Not even the droll comedic stylings of the ubiquitous J.K. Simmons can free Family Tools from its chains of inferiority. The series begins with longtime handyman Tony Shea (Simmons) having a heart attack of the overstated, vaudevillian variety, the final straw for his pushy live-in sister-in-law, Terry (Leah Remini), who demands that he immediately pass on the family business, Mr. Jiffy Fix, to his only son, Jack (Kyle Bornheimer). Problem is that Jack’s a maladroit flunky, and pops is naturally reluctant to relinquish his life’s work so easily to someone who’s yet to find fortune on any career path. Jack performed poorly in college, the military, and most recently in seminary school, where his attempts to systematize the Bible’s prudish teachings understandably rubbed his peers the wrong way. From head to toe, Family Tools is a severely undercooked convergence of idiotic plots and botched one-liners, rarely striving to do something the slightest bit original, or at least execute the corniest of stereotypical sitcom shenanigans in a mildly amusing manner.
In Jack’s opening narration, he claims he wants nothing more than to please his father, and his actions do indeed convey that very sentiment. On the basis of a text message stating “I NEED YOU,” he rushes home only to find it was his intrusive aunt who sent the phony cry for help from Tony’s phone. Inexplicably selfless and wanting for attention, Jack avoids having an honest talk with his dad about their fading relationship, instead suppressing his feelings and jumping right into the role of heir to the Mr. Jiffy Fix empire, but soon a hodgepodge of irritating obstacles appears before him.
Jack’s obnoxious co-worker, and the show’s unprincipled token black character, Darren (Edi Gathegi), seems to exist only as a dispenser of trashy jokes and shit-eating grins. Irresponsible and carefree, Darren slacks off on Jack’s first day on the job, allowing his delinquent acquaintance to incontestably pilfer the company van (the dead-on-arrival bit concludes with Jack being run over by a random man on a go-kart). Darren’s sister, Stitch (Danielle Nicolet), who also works for Mr. Jiffy Fix, is Darren’s polar opposite: sweet and kind of ditzy, consistently flirting with the graceless Jack for unknown reasons. The series is clearly hinting at a budding romance between the two, but there isn’t a solitary spark of chemistry to be seen in any of their scenes together. All Stitch represents for Jack is a distraction from putting his ever-changeable dreams aside and bending to the wills of his curmudgeonly old man. Terry’s oddball son, Mason (Johnny Pemberton), is apparently Jack’s only unflinching support system, endeavoring to calm his cousin down with repeat non sequiturs and by playing backup bass guitar while Jack flute solos to eradicate some pent-up distress.
The pilot finds Jack shooting himself in the foot with a nail gun while building a deck for a client, and that image is a representative snapshot of Family Tools as a whole. The show is based on the U.K. series White Van Man, whose creator, Adrian Poynton, serves as a co-creator and producer on this second-rate American adaptation. Whatever made the original somewhat of a surprise success is clearly absent here, as Family Tools wastes its audience’s time with stale, threadbare material that should’ve never seen the light of day.