Happiness is a Warm TV

Fall TV: ‘Truth Be Told’ is trying too hard

(L-R): Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Mitch, Tone Bell as Russell, Bresha Webb as Angie, Vanessa Lachey as Tracy.
(L-R): Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Mitch, Tone Bell as Russell, Bresha Webb as Angie, Vanessa Lachey as Tracy. Ben Cohen/NBC

New show: Truth Be Told

When: 8:30 p.m. Fridays on NBC

Cast: Tone Bell, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Vanessa Lachey, Bresha Webb

Premise: This new sitcom centers on two ethnically diverse couples who are best friends and nextdoor neighbors. I applaud the diversity here – Bell and Webb are an African American couple, while Gosselaar and Lachey are white and “ethnically ambiguous” (their words), respectively. How often do you have an ensemble where the white guy is in the minority? So that’s cool.

But the many conversations about race in the pilot seem forced, and without any larger points being made (see “Blackish” and “The Carmichael Show” for how this can be done effectively and hilariously). Did the valet disrespect the black character? Is the Asian woman at the Chinese restaurant faking her accent to make the food taste better? Can the white guy sing along with Jay-Z’s part of “Empire State of Mind”? (The problem could be, I think, that the race issues they raise are just touched on briefly, whereas “Blackish” and “Carmichael” will often spend an entire episode on one point. In “Truth,” the issues are more like punchlines to jokes in a stand-up set.)

I get what they’re trying to do, but it doesn’t feel natural – and worse, it’s not particularly funny. OK, there are a few funny bits here and there, but mostly, it’s trying too hard. Maybe adjustments are made in future episodes (that’s the problem with just getting one to preview), but I’m not all that inclined to check back.

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