Comedian Rhys Darby has been praised as one of the few bright spots in a new American sitcom that has been roundly slammed by critics.

The Kiwi stand-up star has a supporting role in How to be a Gentleman, an adaptation of a popular John Bridges book that also stars Entourage's Kevin Dillon and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's David Hornsby.

Hornsby plays an etiquette writer called Andrew who is forced to team up with his former High School bully Bert (Dillon) in a bid to "man up" and attract a younger audience to his magazine.

Darby plays Andrew's brother-in-law Mike and he has been one of few bright points in a show that has received almost universal scorn.


Since debuting on the CBS network on September 29, How to be a Gentleman has just a 42 per cent approval rating on review aggregate site Metacritic.

Darby, who has carved out a Hollywood career in films like Yes Man and The Boat That Rocked since appearing as band manager Murray in Flight of the Conchords, has been singled out for praise by several critics.

"At the very least, this is the show that has kept Rhys Darby ... on American television; as Andrew's cowed but cheerful brother-in-law, he provides the random weirdness that keeps the show from becoming too schematic," said Robert Lloyd from the LA Times.

Robert Canning from IGN agreed, saying Darby was "the only true bright spot in the pilot episode".

"It's a similar character to Murray, in that he's a bit clueless but still tries. His character in How to be a Gentleman still gets lost in the blandness of everything, but he had more funny moments than the rest of the cast.

"You even got a sense that some of his better lines were improvised, which added to the feeling that this character will standout a bit from the rest of the conforming stereotypes at play."

But critics have been merciless in their savaging of the rest of the show.

Under the headline "Gentleman is all manner of bad," USA Today's Robert Bianco said the show was "painful".

"What this country needs are a lot more gentlemen - and one less show making fun of them," said Bianco.

Reviewer Lori Racki from the Chicago Sun-Times predicted Gentleman, of which 13 episodes have been made, would soon be cancelled.

"I hope Andrew has penned an etiquette column on how a gentleman handles getting cancelled by a network, because he's going to need it," she said.

And Tim Goodman from The Hollywood Reporter said: "It's painful to watch so many talented comedic actors, like Darby, (Mary Lynn) Rajskub, and Dave Foley, who plays Andrew's boss at the magazine, suffer with this material."

Check out a behind-the-scenes feature on the show, including an interview with Darby, below:

- Herald online