Thursday, September 23, 2010

The new TV season so far

It’s only the first week of the new season but so far comedy has not kicked ass. Last year was a banner bounce-back season for the genre. Freshman shows like MODERN FAMILY and GLEE became breakout hits and others like COUGAR TOWN and THE MIDDLE at least managed to grab a toehold. I haven’t seen all the new entries this year but so far things are not looking good – either creatively or ratingswise.

And understand, I’m really rooting for these guys. I want to see sitcoms come back in a big way. But so far I’ve been disappointed. Doubly so because the creative teams behind many of these new series have turned out great work before.

So far, if there's one common denominator it's that all of these new shows seem to be making ass-fun of easy targets – overweight people, white trash, senility, the silly rich.

I love Chuck Lorre’s BIG BANG THEORY. But MIKE & MOLLY is just awful. Fat jokes, fart jokes, stock cartoon side characters, and two leads who are very likeable but not particularly funny. We see two fat people wedged in a stairway, tables collapsing under the weight of the star. Lip service is paid to the plight of overweight people then they ask one to say, “Lose three pounds? My farts weigh more than three pounds”. You don’t have to be Noel Coward but Jesus, come on guys.

The premiere numbers weren’t great. They didn’t hold as much of TWO MEN’S audience as everyone would have liked, and my guess is their numbers will slide.

RAISING HOPE is a knockoff of RAISING ARIZONA. Greg Garcia is one of my favorite writers and Martha Plimpton is an amazing actress, but this show felt like all the white trash jokes they couldn’t get to on MY NAME IS EARL they jammed in here. Not to mention a plethora of old age dementia jokes. Cloris Leachman parading around in just a bra. There should be a whole separate TV warning letter for that. Maybe "Y". "This show is rated "Y" for excessive amount of times you'll say 'yikes'!"

And watching RUNNING WILDE from Mitch Hurwitz (who gave us the inspired ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) was like watching Willie Mays be a greeter in Atlantic City. First off, and I realize this may just be me, but I don’t get Will Arnett. For me he is not funny for a second. Never real. Always over-the-top. Always playing the same character. As for the subject matter, just contrast how Mitch Hurwitz treats an aimless rich boy vs. what Steve Gordon did with the same character in ARTHUR. One is crass, ridiculous, and you don’t give a shit about him. The other is hilarious, sympathetic, and surprisingly real.

Neither show did well for Fox. HOPE dropped off 50% in key demos from it's strong lead-in, GLEE. WILDE did worse. Of course, nothing is doing well for Fox. Heavily-promoted LONE STAR was a disaster. Their schedule could be in trouble. And I don't think J-Lo is going to save it.

Tonight we have OUTSOURCED on NBC, which according to scuttlebutt is a half hour of Apu jokes. There are also the two romantic comedies that are essentially the same show. We’ll see how they fare.

And I haven’t seen *! &!” MY FATHER SAID on CBS. But I heard somewhere that a lot of DVR’S can’t read all the symbols in the title so you can’t pre-record it. And if that’s the case, then they are in deep *! &!”. Reviews have not been kind.

Shows often take time to find their groove. It’s not really fair to judge a series based strictly on their pilot. They may all still turn it around. Of the three, I think RAISING HOPE has the best chance. With Greg Garcia at the helm I’m willing to keep coming back. But only if Cloris is dressed.

And there’s always the back-up series. Maybe the next GLEE or MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (non-Fall premieres) will be in that crop. I don’t know. But I do know this: producers of those shows are being asked to get them ready to air FAST. That can't be a good sign.

44 comments:

amyp3 said...

I was looking forward to a few things this year, and mostly disappointed so far.

I lasted about three minutes with "Raising Hope." Watched "Wilde" because I like Arnett's missus, so indirectly rooting for him. But yeah, awk-ward.

"The Event" is the drama version of the above. I'm rooting for Detroit 187 simply because it's set here in Detroit.

As for the returning shows - I turned off "Glee" *during* the first musical numbers. And that used to be the main reason I'd watch, when I did watch.
I need more time and a whole 'nother post for "Outsourced."

Gus said...

Network development "help" is at an all-time high.

Network "must-see TV" is near an all-time low.

Coincidence?

Rulp said...

I don't get the critical hate for "Running Wilde." I thought it was pretty funny. Looking at the reviews--Alan Sepinwall's, James Poniewozick, Maureen Ryan, the AV Club--and then the comments, there seems to be a pattern: the pros hate it, the commenters think it's okay, or better than okay. I don't know what to make of this, except to reiterate: I thought it was funny.

We can agree to disagree of Arnett--he was my favorite character on AD, and I think he's very funny in general. What you see as artificiality, I see as stylistic uniqueness, I guess. But when an actor rubs you the wrong way, there's no being talked out of it. I have the same thing with Clare Danes--she just irritates the hell out of me, even in her eyelash commercial.

Rich said...

We watched and liked "Raising Hope". I do like Greg Garcia so maybe I'm biased.

"Wilde" was simply unwatchable. I gave it about 5 minutes (The horse in the backseat) and that was it. I think that's the first time I've never even finished a half-hour show's pilot.

Ed Blonski said...

We watched "The Defenders." Not sure what to think. I mean, I liked it, I guess. My wife and I watched it because of Jim Belushi. Both he and Jerry O'Connell were good. But my initial reaction was they were trying too hard.

My son and I are eagerly awaiting the return of "The Good Guys." I've like everything Bradley Whitford has done and Colin Hanks is funny and good.

Anonymous said...

"Raising Hope" was enjoyable, even if it is a bit like "My Name Is Earl". That's okay with me since "Earl" ended too sooon.

Frank!!! said...

"this show felt like all the white trash jokes they couldn’t get to on MY NAME IS EARL they jammed in here."

I don't find many of these joke to be "white trash" jokes as, "meta" white trash joke. As in, "Do you REALLY think someone would carry around a baby in shopping cart and feed it through a rubber glove?" It's exaggerated version with a kernel of truth. It's not mocking "white trash" so much as it is mocking those who would take that version of these people seriously.

(Kind of the opposite of 30 Rock... "Do you REALLY think TV stars are that ridiculous?")

I'm in on this one.

Ron said...

My favorite new show is Phoef Sutton's the Terriers on FX and I seldom watch FX. I wish The Good Guys, Rizzoli and Isles and Memphis Beat make a quick reappearance.
How about a comedy Western along the lines of Maverick?

cjdahl60 said...

Here's an interesting post to a "scientific" study of the best sitcoms of all time. "Cheers" made the finals:

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Retrospace/~3/cWG-rQJvg8k/bracketology-greatest-sitcom-of-all.html

brigadude said...

For me the most surprising disappointment of the new season is James Burrows' direction of the "Better With You" pilot. Were those the performances that he really wanted? Really?

DawnMarie said...

I don't know if you are limiting the discussion to commercial TV, but I was wondering what people here thought of Showtime's 'The Big C' with Laura Linney. I had high hopes, but have been shocked at how awful it is (IMO). I mean, really jaw-droppingly bad, from the writing to the performances. Everyone seems to be preening for the camera, like they think they are in a mock-doc. As a non-professional who is just very interested in what makes one production work and one fail, I'd like to see people's opinions about that show.

Anonymous said...

Modern Family did not diasappoint last night. I think all men can relate to being somewhat incompetent with certain power tools, but Mitchell was funny as hell.

Dave from Athens

Anonymous said...

Soft targets all the time across the pond, too. Soft targets, soft writing, soft click of TV going off.

Kevin B said...

Saw most of "Raising Hope" and enjoyed it. It did have a "My Name is Earl" feel, but I quite enjoyed that show for the first couple seasons.

"Running Wilde" had it's moments, and I'll give it another shot.

"Mike & Molly" had about two funny lines, and they were from the supporting cast.

Saw "Better Than You" last night and chuckled a few times. It's not hilarious, but has a "cute" factor.
@ brigadude re: James Burrows' direction of the "Better With You" pilot... Could he have *made* that one guy act more like Chandler Bing? (That was supposed to be read in a Chandler Bing delivery, naturally.) I thought the whole thing felt "Friends"ish. Of course knowing Shana Goldberg-Meehan wrote it, I was looking for it. I'll give it another look next week.

Eric said...

It seems though, that for every sitcom that "takes time to find it's groove" there are 2 or 3 that put all of their best jokes into the pilot and are never that good again.

HEATHER said...

Ken, what I want to know is who is Jennifer Finnigan sleeping with to keep getting the green light on ridiculous and cringe inducing pilots? I don't care if it was a James Burrows show-it was AWFUL!
Detroit 187 is one of the best shows I've seen in a long time! Really hope it can hang on.
I liked Lone Star, but I see that Fox is already sounding the death knell for it.

Mike Barer said...

Ratings can be tricky because of DVR or on demand. Plus there was an exciting Monday Night Football game, even so 2 and a half Men was not as funny.

