Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall 2013 TV Shows: The Sitcoms

I've been watching a LOT of the new fall TV season; in fact, this might be the best fall TV season I've seen in a lot of time. There aren't many standouts, which is disappointing, but to be honest, there have been few network shows in the past couple of years that have ever shot to the top of my must-see list (Hannibal notwithstanding). AMC, HBO, F/X and Showtime seem to have captured most of my attention these days, but the one genre that network TV can still do well in is comedy. Modern Family, The Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation, Community (well, until last season...), The Office (ditto), The Big Bang Theory... these are all great shows that make me laugh, and are often brilliantly written. But it's rare that I think, "Wow, I cannot WAIT to see [insert sitcom title here] this week." That kind of excitement is generally reserved for the dramas. I record most of the sitcoms on my PVR, but I watch them as I'm eating lunch or folding clothes or something. And if I miss one... oh well.

So when the new listing of fall shows comes out, I rarely give much time to the sitcoms. It's too bad, because clearly, judging by that list above (which seems to far outweigh the network dramas) I clearly enjoy them. But most are episodic, and if  you miss a couple you're not in the dark. I flipped through the list of sitcoms for this fall, and landed on three: The Michael J. Fox Show, Super Fun Night, and The Crazy Ones.

I had the highest hopes for The Michael J. Fox Show because it boasted the best trailer:

I laughed out loud at that one, sent it to everyone I knew, and got most of them hooked on it as well. I grew up on Family Ties, and Alex P. Keaton is still one of the great TV comic creations. Michael J. Fox has been making a show, quiet return to television after his Parkinson's diagnosis in 1991, and he's been receiving rave reviews for mostly dramatic roles.

But his new show? Very, very unfunny. I don't think I laughed once, mostly because almost all of the jokes were in the trailer (natch). But it has Marie from Breaking Bad! And Bunk from The Wire! And Alex P. Freakin' Keaton!

Nope, not funny. So I waited for the second episode. Even less funny. Daughter gets a lesbian friend so she can increase the coolness of her social circle, only to discover at the end of the episode what every viewer figured out from the first line of dialogue in the episode: that the girl might be a little tomboyish, but she's no lesbian. HAHAHAha...ha... ergh. Meanwhile, Dad goes upstairs to yell at the neighbour for watching his television too loud and discovers he's a she who's not only super hot, but Michael J. Fox's real-life wife! And he develops a crush on her and lies to his wife about it. HAHAHAha...ha... blech. SO not funny. The jokes are lame, this brilliant cast is stumbling around trying to find the funny in what is not funny, and it's actually kind of sad. Timer wiped from the PVR.

Super Fun Night stars Rebel Wilson, whom I love, as a girl who goes out with her geeky girlfriends once a week to have a super fun night. The first episode was meh, and the second one had me about to wipe the show from my PVR... until they met Dan, and he gave this speech about descending from the time of the pharaohs that made me laugh out loud. (And it looks like he'll be a recurring character.) Enough to make me keep watching? Probably not. It's pretty unfunny, too, and Rebel is so much more of a comedian than just being the butt of a bunch of fat jokes, which is pretty much all the closing credit sequence is every week.

So then it was over to The Crazy Ones. Yes, I'm watching it because it's basically Mork & Buffy. I love Robin Williams, for the most part, but he's SO manic and out of control that he tends to go so far off-script he's no longer funny. I've seen him live, and I grew up watching Mork & Mindy, and Good Will Hunting is one of my favourite movies (and, quite honestly, could be the last good thing he did...) But it also has Sarah Michelle Gellar in it. About a week before it started, the New York Post contacted me so I could make a comment about Gellar's "big TV comeback," and did I think she'd ever dump the Buffy stigma? Sorry? She had an entire other TV show two years ago, where she played two different characters and was really very good on it. But then, yeah, after my initial surprise I realized yeah, people DO still see her as Buffy, and maybe the fact that the NYP guy had no idea she'd had another TV show in there is more indicative of the TV show than him. So I watched it reluctantly.

