Monday, October 07, 2013

My thoughts on the new sitcoms

Got the chance to see a lot of the new comedies. I liked some but can’t honestly say any really knocked me out. And I was really hoping a few did. I have friends who work on some of these shows. And I love nothing more than watching a funny sitcom. It’s why I got into the business in the first place (well, that and getting fired eighteen times in radio).  I do understand that these were only the pilots and any of them could blossom over time into great shows (except DADS).

Anyway, a few first impressions:

MOM – For me the best of the bunch. Anna Faris and Allison Janey really click together. And I like the contrast between the bright cheerful multi-camera look of the show and how dark the subject matter is. Some great jokes and a promising start.

THE MICHEAL J. FOX SHOW – I like him and the show is intelligently written. But so far most of the humor has come from Parkinson’s Disease. How long can they play that card?

THE GOLDBERGS – I heard such good buzz and was really looking forward to this one. I love all the pop culture references, Jeff Garlin makes me laugh, and I guess it’s supposed to be WONDER YEARS in the ‘80s but for me it was AMOS & ANDY with Jews.

THE MILLERS – Margo Martindale is a goddess. Her work on JUSTIFIED was inspired. Her turn on THE AMERICANS was chilling. And here they have this wonderful actress doing fart jokes. Beau Bridges is doing masturbating in the shower jokes. And Will Arnett plays the same tired character he’s played in seven other shows. Will Arnett is not a draw. He’s the Ryan Reynolds of television.  Usually I love Greg Garcia comedies but this one was too low brow for me. 

DADS – Horrendous.

SUPER FUN NIGHT – The fact that ABC was afraid to show the pilot first tells you something, doesn’t it? Rebel Wilson is funny in everything she’s in… except this. This show seems incredibly impressed with itself and I know not why.

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY – Mike O’Malley, fresh from an amazing performance in JUSTIFIED, returns to sitcomland in another bland family comedy. Come on, Mike. You’re better than that. And so is Mary McCormick, who I adored in IN PLAIN SIGHT. Mild single-camera culture-clash premise that felt like a slapped together first draft before you go back and put all the jokes in it.

TROPHY WIFE – Malin Akerman as a poor man’s Jenny McCarthy. There was a scene in the pilot when she was supposed to be roaring drunk that I thought, “Wow. A real comic actress could make this scene sing.” It’s not enough to get a trophy wife, you have to get the right one.

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE – Good cast. Andy Samberg knows his way around a joke, and there are some laughs, but I’ve seen that wise-ass flippant anti-authority character is twenty other shows and it gets tiresome. I worry where the series is going. My hope is the other characters will emerge and Andy will fade into the background a little and ultimately they’ll all gel into a nice ensemble comedy.

THE CRAZY ONES – you know.

And the others I haven't seen so I can't comment.

However, I will say this – there was one show that really made me laugh. It’s a returning show. I watched their season premiere. I’ll tell you what it is tomorrow and I bet you can’t guess what it is. See you Tuesday.

48 comments:

Michael said...

Friday question: Is there a "statute of limitations" in terms of how long need to wait before re-using a joke from another show or comedian ? ie. do you think Roseanne is right in complaining about Two And A Half Men re-using one of her jokes?

Johnny Walker said...

The Good Wife?

Anonymous said...

Back In the Game is really fun and funny.

Anonymous said...

“A poor man’s Jenny McCarthy?” Isn’t that redundant?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Johnny: indeed. THE GOOD WIFE often has the best jokes and biggest laughs of the week. Though I didn't think the premiere was particularly funny (this week's NSA stuff, though...fabulous).

I'm intrigued by MOM for the reasons you've said, but ultimately you want to swoop in and grab the baby before those people can damage it.

wg

ScottyB said...

I'm one of those broke-ass people in this country who survive without cable TV, so Ken's posts that wax nostalgic about how momentous the rollout of each new network-TV fall season was still has relevance to me today. I'm only slightly younger than Ken, so I remember those halcyon days of late summer, especially during the early 1970s. ABC's "Still The One" rollout promo is forever burned in my mind, especially since I really dug the song by Orleans.

'The Goldbergs' has been the only one so far that's even gotten a laugh out of me, altho I haven't seen 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine'. Yeah, it is kinda like a 'Wonder Years' adopted foster child, but how many kids remember that show? But most importantly tho, that seems the only one out of the bunch that has actual *comedy* writing in it that's worth a shit.

I kept wanting to like the Michael J. Fox Show, but all I kept thinking was this show is what you'd get if 'Thirtysomething' intentionally tried to throw in some humor. It just seems confused over what kind of show it wants to be. A comedrama, maybe? I dunno. It just doesn't connect on a funny level.

