Tonight is Cabbage Night, Yeah it is, so it is.
In Boston, anyway. On the night before Halloween, youngsters throw foodstuffs (eggs, tomatoes and cabbage, hence the name) at people and houses. Some call it "Mischief Night" but to true Bostonians its Cabbage Night.
Boston is different, which is part of the comic foundation of The McCarthys (CBS, CTV, 9:30 p.m.) a new sitcom starting tonight. See, Bostonians, like the people they call "Nooyawkas," have their own vernacular. Dinner is "suppaw" and sometimes they talk about "Hahvuhd" students with derision. Because Hahvud students talk like the Kennedys, not true Bostonians.
The show is very, very CBS – a multicamera show about a family. The characters spend a lot of time in the same room, sitting on the couch or armchairs and bantering. It's sweet-natured and funny, this one, but not spectacularly hilarious. It's got possibility, though, and is good for you to see.
How so? Well, on the surface it's about a Boston family obsessed with sports. Arthur McCarthy (Jack McGee) and his wife, Marjorie (Laurie Metcalf, from Roseanne, back in the day), are the parents of four adult children, including Ronny (Tyler Ritter, son of John Ritter), a high school guidance counsellor who is gay, which bothers nobody in his family. Only thing is, his dad and siblings Gerard (Joey McIntyre), Sean (Jimmy Dunn) and Jackie (Kelen Coleman) talk sports 24/7, and Ronny has no interest in what he calls, "the sports."
Ronny is really tight with his mom because Mom doesn't care for "the sports" much, and she and Ronny would rather watch The Good Wife together or talk about opera.
That's the core dynamic and what makes it instructional is the delicacy of the attempt to both avoid gay clichés and gently mock the sports-obsessed hetero American male. This is achieved by reliance on the eccentricities of the Boston locale.
There is nothing subversive or substantial about The McCarthys. Mind you, Laurie Metcalf is excellent, especially when she gets to do her outraged mom routine. Under the surface, however, it's a keenly felt comic consideration of the situation of a gay man with a loving family who don't really understand his personal life and world view.
It's a coming-of-age comedy with true smarts wrapped up in the tight confines of a typical CBS comedy. Watch and you'll see its real intentions poking out sometimes. An instructive exercise, plus a few good laughs.
Those CBS comedies are the go-to escape for many viewers. Tonight (which also features the new season of Elementary at 10 p.m.), Big Bang Theory, which has been dreary this season, returns to Thursdays (CBS, CTV, 8 p.m.) and Two and a Half Men, which has been creepy and dreary for years, returns for a new season (CBS, CTV, 9 p.m.). You can throw cabbage at the ones much less instructional than The McCarthys.
Also airing tonight
The Cholesterol Question (CBC, 8 p.m. on The Nature of Things) is also good for you. Made by Michael McNamara it takes a different approach to the usual health/science doc – it is done as a faux mystery in film-noir style. The mystery is this: "Recent discoveries are contradictory and puzzling: roughly 50 per cent of heart attack victims have 'normal' cholesterol levels." This when a cholesterol-lowering drug is reportedly the bestselling pharmaceutical drug of all time. Watch and learn, boys and girls.