It is, apparently, the Summer of the Anthology Series About a Rental Property. Last week HBO rolled out “Room 104,” which builds each episode around someone who occupied a particular motel room. On Thursday TBS takes the same premise, more or less, in a much, much lighter direction with “The Guest Book,” a comedy about the vacationers who rent a particular cabin.
The channel has been betting big on sitcoms for a while now, and this one is in the same pleasantly, somewhat raunchily mindless vein as “The Detour.” And, like those shows, it grows on you, because it sharpens as it goes along.
The rental, Froggy Cottage, is in a nowheresville that seems to have no other businesses except a rancid strip club called Chubbys. The show isn’t a pure anthology series; the visitors change each week (providing, as with “Room 104,” a chance for some high-profile guest stars like Stockard Channing and Mary Lynn Rajskub), but the locals remain constant and have their evolving story lines.
At the strip club — and no, television probably did not need another strip club — one of the dancers, Vivian (Carly Jibson), and her stepson (Lou Wilson) try to run a blackmail business by catching customers on tape in compromising situations. The man who rents out the cabin, Wilfred (Charlie Robinson), is a gentle fellow but prone to explorations that take him in the direction of Chubbys. Oh, and there’s Dr. Brown (Garret Dillahunt), who lives next door to Froggy Cottage and hasn’t quite adjusted to his single-dad status.
The show was created by Greg Garcia, whose previous credits include “My Name Is Earl” and “Raising Hope,” so he knows something about sitcoms. Here he has fun with the format, using a cheeky introduction in each episode that serves both to catch new viewers up and to wink at his own show’s frivolousness.
The episodes have a sprinkling of social commentary — No. 2, for instance, involves a seriously Christian couple troubled by their son’s choice of a nonbelieving fiancée. But the stories never get preachy or go in the obvious direction. By Episode 5, a well-spun tale of a researcher (Jenna Fischer) who gets more than she bargained for when she tries out a new therapy on an Alzheimer’s patient, you may be hooked. Helping considerably: the music of the alt-country blues duo HoneyHoney, which is smartly deployed throughout the series.
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