Fans of "The Daily Show" will no doubt be drawn to Rob Corddry in "The Winner" (8:30 and 9:30 p.m. EST/PST Sunday, Fox), a funny sitcom that debuts at a time when laugh-inducing comedies are few and far between.
Corddry, a former "Daily Show" correspondent, stars as Glen Abbot, a 32-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., native whose emotional growth pretty much ended in his teen years. He's motivated to re-start it when his teenage crush, Alison (Erinn Hayes), moves back to care for her ailing elderly mother. Glen quickly finds himself bonding with Alison's 13-year-old son, Josh (Keir Gilchrist), with whom he shares the same low level of emotional maturity.
Glen and Josh also share a tendency toward awkwardness in social situations. And Glen says outrageous things that Alison laughs off, and he has no clue that they're highly inappropriate.
"You did the right thing," Glen tells Alison of her divorce from Josh's dad. "Your husband probably molested him."
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"The Winner" wasn't Corddry's creation. Ricky Blitt, who wrote the pilot and executive-produces with Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy"), said he's aiming for the show to be "sweetly offensive."
"There's a real heart to it and it never crosses the line," Blitt said at a January Fox press conference in Pasadena, Calif. "It's coming out of a thing of innocence. It's never coming out of anything mean-spirited or cruel."
Blitt says "The Winner" is also autobiographical.
"I was interviewed once and said that I didn't really relate to Glen because I lost my virginity at the precocious young age of 31 instead of 32," he said, possibly joking (or maybe not).
Blitt said "The Winner" may be more realistic than the way Hollywood usually dramatizes coming-of-age stories. He was a fan of "Seinfeld," but didn't think it was realistic that George Costanza, whom he compares himself to looks-wise, always dated beautiful women.
"Only a couple of times did they present that ironically," Blitt said. "That's the best show ever, but I just said, there's something about having a character who's going to take a little while, the way it really works in real life."
Blitt says he feels for the Corddry character because he connects with his delayed onset of maturity.
"For a lot of people, it wasn't that easy. It happened for me later in life, too," Blitt said. "I related to the whole journey that Glen went through. ... When it's coming from somewhere sincere, you don't question the heart."
The Glen character is sort of an amiable, creepier take on "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," a movie hit for Corddry's former "Daily Show" co-star, Steve Carell. But Glen was actually created before "Virgin" for a failed single-camera pilot called "Becoming Glen." The box-office success of "Virgin" helped Blitt redevelop the series as a multi-camera sitcom.
"It made this character more palatable," Blitt said.
The buddy relationship between Glen and Josh, carried off believably between Corddry and Gilchrist, gives "The Winner" heart, but the show's premise reveals itself to be one-joke thin in subsequent episodes: Glen's an innocent! Look at him get excited about experiencing something new! See him turn awkward around an attractive woman!
"The Winner" may not be able to go the distance, but it's a fun little show in the here and now.