Terry Morrow: Supporting cast adds value to Reba McEntire's 'Malibu Country' real estate

Lillie Mae (Lily Tomlin) and Reba (Reba McEntire) share a laugh during "Malibu Country," debuting tonight on ABC.

Photo by Karen Neal, © 2012 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Lillie Mae (Lily Tomlin) and Reba (Reba McEntire) share a laugh during "Malibu Country," debuting tonight on ABC.

You have to hand it to Reba McEntire. Once the woman finds a shtick that works, she sinks her teeth into it and won't let go.

That goes with her "woman-done-wrong" music and, certainly, the same idea for her TV roles.

On her WB sitcom "Reba," she was an ex-wife who was close to sainthood — living next door to her no-count ex-husband and his dumb bunny he left her for. And now, with "Malibu Country" (8:30 p.m. today, WATE, Channel 6), she's a Nashville woman whose country singing star husband admits to cheating, and she dumps him to start life anew in California.

Like "Reba," she plays a twangy woman named Reba and has an assortment of colorful characters in her orbit.

And that's where the old "Reba" and this new "Malibu Country" meet — and where they both work.

McEntire is a serviceable lead, but the real value in "Malibu" comes from its supporting cast, three of which are strong and wise enough to prop up McEntire. The writing and directing are also keen on knowing how to use McEntire effectively, making "Malibu" come off appearing smoother than it really is.

Let's face it. "Malibu" is a paint-by-numbers sitcom. But having snappy talent such as Lily Tomlin as Reba's sassy mom adds a dash of color the palate needs. She's a wonderful but gentle enough foil for Reba.

Sara Rue (formerly the star of ABC's "Less Than Perfect"), as Reba's dimwitted but well-meaning neighbor, bolsters the landscape of "Malibu" as does, surprisingly, Jai Rodriguez, the former reality show star with nice comedy chomps as Geoffrey, a record label assistant.

Altogether, they succeed to make "Malibu" home sweet home.

Score: 3 stars (out of five)

Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or morrowt@knoxville.com.

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