And OH MY GOD it's hilarious. Like, laugh out loud hilarious. Like, my husband who never watches sitcoms will watch this one with me hilarious. Sarah is the perfect straight guy to Robin Williams' crazy person, and yet someone in production has corralled him enough that he'll go off, but no so far off-script that the episode is lost. The end credit sequence has become my favourite part, where you watch Williams trying out other improvised lines while Gellar desperately tries to keep it together beside him. And you can tell how much he likes her, because there are a lot of these scenes where he looks like he's just trying to get her to lose it completely.

The show is about a father, Simon Roberts, who runs a large advertising agency, and the daughter he raised, Sydney (awesome name for a character played by SMG!!! says Nikki), who grew up basically motherless and instead was raised by this nutbar. She's pretty together, until she's pushed to the wall and under pressure and then she's about as crazy as he is. What I really loved about the first episode is that the title of the show not only refers to the silly father and daughter team, but her entire reason for going into advertising in the first place — this commercial:

I remember that commercial well, and how much I loved it at the time. And her character loved it so much she joined an industry that could create something that sublime.

It's also got James Wolk (Bob from Mad Men) playing another creative type in the ad industry, but one who can surprisingly riff along with Robin Williams almost note for note. Hamish Linklater (Jerry from The Newsroom) and Amanda Setton (Shauna from The Mindy Project) round out the main group of people. It's fun and funny. And the only one of the three sitcoms where I've officially made it to episode 3.

AND... I was rewarded for it. In the third episode, during the blooper reel that aired in the closing credits, Robin Williams says to Gellar, "Where did you learn to drive all Dukes of Hazzard style like that??" And she shrugs and says, "Sunnydale," before walking away. Ha!!

Yep, maybe she'll always be Buffy. And I'm okay with that. I urge you to check out this show. For the first time in a long time, this is a sitcom where I can't wait until next week's episode.


Theresa Fortier said...

I agree that The Crazy Ones is definitely the best of the bunch. I really didn't like the Michael J. Fox show at all and still haven't watched beyond the first episode even though they are sitting on my DVR. However, I do think Super Fun Night has some potential. It's kind of a weekly Bridget Jones Diary. The first few haven't been great but I'm going to continue to watch for now.

Ron said...

It's almost as if you have to feel guilty about not liking the MJF show. But if they're trying to prove that someone with Parkinson's can lead a normal life, then stop referring to it every week. At the end of the second episode the whole family is in a "ball pit" in an amusement arcade. But where's dad? Found him...Because the balls he was hiding under were vibrating. Please. As usual the kids are too precious, quirky, and totally unrealistic.

By the way, is that the same apartment building as seen in The Odd Couple?

Haven't seen/won't watch the Rebel Wilson show. Don't like sitcoms that are basically one-joke (in this case, body size).

As for Robin Williams, I still find him bi-polar, boncing from manic funny to "what lesson have we learned."

Allison said...

THANK YOU. My wife and I were just saying we need a new sitcom. Definitely going to check this out!

Nikki Stafford said...

Ron: Try one episode and see what you think. I absolutely agree on Robin being too manic for my tastes these days, but on this show he's actually quite funny. Even his funny voices have their place. ;) And I absolutely agree with you on the MJF show. The Parkinson's thing is great for them to expose in the first episode, with the shaking hand giving out the eggs and Marie snatching the spoon from him, or him calling 911 instead of 917, but it's all his character is from that point on, and he's so much more than that.

Allison: Let me know what you think!

Dusk said...

I wanted to checkout Sarah's new show but the trailer didn't garb me and life got annoying and took me away from the boob tube for a while. I may record it.

Also glad Big Bang *finally* let Raj talk to girls without drinking. The estrogen cream with Howard recently was great.

Oh, and I'll say it again, Watch. Orphan. Black! Trust me, as a fellow Lost and Buffy fan you'll love it. It's like a 10 parts movie that is an adrenaline rush. The first two episodes are OK, I started really liking it in the third. By the end of episode 6 I knew I what a gem it was. It knows how to do drama and comedic moments in a balanced and earned way. It also avoids several cliches of the sci-fi elements. The plot is extremely tight and well thought-out and is better on re-watch. The one weakness is probably the romances form a writing perspective.

