Memory Lanes features Ryan Stiles and Sean Masterson prominently. Stiles should be familiar to viewers as Lewis on The Drew Carey Show. He is a main castmember on the British and American versions of Whose Line Is It Anyway? Masterson is Stiles’ longtime friend, appearing on Whose Line Is It Anyway? from time to time. The two are stars/writers/executive producers, as per CanCon carte blanche laws.
Memory Lanes‘ plot is simple. Bud Murray dies. His two sons, Ryan (Stiles) and Sean (Masterson), each obtain half-ownership of his heavily-mortgaged bowling alley. Ryan’s life is the alley, while Sean is a successful restaurateur. Ryan and Sean are diametric opposites. You should know what happens next. You’ve seen The Odd Couple, right?
Memory Lanes is very American in its approach – laugh track, eccentric supporting cast, some crude jokes, a young girl with ‘tude. Memory Lanes isn’t outright poor like The Good Germany, but there’s nothing notable or funny about the show. It’s a paint-by-numbers sitcom on a network more known for paint-by-numbers sketch comedies.
Janet Wright is the best actor on Memory Lanes, remembering the good ol’ days and better ol’ sex. Wright makes horny ex-lounge manager character Sarah Duggen work, even though Duggen is more one-dimensional than a straight line. Giancarlo Caltabiano is also notable as Chester Wallace, the loopy bathroom attendant.
Stiles and Masterson are…well, Stiles and Masterson. They essentially play each other. While Stiles is okay at straight acting, he’s more at home as an improv comedian. Masterson I’m not sure about, as I’m unfamiliar with his prior work. They’re at least acceptable as Memory Lanes‘ stars.
I don’t think Memory Lanes would rate a pilot if Ryan Stiles was removed from the show. There’s nothing in Memory Lanes‘ concept or execution that makes me want to watch more episodes. It makes me wonder what CBC passed up in order to exploit Stiles’ name value. I’ve seen worse shows on CBC, but I can’t see what the network would pair Memory Lanes with.
Memory Lanes is one more reason why CBC Television needs a massive programming enema. In an age where sitcoms are constantly evolving, CBC airs a throwback to the 1990s. I’d like to say I don’t get the network, but I’ve felt that way since it cancelled The Vacant Lot.