Sandy Koufax said...

Sorry to see that "Two and a Half Men" has finally hit the wall. The same 'joke' just doesn't seem to be working for me this season. If it wasn't for Jake, I think they would have already been finished. At least they can play off of his character.

Hologramma said...

I'm liking "Terriers" a lot. And I thought "Raising Hope" had potential, but I'll be wary about it. Like another commenter said, all the pros and critics are panning it, but the masses seem to love RH. Terriers is the opposite: critics like it, the masses don't, except for a hardcore internet contingent. I'm definitely consistent...I'll be over in the corner hugging all my box sets of Firefly and Veronica Mars.

Matt said...

I don't know about anyone else, but COUGAR TOWN annoys the hell out of me. It's chaotic. I feel like I'm having a panic attack and then I realize that I'm only watching this show. Courtney Cox rushes around with a painted on smile maniacally blurting lines at 100 miles per hour.

Larry said...

I don't watch that many sitcoms, so I'm especially annoyed that Big Bang Theory and Community, two that I do watch, are going up against each other this season.

Todd said...

Hi Ken, a screenwriter friend recently turned me on to your posts. So glad he did. Really enjoying them! Keep em coming!

Todd Klick
writerwrench.com

Blaze said...

It's pretty sad that I get more smiles from side banter between characters in action/crime shows than in the "comedies" being offered.

mac said...

I've only seen clips of Mike and Molly but I'm not going to let that stop me having a theory about it - I reckon it's a cynical attempt to appeal to the large and growing demographic of obese people. Like comfort food, an attempt to create comfort comedy for overweight people to see themselves as humorous rather than endangering their own health. And, more cynically , for non-overweight people to laugh at them. Fine if you create a Homer Simpson with staggeringly good gags, but if you just create two people who just break furniture (and wind), not so good. It could be bollocks - my theories often are, but you can't help wondering what came first - the focus group results or the premise?
Re. Will Arnett, I'm afraid I have to agree that he's only able to do one thing. As one who worshipped at the altar of Arrested Development, it's tough to keep the faith.

l.a.guy said...

I disagree about Arnett-- maybe he's acquired taste. To me he sort of has the Charles Grodin vibe. In the right roles I think he's good.

Anonymous said...

I hope Modern Family gets better or at least good. It's the only show keeping me tuned to network tv. But if last night was any indication, the sophomore (hi)jinx is on. It felt like the j.v. squad wrote the show.

te said...

"Better with You" has JoAnna Garcia.
That's enough for me.

D. McEwan said...

I am glad to learn I'm not the only person who has never gotten all the love lavished on Will Arnett. He's never done a thing for me, but I've felt like the kid who noticed he Emperor was naked. Everyone else keeps saying Arnett's great.

How excruciatingly bad was the premiere of BETTER WITH YOU? I turned it off 12 minutes in, and went to work on my Huff Po column. When I choose work over a watching a sit-com, it really sucks. Terrible writing. Wretched excuses for gags, charm-free characters, and a laff-track that would find "That was no lady; that was my wife" screamingly hysterical. How on earth did the great James Burrows get sucked into directing this garbage?

Pat Reeder said...

I work in the evenings and haven't had time to watch any of these shows on the DVR yet, but thank you for finally pointing out the obvious about Will Arnett, who annoys me as much as Will Ferrell. And I'll add a little extra fuel to the flame wars. I am completely baffled by the non-stop shirt-rending over the cancellation of "Arrested Development." I watched it for awhile, found it more frantic than funny, with a lot of annoying and obnoxious characters I didn't give a damn about, and tuned out. Along with several million other people, I might add (it wasn't unjustly ignored; it pulled high ratings that slowly eroded). A fellow comedy writer called me once when it was still on and without even saying "Hello," he demanded, "What do you think of 'Arrested Development?'" I said what I said above, and he replied, "THANK YOU! That's exactly what I think, and I'm sick of people in the industry calling me to nag me to keep watching it!"

I'm particularly fed up with "Entertainment Weekly," Fark.com and some other outlets where people just can't stop blubbering about "AD" being canceled. Get over it. It's as if I started everything I wrote by whining for five paragraphs about how unfair it was that NBC canceled "My World and Welcome To It."

Geoduck said...

Mac- Speaking as a fat person, I can authoritatively state that watching fellow fat people break wind and furniture is in no way "comfort food".

Mike said...