I also saw the start of Ringer and as good as SMG is, when it comes to playing multiple roles-Tatiana Maslany utterly blows her out of the water. When I watched video of the OB panel at Comic Con- for the first 10 seconds I legitimately looked for "the rest of the cast". But then I remembered they are all in the same person!

myselfixion said...

"Mom" stars Allison Janney and Anna Faris and is hilarious! My 2nd Favorite new sitcom next to "Brooklyn 99".

Page48 said...

I quit watching sitcoms 20 years ago, but I had to check out MJF because, as Nikki says, he's Alex P. Freakin' Keaton. I had no intention of becoming a regular viewer but I felt I owed him one. It was absolutely brutal. I was embarrassed for him.

I also checked out Buffy and Mork (the Kelly Clarkson episode)and I thought it was pretty good. I still won't be a regular viewer but if I was going to watch a sitcom, I would definitely watch this one.

Of the new network dramas, I'm on board with "Sleepy Hollow" (which returns after the World Series with Walter Bishop himself as a 'sin eater'), MAOS, "The Blacklist", and will of course, be tuning in when "Almost Human" arrives.

Fred said...

There's just been a lot of new sitcoms that we've had to pick and choose rather quickly, abandoning shows that might have grown on us in time. I agree with Nikki on the new Michael J. Fox show, that it's sort of lacking in outstanding laughs. As for "The Crazy Ones", so far it's take it or leave it.

On the other hand, I agree with Page48 about shows like "Sleepy Hollow". Seems tv has moved over to myths and lagends as the basis for story telling (not to mention return of "Grimm" and the new "Wonderland" that's a sping-off from "Once Upon a Time".

As for the new Abrams' show, it seems from the previews that it's drawing on the popularity of comicbook super heroes from the movies. I am hoping for so much from this show, but I am getting the sinking feeling its just "super heroes/futuristic/cop show" all rolled into a single hour long episode. It would fit in well with the new "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.".

Blam said...

I'm almost pathologically averse to traditional multi-camera, laugh-track sitcoms anymore, much as I loved them as a kid. So many of my friends can't believe I don't watch The Big Bang Theory, but I just cannot abide the artificial rhythm.

At the same time the now-in-vogue drier, single-camera comedies often tend to just sort-of sit there for me and/or wallow too much in discomfort humor. Modern Family, Parks and Rec, Community, and somewhat inexplicably How I Met Your Mother* hit my sweet spot. [*Okay, I can't explain how the laugh track doesn't drive me away, unless there's a little paradox in the show not being filmed before a live studio audience — the laughs are taken from screenings (and then sweetened as usual) — that makes the rhythm less artificial, but the crazy-inventive storytelling is my explanation for what hooked me about it.]

So I watched the pilots of The Crazy Ones, The Michael J. Fox Show, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I'll keep an eye on reviews and recommendations, maybe giving one or more of them another shot when repeats begin, but I don't feel like I'm doing without anything I'd miss by dropping them after the premieres.

Fred said...

Hey, Blam, you're definetly an insightful tv watcher. So is it just me, but it seems "Once Upon a Time" is formally following "Lost".

Season 3 on "Lost" led us initially to a smaller island, where our heroes had to deal with some daddy issues. And here we are in season 3 of "Once Upon a Time" and what do we have? Our heroes are on a smaller island (Neverland, to be sure) where Emma has to work out family issues, Mr. Gold is being tormented about his own daddy issues, and Peter Pan seems a substitute for Linus.

Are we going to be introduced to a smoke monster, especially after we've learnt Peter Pan can severe a person from his shadow. And that's what Mr. Gold did!

Dusk said...

Oh yeah, OUAT is following Lost pretty closely. Although the writers have said Neverland is only going to be the first 11 episodes.

I wonder what March-May half of the season will be. Pan and the Lost Boys on the freighter?