A new and improved Guilt Free Zone

Admittedly, I had never heard of Guilt Free Zone, so quite obviously I had never seen it before. That also meant the total revamp of the series—returning Saturday at 11:30 p.m. ET—was entirely lost on me. Also, I have to admit that I am not much of a blues fan either. However,  the screeners were passed on for me to take a look and I went in with no preconceptions and no Season 1—GFZ was more of a talk show last year—to compare with before I watched a couple of episodes.

I laughed. Some of the gags seemed a bit forced, the way live theatre often looks on TV. But still, I laughed. A few gags were predictable. I still laughed. Out loud. As a variety show, Guilt Free Zone kind of works for me. If you go back and watch old reels of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour or Laugh-In (yes, I know that dates me, but really how many comedy variety shows are out there these days?), those gags were forced, but they worked. They work here too.

Guilt Free Zone is set in a fictional blues bar owned and operated by none other than Derek Miller. He won the bar from its original owner in a poker game.  I do have to wonder if that was an intentional loss. Be that as it may, in each episode our stalwart cast of miscreants must battle back forces of evil to protect their new hangout. The cast is made up of Miller, Amy Matysio (Just Friends), Darrell Dennis (Leaving Normal), Herbie Barnes (Dance Me Outside), Michaela Washburn (Video Cabaret), Camille Stopps (Reign) and Craig Lauzon (Royal Canadian Air Farce).

The premiere episode, entitled “Science,” directed by Darrell Dennis, also features a special guest appearance by Gary Farmer (Blackstone and Forever Knight). The team battles asteroids, tornadoes and hurricanes; the world is in danger of complete destruction by mother nature’s wrath. If everyone worrying about the apocalypse, no one will bother coming down to the bar for that night’s gig. Our team must come up with a solution to ensure a full house.

Yes, the premise is quirky—even absurd—but Miller and castmate Herbie Barnes play off each other well. (The satirical nod to Iron Eyes Cody’s Make America Beautiful Again is perfect). The addition of Farmer as one of the Oracles is priceless. His proclamation “the only way to restore balance to nature is with nature” is kind of genius! I won’t give away the solution. Episode 1’s musical guests are Lee Harvey Osmond and Logan Stats.

A fun little show overall.

Guilt Free Zone airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. ET on APTN.