by Lucy Leitner
Tonight, the Pittsburgh-set sitcom Sullivan & Son premieres on TBS to a massively distracted audience. Batmania has overtaken the city like deranged makeup-happy criminals take over Gotham. It’s a fever that no amount of cowbell can cure.
But, for those unwilling to camp out at the Loews Waterfront Theaters for a midnight screening, there’s one-time Pittsburgher Steve Byrne’s new sitcom.
Standup Byrne is Steve Sullivan (not to be confused by the recent Penguin forward who has since defected to an uncertain fate in Phoenix), a Manhattan attorney who abandons his high-powered, big-city life to take over the family business, a bar in Pittsburgh with a rather interesting assortment of regulars that comprise the main cast. It’s a friendly, blue-collar bar that’s been in the family for decades with a diverse and loyal clientele. Critics can’t help but state that it’s a place where everybody knows your name like they are willing a new incarnation of their beloved 1980s sitcom.
Though early reviews seem to indicate the show captures Pittsburgh’s uniquely naive political incorrectness that often borders on bizarre sort of unintentional racial insensitivity, we will not hear the Sullivan & Sons characters slur in Pittsburghese. This may actually be a pleasant respite for those who pass undue amounts of time in Pittsburgh corner bars. And Brian Doyle-Murray asking if “Yinz wanna leave the car dahtahn before we see the Stillers n’at?” may be a bit much on a weekly basis.
Indeed, judging by the interior of the bar set and the eclectic cast, Sullivan & Son appears poised to craft a flattering portrayal of Pittsburgh. Though reports note the eccentricities of some of the bar’s regulars—Christine Ebersole‘s aging floozy Carol and Doyle-Murray’s well-meaning, yet wildly inappropriate Hank—noticeably absent is the severely unhinged that inhabit the less-visited South Side haunts. And the cast makes the Pittsburgh on the screen seem more diverse than the Pittsburgh we call home. Byrne, like his character on the show, is the son of a Korean mother and an Irish father—portrayed on the show as Ok Cha (Jodi Long) and Jack (Dan Lauria). The cast also includes comedians Roy Wood, Jr. and Ahmed Ahmed.
Though the sitcom portrays the city as an accent-less melting pot, several bar decorations were added for authenticity, including a framed Evgeni Malkin baby blue jersey and a WDVE sticker. Because Pittsburgh is intent on taking over Hollywood, even the show’s production designer is a Carnegie Mellon graduate. Though one must wonder how far he has drifted from his roots to hang the framed Stanley Cup and dueling mullet photo on the set without angry graffiti covering Jaromir Jagr’s face.
Sullivan & Son premieres tonight with back-to-back episodes at 10 PM Pittsburgh Standard Time. Learn more on the show’s official homepage: http://www.tbs.com/shows/sullivanandson/