Wow, a good deal of hate for Better With You. I actually thought it was pretty good; in fact, I laughed more than I did at The Middle before it. (The Middle made me smile, but not laugh out loud. It's a nice show with nice characters and it definitely seems to have heart -- I just don't find it laugh out loud funny.) Stuff My Dad Says was OK, but not great. Still, it showed more heart -- particularly towards the end -- then I thought it would. I'll admit, I did laugh a couple of times at Outsourced, although on the whole it wasn't that great and it's kind of easy to see where it's going. The sitcom I really miss, though, is Parks and Rec., which was one of the best shows of the year last season. It's a shame NBC has apparently decided it can only air four sitcoms at any given time.

Fred said...

The funniest show by far that isn't with us this season is Party Down. I don't care if no one watched, it was hilarious.

xjill said...

Since you only talk about sitcoms in your post I'll do the same - I liked Raising Hope/Arizona.

BBT & Community both had good premieres.

Anonymous said...

I also can't stand Will Arnett - he's smug and unfunny. He's the primary reason I would never watch Running Wilde.

sephim said...

http://www.cracked.com/funny-6528-new-shows/

Hope this is of some assistance in this area...

404 said...

I thought Raising Hope was really, really funny. It might be all white-trash jokes, but they were FUNNY white-trash jokes. It was quirky, and a lot of the jokes came out of left-field for me. Running Wilde was funny, at times, but I'm one of those people who do like Will Arnett. Don't know why.

Mike and Molly was horrible. I wouldn't care that they were all fat jokes, if they were funny fat jokes, but they weren't. I don't think I laughed once. and Outsourced wasn't much better.

WorstWriterEver said...

Modern Family indeed had a really bad season premiere. It felt like they were already recycling storylines and it didn't help that the characters had become less believable and less likable.

I expect that it will get better but at the same time I wouldn't be that surprised if the show tanks this season. We shall see..

elf said...

Regarding "Outsourced," I found the first episode more than amusing enough to keep me coming back. The creators are going to have to be careful to start with humor that comes from the workplace setting, which could be set anywhere, be it India, Scranton, Berlin or Hong Kong, then make sure the cultural humor adds to that and doesn't replace it. Of course having the call center selling novelty products they don't quite comprehend lets them accomplish both at the same time. As long as the humor comes from a place of simply trying to understand the others' cultures and belief systems instead of being dismissive, there is a lot of potential. Some of the lines such as "So this is how you celebrate the birth of the son of your god?" in reference to the mistletoe belt buckle had me snorting. (That's outward snorting, not inward.)

The characters are little more than "types" right now (the hottie, the mouse, the cool guy, the creepy guy, the scheming assistant manager) but there is room for growth. I particularly like that the assistant manager (Rajiv?) is self-serving but realizes the best way for him to succeed is to be as helpful to his new boss as possible so the boss can be promoted and get the boss' job for himself. That's an interesting take on what could have been another Dwight Shrute clone.

sephim said...

So what I'm hearing about OUTSOURCED is that somebody thought the reason the US attempt at THE I.T. CROWD failed was that it wasn't ethnic enough?

wv: flatio - you're doing it wrong...

D. McEwan said...

Well I thought Punction Marks My Dad Says was actually fairly funny. Not great, but watchable. Vastly better than Better With You.

I haven't been able to summon up the courage to watch Outsourced yet. I suppose I should bite the bullet and take a gander.

D. McEwan said...

Ok, now I've watched Outsourced. The good news id, I won't be watching it again. That frees up half an hour.

And the announcement of the new American Idol judges panel frees up a lot of time. Who would want to spend an entire season looking at Steven Tyler? Ugh!

Anonymous said...

The main reason I watched the premiere of RUNNING WILDE was to see Peter Serafinowicz as Arnett's fellow rich idiot. He's great, but just as in COUPLE'S RETREAT, he's being great in spite of the material instead of because of it. My advice? Get a hand on a copy of his self-titled one-season, unjustly-canceled sketch-comedy show from the BBC -- even the weakest material generated more laughs than this turkey.

As for AD, it was funny because the cast was good. I will say this about Mr. Hurwitz; he found a way to make me laugh at David Cross, something I would never do, even with a gun pointed at my head, when Cross performs his own material.

David K. M. Klaus said...

I guess I'm the only one here who cares about or likes The Big C. I love Laura Linney in anything I've ever seen her do, and with my life surrounded by people with cancer right now it's of especial relevance to me.

lsefton said...

All I've seen of Outsourced are the commercials, but is there a reason why the "sacred cow" appears to be a Polled Hereford steer?