The Fowlers are a family we can all recognize: there’s the noble patriarch, the silly old woman, the intellectual, the sweet and shy grandson, and the ditzy, conceited granddaughter. There’s also a gay stage performer married to the ditzy granddaughter (the type is recognizable, but his place in a family such as this is new). In short, they’re a lovable, bumbling group whose radio hour is a kind of variety show, punctuated by family crises, clashes of egos, and incidental blind dating games.
It’s a fun, familiar idea, taking the audience to a simpler place (in this case, the tiny Southern town of Henley) with a friendly extended family. And while their stabs at Southern culture are dead on — Lori Beth, the adult granddaughter married to the gay Taylor Hickock, is hung up on being the Collard Blossom Queen for the 11th year in a row, and Franklin Delano Fowler, the grandson, is an ex-trucker who now writes trashy novels — somehow the comedy wasn’t quite as strong as it tried to be. Calvin Coolidge Fowler, the patriarch of the family, opened up with a joke bit that fell a little flat, so for the rest of the show, the cast had to work extra hard to get the laughs that they’re probably used to.
There were some hilarious moments to be had: Calvin Coolidge Fowler sings a song about flooding the town that now lies under Lake Allapacoochee, where the only people who drowned were the ones who didn’t hear the plan to flood their homes at church; Thaddeus Leonard, the intellectual, and Franklin Delano take turns reading from their books, a treatise on the drought and a romance novel, respectively; and Essie Mae, the silly old lady of the family, sets up a bachelor game on stage with two ladies from the audience and one exceedingly tall, masculine woman.
During a short break, the bluegrass band Dangermuffin played a couple songs. The band has an amazing, soft sound that provided a nice contrast with the Fowler Family antics. I’ll be buying their CD for sure.
The comedians who play the Fowlers work together well, and the talent is definitely there; perhaps this episode of their radio show just wasn’t one of the best they have to offer. If you’re a Southerner who can stand a little pickin’, go give them a try. And if you’re not a Southerner — well then, go and watch the Dixie girls and boys blush as they recognize Uncle Junior and Cousin Leo on stage.