I’m currently on break. If you have any breaking news before July 21, please send a note to my colleague Jennifer Brett, who handles Buzz, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is something I wrote before I left:
Steve Byrne joins a long list of stand-up comics who have gotten their own sitcoms, including Roseanne Barr, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano and recently, Billy Gardell (”Mike & Molly”)
Atlanta-based TBS has given the Pittsburgh native a show that reflects his own lineage as a half-Irish, half-Korean family. On the show, he plays a New York City attorney who decides to chuck the city life and his snobby girlfriend to run his parents’ bar instead in his hometown.
Like many of his sitcom counterparts, Byrne has plenty of experience in stand up (14 years) but not a lot on the acting front.
As a relative neophyte in the acting world, Byrne mostly plays the straight man to much wackier characters around him. “I’m a bit like the Dean Martin of the cast,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “I try to throw a fastball down the middle and have the other actors hit it out of the park.”
That cast includes the man who plays his Irish dad, Dan Lauria from “The Wonder Years,” Brian-Doyle Murray as a racist bar patron and Christine Ebersole as a lush. Coincidentally, both Murray and Ebersole were on “Saturday Night Live” in the early 1980s.
Byrne himself is half Korean, half Irish, just like his character. Asian-American comedic leads (even of mixed-race variety) are rare on TV. The only one that comes to mind for me is Margaret Cho’s failed ABC sitcom aired 18 years ago.
“Maybe I was too young,” Byrne said, “but I know how significant it was for a guy like me to see her on television. I told Margaret that. She’s one of the nicest people you’d ever meet.”
“Sullivan & Son” is a polyglot of actors of differing races. “It’s a hodgepodge, a melting pot,” he said. “There’s a goofy black guy, an Irish dad and a Chinese actress playing my Korean mom. This is what America is to me in my eyes.”
Despite the same setting, he said it’s not at all like “Cheers.” “That’s one of my favorite sitcoms but we’re our own show. The language in the bar is different. There’s more diversity.”
Byrne, who turns 38 on Saturday, feels indebted to TBS, which helped provide him his first comedy special a few years ago. “We get away with a lot more than if we were on network,” he said. “We do push the envelope.”
“Sullivan & Son”
10 p.m., Thursdays, TBS, beginning July 19
Related TBS stories: “Men at Work” renewed for second season.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk