Who saw NBC’s new shows last night?
To preface: I have friends who frequently point out what a plain fool I am for not watching certain shows they love. “Idiot!” they say,”You’ve never watched Breaking Bad? You’re just missing out entirely.” Others remark: “Um…duh…The Wire. You wanna know what quality TV is? It’s The Wire– not that you’d know”. So I’m used to swimming around in a safe fishbowl, enjoying things like Glee, Modern Family and Mad Men. Clearly there are plenty who find those shows every bit as wonderful as me; my point is I’m used to liking simpler, nicer shows and eschewing the gritty, edgy stuff that all the cool kids dig.
Last night NBC fired their first Fall TV shots with two very hotly anticipated new comedies, Up All Night and Free Agents. Did anyone catch them? I had hoped Up All Night would work, but had doubts initially because TV audiences hated Arnett’s last effort (and Arrested Development, tho a cult fave, never really succeeded, either). I was afraid I’d love it but no one else would (Mr. Sunshine anyone?). So we’ll see what everyone else thought, but for my money? Up All Night is terrific. It’s both relatable and truly funny. Christina Applegate is a great comic foil for Arnett, and I’m thinking Maya Rudolph may turn out to be the show’s runaway star. As so often happens with pilots, the writers are stuck giving actors lines that real people probably wouldn’t say. Like husband to wife: “Too bad I left my job at the law firm”. I’m thinking wife already knows what husband’s job was. But that’s just so people who are unfamiliar with the plot aren’t left wondering why Will Arnett is at home, watching ice hockey.Yet, given the fact that they had to provide a fair amount of setup and exposition, the show is quick and fresh. Meanwhile, you can definitely buy the characters and more importantly, their relationship. In an era of reality TV it’s great to see people struggling with issues – not life-and-death issues, or competition-winning-obstacle issues – but basic hurdles with which the rest of us can readily identify. They’re just like us. Albeit frequently cuter and fitter. With much better teeth.
I did not have high expectations for Free Agents. Nor do I now, although it was about 40% better than I thought it would be. Entirely because of the likeability of its two leads: Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn. Not sure if it’s ‘chemistry’ yet, but they have something. It should be noted that the show’s a remake of a British series, and the original was far naughtier (which may account for its success). Azaria and Hahn play infrequent/neurotic bedfellows who work together at a cool PR firm. It’s a little heavy handed. (They get paid to make things appear better even when they’re not – get it?) He’s a divorcee and her fiancé passed away a year prior, so we’re to recognize that both are messes who should not be tinkering with romance. Which seems to be the entire premise, and if the whole thing’s going to be a protracted will-they or won’t-they (even though they already have) it’ll never work. Plus, with the exception of Anthony Head who’s terrific, and a hilariously droll assistant, the cast is not that memorable. I don’t think Free Agents will be a hit, despite its leads’ appeal. Hahn (most recently from Our Idiot Brother) is sort of a Debra Messing /Ana Gasteyer hybrid, and her comic timing is top-notch. Hank Azaria is the most appealing Seinfeld character not on Seinfeld. Here’s hoping the two of them can keep this wobbly ship afloat. Or maybe get parts on Up All Night.
1) Christina Applegate
2) Poppy Montgomery
3) Zooey Deschanel
4) Rachel Bilson