Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Average Joe, on BET+

It is sort of like A Simple Plan, but in Pittsburgh instead of rural Minnesota. It turns out that is a more dangerous place to squabble over misplaced drug money, considering how freely the Russian mob operates there. Joe Washington’s dad worked as a mule for the “Thieves by Law,” until his accidental death, but not before he stole 10 million dollars and a Lamborghini we have yet to see. Not surprisingly, the Russian mob wants it all back in creator Robb Cullen’s Average Joe, which is now streaming on BET Plus.

Washington and his friends are struggling to get by. His wife Angela should see a specialist and his daughter Jennifer will need college tuition. Leon Montgomery’s hardware store is barely scraping by, while their friend Benjamin “Touch” Tuchawuski, a white desk-cop, as they frequently point out, is wracked with guilt over a family tragedy. Nobody would have thought Washington’s dad had ten million bucks laying around, so he is quite surprised when the Russian gangsters start asking for it, in a rather rude manner.

Quite awkwardly, one of them happens to be Dimitri Dzhugashvili, his daughter’s boyfriend. Frankly, Washington never really liked him, even before Dzhugashvili’s goon started breaking his fingers. However, ten million would solve a lot of problems. They would solve a lot of problems for Montgomery and Tuchawuski too, who also get involved. Despite their clueless reluctance, Washington’s family and Montgomery’s true crime-binging wife Cathy soon also get mired in their scheme.

Based on the first two episodes,
Average Joe is surprisingly funny, in a one-darned-thing-after-another kind of way, especially the second episode, which really leans into the morbid humor. Cullen and the writing team have already buried Washington in a host of troubles worthy of an average Job. They also have a decent handle on how the Thieves By Law operate. Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to cross them.

Deon Cole is perfectly cast as the deadpan everyman. He plays Washington as a total dad, while every else around him is out of control. Probably Cynthia Kaye McWilliams gets the most laughs as Cathy Montgomery, who is a real handful, while Michael Trucco gives the most tragically human performance as the self-medicating Tuchawuski. Of course, seeing professional Russian bad guy Pasha D. Lychnikoff turns up as the head of the Dzhugashvili crime clan immediately makes them a credible threat.

Washington is a plumber, a profession that does not inspire a lot of warm fuzzies from many home-owners, but viewers still pull for the hapless guy anyway (at least we do thus far). Aside from some flat cop jokes, the writing is sharp and the energy is brisk. Recommended so far, the first two episodes of
Average Joe now stream on BET Plus.