A CMT first: Wad­ing into scripted sit­com pool

The Washington Post Sunday - - TV -

Long be­fore “ Jersey Shore” proudly planted its spray-tanned flag on MTV’s moon, sym­bol­i­cally mark­ing its ter­rain as a re­al­ity hit, view­ers com­plained that the so-called “mu­sic chan­nel” had moved too far from the tunes.

Now, an­other Vi­a­com-owned, mu­sic-themed net­work is cau­tiously test­ing the wa­ters of mov­ing away from its sig­na­ture genre— this time, with its first ven­ture into scripted se­ries.

On Fri­day night, CMT (Coun­try­Mu­sic Tele­vi­sion) will pre­miere “Work­ing Class,” a halfhour, multi-cam­era sit­com about a good-hearted fam­ily strug­gling to make ends meet— and fit in in a snobby up­per-mid­dle-class neigh­bor­hood— dur­ing tough eco­nomic times.

CMT has long had al­ter­na­tive pro­gram­ming, and ex­ec­u­tives are con­fi­dent that tak­ing yet an­other step away from the “mu­sic” in the net­work’s ti­tle won’t alien­ate the core au­di­ence that has come to ex­pect re­al­ity pro­grams such as “My Big Red­neck­Wed­ding.”

“We’re just hope­fully adding a layer of pro­gram­ming that peo­ple will find en­ter­tain­ing,” said Brad John­son, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of com­edy devel­op­ment.

The very fam­ily-friendly “Work­ing Class” is from cre­ator and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Jill Carg­er­man. The show stars co­me­di­anMelissa Peter­man (of WB’s “Reba” fame) as Carli, a goofy-but-de­ter­mined twice­di­vorced mom of three who talks a mile a minute and is a con­stant stream of one-lin­ers and stress. The se­ries opens with her fran­ti­cally pay­ing bills and wa­ter­ing down a car­ton of milk. Hav­ing moved to an up­scale Mid­west­ern sub­urb to give her kids “ the good life,” Carli works be­hind a deli counter and en­vi­ously watches other women sip cof­fee af­ter yoga and buy $30 worth of gourmet treats for their purse dogs.

“Can you be­lieve she feeds her dog bet­ter than I feedmy kids?” she groans to co-work­erHank (Ed As­ner, who em­braces his cranky-old-man role). Hanks replies that in their snooty town, “you can’t throw a rock with­out hit­ting a hy­brid Lexus. Though that never stops me.”

But as much as Carli com­plains about her life— and writes “please?” in the memo line of a post­dated check when she tries to pay her son’s den­tal bill with­out health in­surance— Peter­man plays the role as if she knows that deep down, even though she can’t live the postyoga latte life, the hand she was dealt isn’t too shabby.

Work­ing Class (30 min­utes) de­buts Fri­day with back-to­back episodes at 8 p.m. on CMT.

SEE A VIDEO CLIP To watch a sneak peek of CMT’s “Work­ing Class,” visit wash­ing­ton­post.com/tv.

RON JAFFE/CMT

“WORK­ING CLASS”: Ed As­ner andMelissa Peter­man star.

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