Sadly, I see that Fox has sentenced 'Raising Hope' -- which *is* genuinely fucking funny and original -- to the Friday nite death slot and a November season premiere.

Well, at least 'The Simpsons' are still around. We've still got that.

Chris G said...

I've enjoyed Brooklyn Nine Nine so far, mainly for Andre Braugher. I'm hoping it turns into another Parks and Rec.

HCarvalho said...

Parks and Recreation, an amzing return.

Pete Grossman said...

My wife and I felt "The Millers" gave us the most laughs. Let's face it, farts are funny. Yes, some of the bits bordered on the creepy, but rode the edge pretty well. We howeled at Dirty Dancing sequence and think Will Arnett is well matched for this role. Of course, in the sitcom formula you need a dimwit. We're hoping the writers don't make Beau Bridges too much of an idiot as it will get old fast. Indeed Margo Martindale is great.

For us, The Goldbergs is too mean and nasty. Feels like forced mishigas (that's a technical term for craziness - has nothing to do with farting).

Tim said...

I'm getting tired of all the outrageous, over-the-top aging parents and their beleagured adult children.

Christopher said...

Pete: "Let's face it, farts are funny."

Yeah. When I was 8.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good returning shows, from Modern Family and Big Bang, both of which everyone sees, to The Middle which is one of those shows that is so under the radar I forget I really like it until I watch it.

BTW, your Captcha thingie is so hard to make out and the verbal one so impossible to hear that I never have any idea if what I write will make the comments. Hope it does. But isn't there something else that will do what you need and yet allow us to easily respond?
-MarvW

Ed said...

The best part of The Goldbergs is the real home footage shown during the end-credits.

No kidding, when you see the show, then see the real footage, it's a fantastic way to cap the show.

However, if the end-credits are the highlights...that can't be good.

I liked Mom for the same reassons (except for the one about having friends working on the show...following Nick Bakay on Twitter probably doesn't count as being friends with him).

Jim S said...

I will say this about Brooklyn-Nine-Nine. They avoid a lot of stereotypes. The precinct isn't the worst precinct in the city a la Hill Street Blues. The captain isn't an unreasonable authority figure. He's a smart guy who wants to do a good job and hasn't been able to because he's gay. Andre Braugher is playing gay like he plays every other role, intense and strong minded, so no stereotype there. Adam Sandberg is playing someone who is used to getting his own way so doesn't like it when the new boss cracks down, but he doesn't hate the new boss. And I get the sense that he would never humiliate the boss in front of the brass. It's pretty decent and could use some fine tuning, but it's funny enough that I will stick around

And just having Man Mountain Terry Crews playing a sergeant who's good at his job but suddenly realizing that as a father of two young girls and being a cop is dangerous is just a funny concept.

McAlvie said...

I'm glad to see we agree with The Millers. Such a great cast, and then they drag them through the gutter and make their characters completely unlikeable. Do they not understand that if they want people to spend time with these characters, they have to be people we like? I'll admit that I might be a bit sensitive about the subject of having to parent your parents, as many of us are in that position now. But it can certainly be done with throwing everyone's dignity in the toilet and flushing. blech.

big sigh.

Okay, two that I have hopes for once the find their pacing are The Michael J Fox show and The Crazy Ones. Yes, to everything you've said about them, but I'm hoping that once the writers relax they will let these great talents do their thing.

Mike McCann said...

>>it’s supposed to be WONDER YEARS in the ‘80s but for me it was AMOS & ANDY with Jews. >> TV has a bad habit of doing that to us.
THE (Gertrude Berg) GOLBERGS
BRIDGET LOVES BERNIE
RHODA

SEINFELD gets a pass from the list because the parents were so real -- it was the last example our generation feeling like "the kids" and musing about our eccentric parents and other relatives.

You have to wonder why the networks and studios love perpetuating these awkward stereotypes. Do they think Cong. Eric Cantor's family is like this?? Or Les Moonves' household??

Maybe the best Jewish family ever on TV were the (Christian Lebanese-American) WIlliamses of MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY. Shaped by the great Sheldon Leonard. I recognized a lot more of the folks I knew in Danny than Bernie's (David Burney's)

MonkeyBone said...

returning show that made you laugh - Homeland?

Pete Grossman said...

Really Christopher? Only when you were 8? Bummer.

Would love to see The Crazy Ones, Mom and The Michael J. Fox show settle in.

Chris said...

Wow, I couldn't disagree with you more about Malin Ackerman. She reminds me more of Kate Hudson than anyone else, but that doesn't bother me. I thought the drunk scene in the pilot was beautifully played and I laughed out loud. That being said, the 2nd episode was not spectacular (but then again, it seems to me that you've written about the 2nd episode of any new show before, so no real surprise there). They get me for one more viewing, then I'm gone. Same with "The Goldbergs" which I want to like, but I'm not really loving. It has my good will and that's all at this point.

