Right now, television comedy is in surprisingly good shape. CBS owns Mondays, and NBC has regrouped well on Thursday. The Simpsons is still humming along on Fox, the CW has the terrific Everybody Hates Chris and, now, ABC adds The Knights of Prosperity (9 p.m. Wednesdays, WRTV Channel 6).
Knights comes from Jon Beckerman and Rob Burnett, the Letterman veterans who gave us a great season and a half of Ed (which, unfortunately, lasted four seasons). This time — at least judging by the first two episodes — they’re again starting out strong.
Donal Logue, who specializes in playing underachievers (The Tao of Steve, Grounded For Life), stars as Eugene Gurkin, a janitor who wants to be the guy who stuffs tangerines down public toilets rather than the one who cleans them out. Watching E! News one night, he sees Mick Jagger giving a tour of his New York apartment, which includes a hat room (kept at 62 degrees, 10 percent humidity) and an indoor pool where his dogs like to swim. That gives Eugene a brilliant idea: Let’s rob Mick Jagger.
He recruits a group of misfits to join his quest, including Squatch (Lenny Venito), his fellow janitor and quintessential Noo Yawker; enormous security guard Rockefeller Butts (Kevin Michael Richardson); and Indian cabbie Gourishankar “Gary” Subramanian (Maz Jobrani). Gary brings in an intern, Louis (Josh Grisetti), and Eugene’s favorite smoking-hot waitress, Esperanza (Sofia Vergara), decides to join the gang they name The Knights of Prosperity (after rejecting Batman, among other names).
Together, they pray for God’s help to more easily commit the robbery — which is funny enough on its own. Add in visual gags like matching T-shirts, Rockefeller’s Barry White-like voice, the gang’s inability to do anything right (wait till you see them pretend to be a book club, brainstorm what Jagger’s alarm code might be or imitate his British accent) and Jagger’s hilarious cameo and you have at least 10 good laughs per episode.
In tonight’s premiere, they try to steal the key to the singer’s apartment. Next week, they go after the alarm code. It’s like watching Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton try to be criminals. Really. It’s that funny.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for In Case of Emergency, which debuts immediately after The Knights of Prosperity. It’s a mostly joyless, laughless show about four people whose lives have largely gone wrong since they graduated high school together 20 years ago.
Hey, I said television comedy is in good shape. I didn’t say great.