It's strange that it doesn't seem more surprising, the news that Dwyane Wade has sold a half-hour sitcom to Fox. Objectively, this is a very strange thing. Wade has no experience in comedy or television, and TV heads and fans alike know that NBA players haven't had much success in network television comedy -- while the surreal, Charlie Kaufman-helmed 1994 Sam Cassel vehicle "C'mon Ref!" has a cult following, the numbers say that no NBA player has been a part of a hit TV show since Milwaukee Bucks great Jack Sikma scored with the tall-guy-opens-hair-salon series "Heads Up" back in 1985. More recently, as you'll recall, Dwight Howard's variety show "Skittles Presents: Check It Out, Okay Okay Now I'm A Robot Bee Boop" was canceled after just three episodes and dismal reviews.
But if Wade's prospective show -- which is apparently a real thing, and is entitled "Three the Hard Way" -- doesn't seem as weird as it inarguably is, it's mostly because NBA fans have joked about something like this for some time. If I, myself, have not written some dumb tweet about remaking Three Men And A Baby with Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James -- except instead of a baby, it's Mario Chalmers, and they just scream at him all the time -- it's only because I assumed someone else already had come up with the idea.
The plot of "Three the Hard Way" is familiar enough. A star player -- named Daryl Wade, in an apparent nod to Tony Danza's career-spanning menagerie of Overstated Guys Named Tony -- and his "eccentric entourage" have to grow up fast when (Daryl) Wade gets custody of his two young sons. At its worst, this would be "Two and a Half Men" with -- we can only assume -- less biliously problematic views on women and a protagonist who is good at basketball instead of good at having Charlie Sheen Drug Eyes. The best case scenario would be something like an episode of "30 Rock" from which every character besides Tracy, Grizz and Dot-Com has been removed, which could actually be good. It's too early to know how well it will work, but not at all too early to make suggestions.
Here, then, are some notes on how to make "Three the Hard Way" the show it could be. I won't pretend to be a TV expert, although I have seen a great many episodes of A&E's "Storage Wars" over the last few years. But I'm pretty sure I had this idea before Wade and his co-producers did. I just didn't tweet anything about it because this is frankly not that funny an idea for a sitcom. Anyway, so:
DO make sure the characters are believable. An easy fix on this front before we go any further: no one is going to believe an NBA star named Daryl Wade. Let's name him Drayl. (It's still pronounced Daryl.)
DON'T limit yourself by playing to old sitcom tropes. Most notably, the kids need to be more than just punchline dispensaries and cute props -- there's nothing more depressing than a little kid mouthing some chronically coffee-breathed fortysomething sitcom vet's insults. Let the kids breathe! Let them be kids! One idea: Drayl's youngest son, Dnoald (pronounced Donald), has a stuffed dinosaur that he believes comes to life at night. And guess what? It does come alive at night, and has a decidedly no-nonsense outlook. And now you also have a role for Chris Bosh, so you're welcome on that, too.
DO be willing to lean on the "very special episode." Sitcoms have gone away from this sort of thing and moved more towards either antic absurdity or the CBS "everyone sits around a table brutally insulting each other, with breaks for ghoulish canned laughter" model. But let's remember what sitcoms knew in the early 1980s and have apparently forgotten since -- that the purpose of episodic comedy series is to teach viewers valuable and exceptionally obvious lessons. For instance: When a veteran player (guest star Rasheed Wallace) encourages Drayl to try alcohol at a team party, he learns a valuable lesson about responsibility -- and that standing up for yourself is cooler than any drink! That's free of charge, by the way. Do like 25 more of those and we're all onstage at the Emmys, thanking our stylists.
DON'T try to do too much. Sitcoms are sitcoms, and while there are always a few that break molds and change ideas, we'd do well to remember that delicious things like bundt cakes also come out of molds and that ideas are often totally stupid. So let's get some old scripts, update them with evergreen references about social networking and popular music, and get it popping. For instance: Drayl is having his boss (LeBron James) over for dinner. But three men in a kitchen doesn't necessarily lead to a win! Guest starring: Guy Fieri, John Schnatter. Then they get in a debate about Snapchat and Rich Homie Quan. Not only will it be funny, it will still be funny in 2017, when both those references will still resonate and everyone's stacking that syndication cheese.
DO let the supporting characters shine. Dwyane Wade is a team player, so he knows this. But while Drayl, Dnoald and sassy older sister Kmiberly are the heart of the show, the role players have to be free to put numbers on the boards. Some suggestions on these supporting characters include "Uncle Damon" (Damon Jones), a fast-talking relative with a weakness for get-rich-quick schemes -- you'll love it when he tries to sell Dwyane a bunch of ABIBAS sneakers -- and Big Golem (Shaquille O'Neal), a member of the entourage who never, ever speaks. It's also probably a good idea to have a moral compass -- I'd propose Old Rick Ross, an older and wiser version of the popular rapper played by Reginald VelJohnson. And, in a nod to sitcom tradition, there should be a nutty neighbor. At Wade's insistence, the character will be named Mario Chalmers and also be played by Mario Chalmers, and Drayl will scream at him relentlessly for things he didn't even do. I don't see how this is funny, exactly, but Wade will insist upon it.
So. This is all preliminary, of course. This show isn't even a show yet, and we'd do well to let Wade and his collaborators figure things out. But if Wade trusts his comedic instincts -- remember when he said he'd only answer to "Three"? -- there's no reason why this show shouldn't be a winner, and one of the best NBA-themed family sitcoms we've seen in some time.