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Scott D. Pierce: Chuck Lorre’s latest sitcom, ‘B Positive,’ is positively good

(Photo courtesy of Sonja Flemming/CBS) Annaleigh Ashford as Gina and Thomas Middleditch as Drew in "B Positive."

Never, ever underestimate Chuck Lorre. The last time the uber-producer created or co-created a network TV comedy that didn’t run for at least four seasons was 28 years ago. And he’s had nine on the air since then.
His latest show, “B Positive” (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2), which he co-created with Marco Pennette, gets off to a very strong start. It’s yet another twist on the comedy trope of a mismatched couple, but it’s so well done it feels fresh — and it’s very funny.
The show centers on Drew (Thomas Middleditch), a young, divorced father of a 12-year-old who learns that he needs a kidney transplant. He’s a lovable nerd, despite his ex-wife’s (Sara Rue) assertion that he was always closed off during their marriage.
It’s clear that he’s not close to his family. Awkwardly kneeling to pray after getting his diagnosis, Drew says, “God, I wasn’t raised to believe in you. But that’s on my parents … so take them.”
And he’s not enthusiastic about trying to convince one of his relatives to donate. “Oh, great. A Republican kidney,” he says.
After he doesn’t find a donor among family and friends, Drew runs into Gina (Annaleigh Ashford), who he hasn’t seen since high school, and she drunkenly volunteers. She’s insulted when he doesn’t jump to accept her offer.
“I mean, I have given my body to many men before, but never for keeps,” Gina says.
Yeah, Gina is a mess. She drinks, she takes drugs and she sleeps with men she doesn’t remember the morning after.
Blood tests show she’s a match for Drew, but when she quickly falls off the wagon despite the doctor’s admonition that she must stay sober for three months in order to donate, Drew despairs.
“I knew I couldn’t count on you. You were a train wreck in high school and you are a train wreck now,” he says.
“That is not fair!” Gina replies. “I was not this bad back in high school.”
They’re forced together, but they have a weird chemistry. Middleditch exudes a goofy charm, and Ashford is completely lovable even when Gina is being completely terrible.
There’s too much studio audience laughter in the pilot, and it’s grating. It’s somewhat less annoying in the second episode — which, by the way, is also very good. And it features additional cast members who become Drew’s dialysis buddies — although one of them responds to the news that Drew already has a donor with, “I want to punch you so hard right now.”

Given these episodes — and Lorre’s track record — it looks like “B Positive” is going to be around for a while.

(Photo courtesy of CBS via AP) Billy Gardell as Bob, left, and Folake Olowofoyeku as Abishola in a scene from "Bob Hearts Abishola," a comedy about a nurse and the former cardiac patient who pursues her.

‘Bob’ still ‘Hearts Abishola’

Speaking of Chuck Lorre sitcoms about mismatched couples … “Bob Hearts Abishola” — about a middle-aged white guy from Detroit who falls in love with a Black nurse from Nigeria — picks up Monday (7:30 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) where it left off last spring.
Bob (Billy Gardell) goes shopping for an engagement ring for Abishola (Folake Olowofoyeku), and it’s funny and charming and more understated than a lot of TV comedy. It’s well worth watching.

(Photo courtesy Bill Inoshita/CBS) Cedric the Entertainer and Max Greenfield in “The Neighborhood.”

Avoid this ‘Neighborhood’

Given the premise of “The Neighborhood” — a white family moves into a Black area — it’s only natural that the show would try to address what’s been happening in the world since its last episode aired back in May. Black Lives Matter. Police violence. Protests.
Unfortunately, this CBS sitcom (Monday, 7 p.m., Ch. 2) just isn’t up to the task. The third-season premiere is the worst episode of the series to date.
This is a show I like. It’s not a great comedy, but it’s goofy fun. But trying to say something about incredibly serious matters and then interrupting that narrative with dorky jokes is jarring. Cringe-worthy, even. I wish it worked. It doesn’t.

(Photo courtesy of Monty Brinton/CBS) Chuck Lorre is the executive producer of “Bob Hearts Abishola” and "B Positive."

Chuck Lorre creations

In case you were wondering, Lorre’s “Frannie’s Turn” got good reviews and bad ratings way back in 1992, and was canceled after just six episodes. Since then, Lorre has brought us “Grace Under Fire” (five seasons); “Cybill” (four seasons); “Dharma & Greg” (five seasons); “Two and a Half Men” (12 seasons); “The Big Bang Theory” (12 seasons); “Mike & Molly” (six seasons); “Mom” (about to begin its eighth season); “Young Sheldon” (about to begin its fifth season); and “Bob Hearts Abishola” (about to begin its second season).
Over on Netflix, “Disjointed” was canceled after one season, and “The Kominsky Method” has been renewed for a third and final season.
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