilogy and Juno; Leah Remini obviously made her name with King of Queens before a short tenure on The Talk; and Kyle Bornheimer has been in a string of (mostly failed) shows over the years – he’s yet to score a real hit but he’s at least a familiar face to viewers – for good or bad!

On The Downside: Premiering a comedy series in May is never a good sign – and the fact that ABC cut the Family Tools episode order from 13 to 10 episodes also doesn’t inspire confidence (the reason given was scheduling issues).

Family Tools is inheriting the tricky Wednesday 8.30pm slot. On paper it should be a golden position, nestled between The Middle and Modern Family. But the last two shows to occupy the slot – The Neighbors and Suburgatory – have struggled, and both are on the bubble to return in the Fall. Going up against American Idol and Survivor makes it tough for any show to hit the18-49 demo that advertisers most desire.

Networks keep trying to make Kyle Bornheimer into a sitcom star, obviously seeing something in the actor, in the same way that Tyler Labine continues to land lead roles. But to date Bornheimer’s track record hasn’t been great – with Worst Week, Romantically Challenged and Perfect Couples all failing to take off. Will Family Tools finally be the show to turn things around?

I’ll be honest, the Family Tools trailer didn’t wow me – unlike the How To Live With Your Parents teaser which I thought was very funny. And despite plenty of on air previews I’ve barely seen any magazine or poster advertising for the show. This lack of promotion, coupled with the late air date are worrying signs. Family Tools could well develop into a hit – but it’s going to have its work cut out for it.

Prediction: ABC have struggled to find four hit shows for their Wednesday comedy block. I have a feeling Family Tools may be another miss.