Jonathan Storm | Corddry's a winner, the jokes just awful

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(From left) Linda Hart, Lenny Clarke, Rob Corddry, Erinn Hayes, Keir Gilchrist.

Rob Corddry is delightful as Glen Abbott, a socially stunted 32-year-old whose best friend is 14, in Fox's new sitcom The Winner, premiering tomorrow at 8:30 p.m.

It's a travesty that the scripts he has to work from are such big, fat losers.

But perhaps not surprising. The creator, Ricky Blitt, says he lived stagnant in a social shell until 1994. So that would make him an emotional 13-year-old, and if there was ever a sitcom with a 13-year-old sensibility, The Winner is it.

Glen has been living, jobless, loveless, friendless, with his parents for 32 years, with TV and his mom as his sole comfort. He's energized when the only girl he ever kissed (as an adolescent) moves back next door, with her 14-year-old son, to care for her aged mother.

The overgrown boy and the normal one, equals on the emotional curve, become best friends. Fourteen-year-old Keir Gilchrist, playing little Josh McKellar, is almost as good as Corddry.

Like many before them (see Freaks and Geeks, The Wonder Years, Tom Hanks' Big, Jennifer Garner's 13 Going on 30), the kids, real and/or overgrown, have cute and humorous episodes.

But most of the show is packed with an unprecedented number of of heh-heh, "you said," Beavis and Butt-head jokes about masturbation, homosexuality, prostitution, even developmental disabilities.

Glen is embarrassed about his job in a video store, since nobody works in such places "if you're over 30 and don't have Down syndrome."

"What's the largest number of condoms a man can put on his unit?" he asks the pharmacist during the harrowing experience of buying them for the first time.

"Now you can fulfill your beastly urges with another of your ilk," he says near the end of the third episode, when his potential new friend's ex-lover shows up. Glen can't figure out if his new pal is gay.

Corddry often played smug and mean-spirited on The Daily Show. But he delivers all his stupid lines in The Winner with the most beguiling innocence. You can only hope that Blitt, a first-time executive producer, will tire of middle-school humor and move to something a little more satisfying for grown-ups.

I wouldn't hold my breath. The show's on Fox, and Seth MacFarlane, Mr. Family Guy, is another exec producer. The scatological, sophomoric Family Guy is one of the most popular shows with men under 34, a sign we are in the last stages of civilization.

The Winner is a remake of Blitt's 2002 effort Becoming Glen, which nobody wanted. This time around, almost all the networks were interested - another sign that the end is near.

Fox got it and could very well make it a hit, with advertisers lined up to pay extra for the youthful audience. It's enough to make a critic wish he were 14, too.


Jonathan Storm |

Television

The Winner

Tomorrow night at 8:30, Fox29


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