I forced myself to watch the Rebel Wilson thing. Am I remembering correctly that everyone wanted her for a show last year? And this is what they gave her? Kind of reminded me of the Kristin Chenoweth show a while back. The creator(s) of that show promised that they were going to (and this phrase has stuck with me) "build her a Cadillac." Meaning that it would be of the highest quality etc. Sadly, they did not. They completely misunderstood what they had with her and gave us a cartoon--which I understand you have to play against with her, but they sure as heck did it on "Pushing Daisies" (an Emmy for her). Still I think of that as a lost opportunity for what could have been a classic. I think Rebel Wilson might have had that same chance here, but I'll be shocked if it's still on the schedule past December. A pity. Well, Kristin did okay, and I'm sure Rebel will, too.

Andrew said...

Didn't care for "The Goldbergs." Too many people spending too much time yelling, with a little heavy-handed slapstick and a couple of."awwww" moments thrown in to show us how loveable these people really are. Is this really what Gentiles think we're like.

Brian O. said...

If it's TWO BROKE GIRLS I'm gonna leave the blog.

Canda said...

I think Rebel Wilson's show will succeed. I think women and men will root for her, if the character grows. She's in a good time slot, too. If "Neighbors" can stay on the air, this should run as long as Bonanza.

Loved Tim, who said, "I'm getting tired of all the outrageous, over-the-top aging parents and their beleaguered adult children". He nailed it, as far as several new shows this year.

Oliver said...

Will Arnett hasn't done his Arrested Development/30 Rock schtick in Up All Night or The Millers. He is, however, turning orange.

I liked The Millers. Unusually for a multicam, I didn't find the laugh track overbearing, and I found the crass jokes funny. I generally like Garcia's shows.

I love Malin Akerman but found the voiceover in Trophy Wife unbearable, sadly.

I quite like Michael J. Fox, which reminds me of Happy Endings, but NBC will screw it up. They brought forward the terrible 5th episode to air 2nd.

Sean Saves the World feels like NBC resurrecting their most forgettable failed new sitcom of 1993. I was just thankful that it wasn't even worse. I find Hayes' mugging unbearable. He should stick to producing.

I'm burnt out on family sitcoms. Yes, Modern Family has won a zillion Emmys, but not every show needs to be a family sitcom.

Paul Duca said...

Why didn't they just be honest and call Rebel Wilson's show SUPER FAT NIGHT?

Michael Stoffel said...

I'll watch Mary McCormack in anything. Especially if the guy from Yes, Dear is in it.

As for returning, I guarantee that those who smark at The Neighbors haven't watched it.

Liz Provenza said...

"The Middle" is the returning show, I hope. Sue Heck is the best TV teen character since Angela Chase. (When will Sue get her Jordan?)

iain said...

Brooklyn-Nine-Nine sometimes seems so pleased with its oh-so-clever self, it borders on annoying. More Braugher & less Sandberg wouldn't hurt.

Danj said...

I'm stunned at how many people like the Michael Fox show. It would have been bland in the 1980s -- and the constant need to portray him as super-well-liked and "doing a-ok" with his illness undercuts all attempts at comedy (comedy should come from how bad things are going for everyone... not how great everything is). I was rooting for Mike as much as everyone else, but the show is pretty awful. I can't help but think people are going easy on it because of how much they admire Fox personally or how nostalgic they are over his past performances. Maybe it's just not for me.

Wayne said...

Amos and Andy with Jews? Their target demo is the late Sammy Davis Jr.

ODJennings said...

I have a question. I'll admit I don't watch many network sitcoms, but is the laugh track always that loud and obnoxious or did they juice it up for the premier episodes?

I watched the entire CBS Thursday lineup, and the laugh track was loud and never-ending to the point of distraction, especially during The Millers. They surely can't maintain it at that level all season, right?

Ralph C said...

Ken, I bet the show was "The Big Bang Theory", right?

Mariners fan said...

The Middle is the best comedy on TV right now....Edeh Sher's Sue Heck deserves a grammy nod every year.

LAprGuy said...

I was going to post about THE MIDDLE, but someone just beat me to it. At first it was just a show my tweens watching that I laughed at, but not I watch and laugh at it when they're not in the room.

I didn't like the second week of THE CRAZY ONES any more than the first. It's written like a formulaic '80s comedy with an audience (or maybe it's the way it's acted?), only using one camera and adding penis jokes. Needs more Mork.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Said:

"Didn't care for "The Goldbergs." Too many people spending too much time yelling, with a little heavy-handed slapstick and a couple of."awwww" moments thrown in to show us how loveable these people really are. Is this really what Gentiles think we're like."

