How We Roll Review 2022 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew
CBS’ How We Roll may be inspired by the true story of professional bowler Tom Smallwood. But with Pete Holmes in the lead role, it doesn’t not feel like a network sitcom echo of Crashing, the late HBO comedy based on Holmes’ life.
Once again, Holmes stars as an unassuming suburban dude who decides after a major setback to chuck it all and pursue the long-shot career he’s always wanted. (In the case of How We Roll, he pivots to bowling after being laid off from an auto assembly line.) Once again, he finds himself a gangly lamb among wolves, stumbling his way through an apparently cutthroat, competitive field. And once again, his modest successes serve to prove that nice guys don’t always have to finish last. But where Crashing itself was rarely as nice as its hero, How We Roll is — mostly, but not entirely, for the better.
Tom is such a kindly fellow that, as he himself points out, he can’t so much as kill a spider without mourning it. (“I know, I’ve been to a few of your bug funerals,” sighs his friend and mentor Archie, played by Chi McBride.) He’s a supportive dad to his son, Sam (Mason Wells), who wants to dance on Broadway when he grows up. His marriage to hairstylist Jen (Katie Lowes) is a far cry from the stereotypically toxic sitcom dynamic skewered on shows like Kevin Can F–k Himself: Tom decides to give up the chase for his pie-in-the-sky dream before it really begins, reasoning that this would be best for his family, but by the end of How We Roll‘s pilot, it’s Jen who’s talking him into going for it.
Indeed, pretty much everyone more or less gets along in the four nonconsecutive episodes sent to critics. If anything, the most enduring source of conflict within Tom’s inner circle seems to be a rivalry over who loves him best: If Jen prepares a brown-bag snack for Tom to take on a three-hour drive, Tom’s mother, Helen (Julie White), has to show her up with a wheeled cooler apparently containing an entire cooked turkey.
In some ways, the relentless pleasantness works against the show. How We Roll is almost insistently lacking in any kind of edginess, which means there’s also not much about it to separate it from the seemingly endless array of comedy options airing right now. Tom’s bowling career gives the series a slightly unusual angle to work with, but only one of the four episodes focuses on Tom’s life in the pro bowling circuit. Otherwise, the show’s storylines revolve around less exotic matters, like Jen’s frustrations with her overbearing boss at the salon, which unfold along predictable lines. And while the show’s middle-class Midwestern setting might be less common than, say, yet another show about the New York City singles scene, it’s too early to tell if it’ll become a defining characteristic of the show, or smooth out into a generic backdrop.
At the same time, How We Roll‘s total lack of interest in controversy or commentary makes it easy to watch, maybe even soothing. With an experienced team behind the scenes — creator Mark Gross’ credits include Mike & Molly and Man with a Plan, and director Mark Cendrowski is known for directing most of The Big Bang Theory — the series feels as polished and familiar as one of the blond wood lanes in Archie’s bowling alley.
Onscreen, Holmes proves to be a natural in the multi-cam format. With his big, expressive face and unmistakable air of wholesomeness, he feels like a throwback to the dads of family sitcoms past — only with a more modern sense of emotional openness. His inherent sweetness is tempered by a sprinkle of salt from White. With her standoffish posture, blunt delivery and taste for sensible Fair Isle sweaters, Helen feels like the most fully formed character at this early point in the series.
McBride is a pleasure as always, serving as a grumpier foil to Tom’s guilelessness. At times, though, his game attitude and undeniable charisma only serve to emphasize how lackluster his dialogue can be. When a seasoned pro like McBride struggles to wring laughs from a line as uninspired as “It’s a damn waste of talent. It’s like telling Nicki Minaj to wear an overcoat,” maybe it’s time to come up with some sharper jokes. Lowes plays well with others but neither the actor nor the writers seem to have figured out a personality for Jen so far beyond “nice” (there’s that word again). And while Wells is billed as a regular, he hasn’t had enough to do yet to make much of an impression.
But it seems a promising sign that How We Roll is already showing signs of improvement. The strongest episode is the last offered for review, centering on Helen’s decision to start dating again, 20 years after the death of Tom’s father. The sight of Helen, a woman Tom quotes as saying that “dresses are for princesses and prostitutes,” getting all dolled up is amusing in itself. And the storyline serves up opportunities for characters who otherwise haven’t interacted much to spend some time together, always an important step forward for an ensemble sitcom. Tom’s reaction to his mother’s new focus carries the barest whiff of melancholy — just enough to suggest there might be something deeper and sadder simmering beneath his genial goofball persona.
How We Roll‘s pilot sets up the premise, but it’s another early installment that seems to set the tone. After a disastrous game at his very first professional bowling tournament, Tom is warned by Archie that he’ll need to toughen up. His competitors play mind games, tossing off nasty insults or distracting him with noise; meanwhile, Tom can’t even muster up a sneeze to throw off another bowler’s game. He’s just not that guy. His thing is being the dude who offers to lend a helping hand or a listening ear, and given that the series is based on the story of a real-life guy who made it, it hardly seems a spoiler to suggest it’ll work out for the best in the end. Could How We Roll use a bit more of the “killer instinct” that Archie is trying to draw out of Tom? Sure. But then it wouldn’t be the show that it is.