In what universe is The Rock considered funny? He certainly is successful, popular and steeped in all of the symbols of wealth. But funny? Has anyone seen “Ballers”?
The new sitcom “Young Rock” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-14) deserves some credit for taking a torturous route to present Dwayne Johnson and his larger-than-life persona as someone humble enough to ever have inspired comedy. But it still fails. And because it’s about The Rock, it fails spectacularly.
Set in not so far off 2032, it follows The Rock on a media tour for his presidential campaign. Provoked by a fawning interviewer to explain how someone as rich and famous as himself can identify with the people, Rock reminisces about his past. But in trying to make himself sound “normal,” he only accentuates his peculiar upbringing.
Basically, he is a giant professional wrestler descended from a family of giant wrestlers who counted Andre the Giant (Matthew Willig) among their friends. It would be easier to make a comedy about the Michelin Man or a balloon from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
We meet a number of young performers playing a fledgling Rock, first as a cute boy crashing a poker game of pituitary cases, second as a shoplifting high school wannabe and then as a brash star for the University of Miami football team.
Watching him break records bench-pressing weights might be impressive on some levels, but I was hard pressed to find the laughs. “Young Rock” is so desperate to scrounge up humor, it tacks on a story about high-school-age Rock befriending a homeless stoner who passes on life lessons and wisdom before expiring in front of him. Again, where’s the funny? Homelessness and death! Cue the laugh track!
• Kenan Thompson’s near-20-year run on “SNL” certainly qualifies him as a comedian. So, it’s curious why “Kenan” (7:30 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) seems almost as contrived as “Young Rock.”
The host of a morning TV show, “Wake Up With Kenan,” he still is not over the death of his wife. Even his two cute and precocious daughters realize he needs to move on and tease him about his reliance on self-help books. His colleagues at the show know he’s off his game and beg him to “process” his grief on-air, a process that goes rather badly.
Don Johnson (!) guest-stars as his late wife’s father, Rick, a clingy hugger whose refusal to leave the house seems like something that only could happen in a soon-to-be canceled sitcom.
The most original laugh on this series is that Rick is in a betting pool that wagers on the plot twists of “This Is Us” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• “The Black Church” (8 p.m., PBS, TV-14, check local listings) surveys the role of Christianity in African American history, society and identity. Produced by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., it features an interview with Rev. Raphael Warnock, recently elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia.
TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• A friendly face returns on “The Resident” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” (7 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings) helps Pharrell Williams and Kasi Lemmons find the identities of their slave ancestors.
• Sisters put their squabbles aside on the fifth season opener of “Queen Sugar” (7 p.m., OWN, TV-14).
• A killing spree seems familiar on “FBI” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
• Bright ponders an alternate reality on an “It’s a Wonderful Life”-inspired episode of “Prodigal Son” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• A hacker takes control of a vehicle, killing three, on “FBI: Most Wanted” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
• A rapid recovery has its own side effects on “Nurses” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• Cassie encounters Ronald on “Big Sky” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
• Marcus recalls a bet on a toy company made during an earlier season of “The Profit” (9 p.m., CNBC).