'Halfway Home': A Cast of Characters

Comedy Central's new series Halfway Home, which debuts Wednesday night, is an improvised comedy about five ex-cons in a live-in rehab center.

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If you're a fan of the Comedy Central show "Reno 911!" and transitional housing for criminals, you're in luck. Tonight, the network debuts "Halfway Home" about a halfway house. It's brought to you by the same people who made the fake cop show, and TV critic Andrew Wallenstein says it's not half bad.

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN: You know something's wrong when the manager at a rehab facility is the craziest one there. That just might be the problem at the fictional Crenshaw Halfway House for criminals. Here an annoying arsonist named Allen - played by Regan Burns - stumbles upon his supervisor Kenny played by Kevin Ruf engaged in an illegal activity.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Halfway Home")

Mr. KEVIN RUF (Actor): (as Kenny) Allen.

Mr. REGAN BURNS (Actor): (as Allen) What are you doing?

Mr. RUF: (as Kenny) Just come here. Just come here. Come here.

Mr. BURNS: (as Allen) You're using drugs.

Mr. RUF: (as Kenny) Yeah. I'm using drugs because it happens to be medical marijuana, and I have a prescription.

Mr. BURNS: (as Allen) We're not allowed to use drugs. There's no drugs in this house. This is a drug free zone.

Mr. RUF: (as Kenny) For the residents, okay? But I need it. I've got irritable bowel syndrome. Just…

Mr. BURNS: (as Allen) I have to…

WALLENSTEIN: Allen is one of a quintet of nutty ex-cons living together in "Halfway Home," an improvised comedy that is just pure, bawdy fun. "Halfway Home" gets points for just having the nerve to stage a comedy in a setting that probably normally doesn't get a lot of laughs. Still, a premise only takes you so far. What pushes this comedy to the next level is memorable characters that are all played with go-for-broke gusto by a cast of mostly unknowns.

My favorite is Jordan Black. He plays the always manic Sebastian, who also goes by the name C-Bass. The nickname is all part of his futile attempt to project himself as a dangerous gangsta. Turns out, he's just a harmless suburbanite busted for Internet fraud. In this scene C-Bass tries to convince his fellow residents he's a terrorist so he can get rid of that annoying arsonist, Allen.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Halfway Home")

Mr. JORDAN BLACK (Actor): (as Sebastian "C-Bass" Yates) As you'll know, I'm a Muslim - bonafide, right? Now what you all didn't know is that I'm a sleeper. Say a what? S to the L to the double E-P-E-R, C to the E-double L - like what the hell? I'm a sleeper cell. What? Holler at your boy. But I can wake myself up, blow myself up and take your boy Allen with me. I'm gonna be chillin' with them 70 virgins, getting my groove on. You know how we do. You know how we…

Unidentified Woman: Sebastian, Sebastian, this is serious business. You ain't no Muslim. You a little rich boy from Calabasas who's never had to struggle…

WALLENSTEIN: The only recognizable face in this case is Oscar Nunez. You might remember him from his mild-mannered role on the NBC hit "The Office". Here, Nunez takes a 180 degree turn, playing a manipulative male prostitute. If C-Bass isn't stealing the scene, you can bet Nunez's character is.

This show "Halfway Home" will remind Comedy Central fans a lot of "Reno 911!" both shows have the same loose, improvised style that often feels like a bunch of funny folks just found a camera and riffed on the spot. But therein lies the risk for Comedy Central. The network does not have a good track record with shows that lack stars. Nevertheless, I'm going to hold out hope for "Halfway Home." It's good comedy. But if all else fails, hey, they make great guest stars as criminals on "Reno 911!".

BURBANK: Andrew Wallenstein is a writer for the "Hollywood Reporter."

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