From Fred Dryer to Merlin Olsen, the small screen always has loved former pro football players. So it's no surprise that charismatic, gap-toothed former New York Giants star Michael Strahan is looking to score with a sitcom vehicle. What is surprising, though, is just how watchable and amusing Brothers is, even if it doesn't break new ground.
In the Fox show, which bows Friday, Strahan is Michael Trainor, a former pro football player forced to move home after his manager absconds with his money. But home is the mansion he bought his parents (a snappy CCH Pounder, raising the bar as usual, and fellow former pro Carl Weathers), where his resentful and paralyzed brother Chill (Daryl Chill Mitchell) lives. Chill's Michael-themed restaurant is circling the bowl, and the bickering brothers are going to have to learn to get along if they want to save it.
All fairly standard stuff on the surface, but Strahan knows to surround himself with a good team. Creator Don Reo (Everybody Hates Chris) and executive producer Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development) guarantee a certain level of class; Pounder and Weathers are delightful as a mom in denial (she prods her wheelchair-bound son with a fork, convinced he's faking; for the record, Mitchell is paralyzed in real life) and a father who pops out non sequiturs, like his hope that Michael never gets attacked by a cheetah.
As for the brothers, there's a disparity. Mitchell is excellent, his humor tinged with bitterness at being left out. His fights with Michael have a delicious sense of the absurd, as when it becomes clear that skinny legs Michael believes he could get beaten up. But Strahan is outclassed in this division; he's personable and watchable but comes across flat compared with his teammates.
Beneath it all, though, the brothers love each other, the parents are affectionate, and there's an undercurrent of topicality: This is a family that has to pull together during hard economic times. Sure, it's TV, which means they get to suffer under the same mansion's roof, but the message should resonate with virtually every viewer out there. Brothers fields a team worth rooting for.