‘Sons of Tuscon’ generic, entertaining new sitcom

Jon Albert

Picture this: Bernie Madoff’s three sons are fatherless and decide to take matters into their own hands by leaving their posh New Jersey mansion for a fresh start in Tucson, Ariz., where they change their name to avoid any connection with their infamous father.  

Except they soon encounter the problem that made them leave the East Coast in the first place: they have no parents, which makes mundane chores like registering for school and safeguarding the house against burglars rather difficult. 

“Sons of Tucson” attempts to show what would happen if those kids, the Gundersons, selected a father in a dead-end job with a history of pathological lying.

The father, Ron Snuffkin, is played by Tyler Labine of the short-lived ABC drama “Invasion.” 

The kids find Snuffkin living out of his car and working for a sporting goods store when they propose that he act as their father for a couple of hours. Always willing to make a quick buck, Snuffkin agrees and a family is born.  Soon after their initial collaboration, the kids realize that they need to hire Snuffkin full-time, and Ron takes up residence in the Gunderson home, along with a weekly beer stipend.

Snuffkin’s character is fairly one sided; he attempts to avoid or get out of any unwanted or awkward situation by making up an elaborate lie or back story. 

He usually does this with initial success, but the lies come back to bite him later. How Snuffkin can escape his lies without losing his cushy new job is the formula that most of the early episodes take. 

While room for character development is shown at times, especially when teaching young Robby Gunderson how to play catch, one gets the feeling that Snuffkin cares about the kids only as long as he is getting paid.

The real stars of “Tucson” are the boys. Led by middle brother Gary (played by Frank Dolce), the Gundersons each play a different stereotypical TV son, battling to appeal to each viewer’s individual preference.

Gary is the neurotic one with large doses of realism and cynicism. Brandon, played by Matthew Levy, is the popular one, who is a little slow on the uptake and quick to throw his enthusiasm wholly behind a plan. Finally, there is the wild one, Robby, played by Benjamin Stockham, whose preferred methods of communication are loud outbursts and the firing of dangerous weapons. 

The young actors have great chemistry together, which is evident in their opening scene of the pilot episode, where they test Ron to see if he is desperate enough to fake their fatherhood.  Plotlines often focus on the issues the three brothers face when their strongest personality traits get them in trouble: Brandon is certain that the burglar in the neighborhood is a character from his new favorite book,Gary tries to attempt to monitor his pulse on a second-hand heart rate monitor in order to add a few years on to his life and Robby almost gets expelled when he starts a fire at his school’s annual fall festival.The wacko-family concept is reminiscent of another concluded FOX comedy, “Malcolm in the Middle.” 

The similarities between the two continue when one learns that one of the show’s executive producers is former “Malcolm” cast member Justin Berfield, known for his breakout role as older brother Reese.

At its core, “Sons of Tucson” is another dysfunctional family sitcom with the caveat that one of the members of the family is a paid actor.  

Where the show fails is the relatability factor; few people exhibit the deadbeat qualities that make up Ron Snuffkin, and the kids seem too eager to fall into sitcom stereotypes.  

While the show is an amusing distraction at first, one wonders how far the show’s creators can take the concept without risking redundancy. 

Unfortunately, due to the lack of originality, “Tucson” is set to end the same way that so many other midseason replacement programs (or FOX programs) have ended: cancellation.