Show of the week: Wedding Band, Channel Ten, Wednesday, 7.30pm
THERE hasn't been much love for Channel Ten this year, but for once a little credit is deserved.
While the other networks may as well have hung a sign on their entrances reading, ''Dear valued customer, have a look around but you may notice the shelves are empty, but do come back in late January when we've restocked them'', the door at Ten says, ''For the next couple of months we're heading off-Broadway; OK, maybe even off off-Broadway''.
Viewed from that perspective, a handful of Ten's recent schedule fillers - White Collar, Burn Notice, Go Girls and this lightweight dude comedy - at least try to, and to some degree do, satisfy the prerequisites for undemanding summer-season viewing.
In many ways, Wedding Band is a throwback to a time when Adam Sandler had something original to say about sad-sack, underachieving, romantically challenged dudes who, without giving away the ending, find a degree of comfort in their also-ran status, and to when Judd Apatow rewrote the conventions of the boy-meets-girl romantic comedy (more on that later).
The four dude-men in question here are childhood friends whose cover band is an opportunity to re-experience their days as carefree adolescents.
Brian Austin Green is ladies' man Tommy; Eddie (Peter Cambor), the vaguely responsible one of the quartet, is married with children; his brother Barry (Derek Miller) is the chubby goofball channelling Jack Black (naturally, he's the drummer); and blow-in Stevie (Harold Perrineau) is the older and more accomplished musician, through whom we register the yawning gap between how these guys see themselves and who they really are.
Their cover band is a perfect reflection of their plight. They're the go-to band for weddings, bar mitzvahs, sci-fi conventions, bucks' nights and ridiculous product launches, occasions that lend themselves to mishaps and misunderstandings.
A running gag of the series is the jarring disconnection between well-known songs and the theme of the occasion they've been called in to MC. If you want to hear a xylophone and cello rendition of West End Girls, or wondered what YMCA might have sounded like if performed by the travellers on Starship Enterprise, this is the show for you.
Mostly, though, the band members' comedic misadventures are set-ups designed to show their tentative steps into manhood, test and prove their friendships and provide meant-to-be-amusing takes on ''guy things'' and ''girl things''.
It's here, alas, where Wedding Band's limitations become glaringly obvious.
So far, the women we've been introduced to are a collective of dire, appalling stereotypes, sexist caricatures who would make even an unreconstructed chauvinist wince.
There's Rachel (Jenny Wade) and Roxie (Melora Hardin), whose events company arranges the gigs where the boys play, and Eddie's wife, Ingrid (Kathryin Fiore), a policewoman whose primary role so far is that of the castrating and chastising mother. It's to escape her authority that Eddie and his bromancers hatch their increasingly silly plots.
Blonde, beautiful and chaste, Rachel frets about losing her boyfriend to sexually voracious women (though surely it's only a matter of time before she will become Tommy's love interest) - women just like brassy and cynical Roxie.
If you don't keep the relationship exciting, your fiance will walk, Roxie cautions Rachel, while encouraging her to lose her inhibitions in a pole-dancing lesson.
Those shortcomings notwithstanding, Wedding Band has a heart. Its sympathies are clearly with the underdogs and misfits, the sci-fi fanboys who get beaten up by the jocks, the fellow nebbishes who, like the band, will overcome humiliation, embarrassment and pride as they come to realise exactly where they fit.
The ensemble works; Brian Austin Green, in particular, brings a knowing wink to the grungy Tommy. Since it was made for US cable channel TBS, and clearly wants to follow in the footsteps of risque comedies such as Bridesmaids, it also has a decent quotient of smutty jokes and sexual references, which possibly push the boundaries of the 7.30pm timeslot.
Best of all, it doesn't take itself too seriously. The show, like the band's cover songs, isn't seeking to break new ground but to goof around with tunes and set-ups with which we're already familiar.