Mel Gibson, fresh from directing The Passion of the Christ, is now directing a television sit-com, Complete Savages (ABC). A collaboration with producers and writers Mike Scully and Julie Thacker-Scully, a husband-and-wife team that worked on The Simpsons and Everybody Loves Raymond, the show breathes new life into a tired genre.
The Savages are a family of five teenage boys and their father, a divorced firefighter. The show celebrates the virtues of guys, with the father, portrayed well by Keith Carradine, being a strong, no-nonsense man's man who saves lives for a living and who wants his boys to grow up right. But Complete Savages also plays with the sociological theory that men tend to be on the barbaric (or "savage") side without a woman to civilize them.
In the pilot episode, the family's 23rd housekeeper quits, after burning their laundry in protest. The father decides that the boys are too helpless, so he makes them clean up after themselves. The boys, hoping that he will relent and hire some good-looking French maid to clean their toilets, purposefully make things worse, to the point of bringing in other people's trash. But then the father invites over a neighborhood girl that one of the sons has a crush on, which inspires desperate cleaning.
The humor is not smart-alecky or cynical, as in most sit-coms. Rather, it is down-to-earth, hinging on the recognition of attitudes we have seen before. (The boys come into the firehouse, whining that Dad is late and hasn't fixed them any dinner. "Your uncle and I just carried an entire family from a burning house," the father replies. "Sure, help their kids while we're at home starving.")
A lot of sit-coms are about parenting, and some, such as Malcolm in the Middle, have a realistic edge. But in Savages, the father is not a weak, simpering idiot. The show has some rough-housing, questionable language, and gross-out jokes. But what do you expect from a house full of guys?