‘Truth Be Told’ Review: Good Intentions Can’t Save Mark Paul Gosselaar Comedy

NBC’s new series aspires to Norman Lear-style social commentary but is too dopey to pull it off

NBC’s new comedy “Truth Be Told” has a good heart but it falls short in the laughs department. The new domestic comedy from D.J. Nash (“Growing Up Fisher”) means well in its depiction of two diverse couples who are best friends. The show is based on Nash’s real life — he’s married to a Korean woman, and Nash jokes that his white guilt is the fifth character in the show. It’s funny in theory, but in practice, not quite.

The show tries to find comedy in life’s everyday quandaries and awkward moments such as “what’s a husband to do if a prospective babysitter is too hot?” and what to do if the restaurant valet assumes a Porsche belongs to the white man instead of the black man.

The cast is affable with Mark Paul Gosselaar and Vanessa Lachey as one married couple and Tone Bell and Bresha Webb as their neighbors and best pals. Unfortunately, the pilot is awkwardly written, so the cast doesn’t quite mesh. There’s also a problem when the central joke of a pilot is that two husbands think the new babysitter is a girl they saw in an online porn video. That joke is good for a quick laugh, but it can’t sustain a plotline. Even the direction by comedy veteran Pamela Fryman (“How I Met Your Mother”) seems off and the cut we saw looked like it was edited repeatedly to the point of choppiness.

“Truth Be Told” also examines the challenges married couples face, such as being trapped in the house much of the time after having children, or the jealousy that presents itself when a wife still talks to a former boyfriend. There’s no subtlety to the show, which is one of its biggest problems. This is especially surprising given the fact that Will Packer is one of the show’s executive producers. Packer is also produced the recent hit film “Straight Outta Compton” and he’s made numerous additional TV and film deals recently. With Packer and a writers room Nash says is “racially and ethnically diverse,” you would think “Truth Be Told” would be sharper in its comedic take on racial and ethnic situations.

Unlike NBC’s recent summer comedy “The Carmichael Show,” “Truth Be Told” delivers a watered-down version of conversations Nash wants to depict. The classic TV shows of Norman Lear no doubt provided some of the inspiration for “Truth Be Told” and NBC probably thought they were following up “The Carmichael Show” with a show that’s similar in taste and feel, but that’s not the case.

As a caveat, we’ll keep in mind that we’ve seen only the pilot episode, perhaps later episodes of “Truth Be Told” are more honest and raw. The show’s intentions are good and it’s rooted in sweetness but without smarter jokes and more insightful observations, it will have trouble finding and keeping an audience.