The show runner is Jewish, and it's a sitcom about his life as he honestly sees it. Don't blame the gentiles. This is a pure Jewish car wreck. Own it.

Mike said...

Compare notes: Bar Mitzvah Boy by Jack Rosenthal (1 hour BBC radio adaptation of the comedy) is available here until Friday.
1976, London. A three generation family prepares for the youngest's big moment. But is he ready to become a man?
Mazel tov.

skipperdon said...

As a big Allison Janney fan, I was looking forward to "Mom", but had forgotten about it in the crush of other shows. Thanks for the heads up. I gave up on both "The Crazy Ones" and Brooklyn Nine-nine, so maybe this will make up for it...

Sarah said...

I actually like Malin Ackerman, have ever since first seeing her in "The Comeback." I'm not saying she is a comic genius, but I think she's a likable actress who has done fine in the role in the 2 episodes so far. And I enjoyed her as Tessa's mom last season on Suburgatory. Not sure if I will stick with this one, but I liked the first two episodes well enough.

Tried to watch Michael J Fox show and couldn't get past first 5 minutes. To me the Parkinson's jokes were cringe-worthy. I know it should be okay to laugh because Fox is doing them, but it still seemed cruel to me.

My favorite so far is Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Not a perfect show but I adore Braugher and think the supporting cast is strong. Have always found Sandberg likable but can see how he would grate on others.

Jean said...

My guess -- The Neighbors.

We love that show, and the "They didn't even get a pity move to Friday night" comment had us in stitches....

charlotte said...

Friday Question:
Do you know who wrote Ted Danson's prerecorded bit that was shown during the James Burrows tribute at the TV Academy this evening? Was it you or one of your Cheers' buddies? It was hysterical!

Jeffro said...

Ken, have you seen Back in the Game yet? I think it's OK, and has a good premise that can last longer than MJF Parkinson's jokes. The only problem is that I think that it could be so much better if it was on cable and James Caan could be unrestrained in his portrayal as "The Cannon", a sort-of senior-citizen Kenny Powers. And the kids could also be more like those from The Bad News Bears. Nonetheless, as a red-blooded American male, it's always a treat to see Maggie Lawson in her T-shirt & shorts practice uniform.

Jeffro said...

Ken, I forgot, Back in the Game is sandwiched betweenThe Middle and Modern Family, so there's no excuse for you to miss it. I wonder if that time slot means they have high hopes for it, or no faith at all for its success.

chuckcd said...

Wasn't Welcome To The Family alrady done just as badly with Rob Schnider and Cheech Marin?

chuckcd said...

I can spell, I just can't type...

Todd A. said...

The Goldbergs was an absolutely enormous letdown for me. They did nothing but yell and rant. Why do so many sitcoms thing loudness equates funny?

I'm glad you agree with 'Mom.' I have had a hard time re-accepting the live studio audience format. But this one has the cast to make it actually seem funny. I love a good meth joke. Alison Janney is just spot on.

The Michael J. Fox show has potential but again, suffers from a cast that seems to want to rant and yell too much. Can't there be some variance here?

Best in my book though, by far, was Brooklyn Nine Nine. I loved the cold style of the shooting a la Law & Order with a completely different tone. Plus, I appreciate the different archetyped women on this show. They're playing against norms and I feel like it's really going to pay off.

Brian Phillips said...

Regarding "Dads", I called this one correctly after viewing the trailer in June:

http://ultrasonicremote.blogspot.com/2013/06/2013-fall-preview-fox-dads.html

LADins said...

Have only seen the Michael J fox show and it has potential, but has yet to make me laugh out loud. Interesting cast though, so willing to keep giving it a chance.

Anyone else horrified by the direction New Girl has taken this season? Just not funny at all.

Question for you Ken... clearly they are sort of forced to keep on going down the path they set in place re: the main plots for a bit as they have shows already in the can, but is there any wiggle room to rework once the season has begun and it's clearly not working out like they planned/hoped? Or are most producers/writers too close to the material to realize/care? They have 22 episodes so there's hope they can right the ship so to speak. They better do it quick. So far not amused...

Anonymous said...

I think Trophy Wife is the best show with the worst title. It's really not bad, and the leads are good, especially Michaela Watkins and Marcia Gay Harden.

Gina said...

I just caught 5 minutes of "Mom." I've wanted to see it since it premiered, as I've had a girlcrush on Allison Janney since the West Wing, and then you had nice things to say about it here. Like I say, I only caught 5 minutes (I'm usually busy at prime time). I don't know these characters, and yet I was genuinely moved. That was some really great comic and dramatic acting, all in a very short space of time. I've been saying I don't like Chuck Lorre's recent programs, but I see I'm going to have to revise that. And I'm going to have to make time to watch this show now. Long live my girlcrush on Allison Janney, and my new one on Anna Faris.