How We Roll Bowls a Good Game on CBS

A new CBS sitcom tells of one man's journey from the unemployment line to the peak of the professional bowling world

A new CBS sitcom tells of one man’s journey from the unemployment line to the peak of the professional bowling world

This new series looks to be right up Pete Holmes’ alley. The comedian, who previously starred in HBO’s Crashing and TBS late-night talker The Pete Holmes Show, makes the leap from cable to broadcast—and also from semi-autobiographical material to someone else’s saga. CBS’s How We Roll is based on the true story of Tom Smallwood, a downsized Midwestern auto worker who decides to pursue his dream of becoming a pro bowler, supported by his wife (Scandal alum Katie Lowes) and an alley proprietor (Chi McBride, Hawaii Five-0).

Noting such previous Hollywood bowling projects as TV’s Ed and the movies The Big Lebowski and Kingpin, Holmes muses: “I’m not too familiar with the lingo, so I’ll just say that this is about real, heavy-ball bowling. My experience with bowling is similar to that of maybe most Americans… it’s something I don’t do that often, but when I do, I remember how much fun it is.”

“I was lucky enough to have a few lessons with professionals,” Holmes notes of his preparation for the series. “I didn’t learn so much how to bowl, but how to look like I know how to bowl. And they told me very interesting stories about hustling when they were growing up and taking people for a lot of money, because nobody expects anyone to be very good at bowling. But these people were.”

Still, Holmes is relieved that he has to look proficient only to a certain degree: “Even when we do an episode that hinges on a tournament, in most of the scenes, I’ve either just finished bowling or I’m about to bowl. The reason for that is that the show really is about friendship and family and the work relationships you have. In this case, the job is bowling.”

Since much of his earlier comedy stemmed from his own life, Holmes finds How We Roll a major change in that way. “I really like it,” the actor maintains. “Coming from a comedy background, my first concern is always nailing the joke. Then, it slowly hit me that I have an opportunity to build a character here. It’s what so many actors do on so many jobs, but so often, I’ve played myself. I’m starting for the first time to go, ‘Wait. I’m going to answer some questions about this person just for me.’ ”

In the end, Holmes hopes the appeal of How We Roll will be that of the game it deals with. “One of the things I’ve learned,” he reflects, “is that bowling used to be a sport for the elite, and it’s just sort of evolved into an event for everyone.” 

How We Roll debuts Thursday, March 31st at 9:30 p.m. on Global and CBS