It looks like 2020’s even got Chuck Lorre, the “King of Sitcoms,” down. The guy who brought us The Big Bang Theory, Mom, Young Sheldon, and Two and a Half Men is back with his latest contribution to the sitcom lineup, B Positive, which has possibly the most anxiety-provoking sitcom premise ever.
We meet Drew (Thomas Middleditch) at the doctor’s office, where his doctor informs him that he’s in need of a kidney. That’s right, it’s the first scene and our main character is dying. Drew had better start asking around for kidney donors, which will pose a challenge; we learn that Drew is a lone democrat in a republican family, and that he has friends, but not that kind of friends. His social circle is largely is ex-wife Julia (Sara Rue) and 12-year-old daughter Maddie (Izzy G.).
Then, Drew sees his old high school classmate Gina (Annaleigh Ashford) at a wedding. Drunk and high, Gina exclaims that she should be Drew’s kidney donor. Drew couldn’t possibly accept, but then he asks everyone he knows, and they all refuse. Desperate, he revisits Gina’s offer… only now, she doesn’t remember it. Gina says that was “Becca,” her party girl alter ego, talking. But once she realizes that Drew might die, and she has two kidneys, she agrees to give it a chance.
It turns out that Gina and Drew have a blood match – yay! – but Gina would have to give up drugs and alcohol for three months before a transplant – uh oh. She wants to do it, but she falls off the wagon on day one. Cue Drew getting super angry and giving up on her… until he finds out how long the kidney donor list is. Drew apologizes to Gina and recognizes how big-hearted it is of her to even think about doing this for him. Gina agrees to give it another try. And we have a pilot!
B Positive walks quite the line between sitcom-funny and impending-death-plus-drug-and-alcohol-abuse-sad. With a different tone, this plot could easily fit within dram or soap opera territory. But anything can be made funny with great writing and acting.
It’s always too early to tell with a pilot, which has the tough job of introducing all of the people, places, and things of a show with a team of people who are brand new to each other. That said, it seems like B Positive will actually be funny. The laugh track is almost jarring at the beginning, particularly for such low-hanging comedy fruit as a prat fall from Drew in the first scene. The more truly funny moments came from Annaleigh Ashford’s delivery and from a few moments with the senior citizens that her character, Gina, drives to and from the hospital for work.
There is certainly potential for some real comedy here. And this show may well become something special if it can handle Gina’s substance abuse and Drew’s fear of death in ways that are both funny and touching. In an era when TV is changing so much about representation, there’s a lot of hope to be had for a sitcom dealing with substance abuse in a way that de-stigmatizes this issue, and bonus points if it skillfully handles Drew’s response to his own anxiety and sadness. But if B Positive bungles these issues in its race for cheap laughs, it’ll be a real disappointment.
The Bottom Line
B Positive has potential, with a fresh premise and interesting characters. It’s taking on some serious issues and if it can strike the right tone, there may be something special here. If not, it’ll be just another disappointingly shallow comedy. We have hope, but only time will tell.