Comedy pilots are weird, you guys. Based on pilots alone, you can usually weed out the unbelievably terrible shows – shows like Work It, Are You There Chelsea, that upcoming midseason one where Dane Cook’s on the radio – but it’s much, much harder to figure out which comedies will be great and which ones will be mediocre. Comedies need more time than dramas to find their feet, so the best approach to a sitcom pilot is usually to think about what elements have potential and which ones aren’t working, then see if later episodes adjust accordingly.
Luckily, NBC’s weird-ass promotional strategy meant that Go On and The New Normal both aired their second episodes tonight, so I can do a little bit of that!
I didn’t love Go On’s pilot, but I liked it and thought that there was a lot of potential going forward. The premise, if you’re reading this from under a rock, is that Ryan King/Matthew Perry’s wife died (so we can’t make any Chandler jokes because that is TOO TERRIBLE TO CONTEMPLATE), and his boss/friend, John Cho, won’t let him come back to work until he completes ten sessions with a support group. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen, but there’s a lot to be mined from a diverse group of strangers meeting under unglamorous, less-than-ideal circumstances, and I had a lot of hope for it going forward. The pilot undermines Lauren, the group’s counselor, a little more than I’d like, and the scenes at the radio station where Ryan works weren’t good for much more than exposition and John Cho [as a card-carrying human being with a beating heart, I love John Cho fiercely and always will], but I loved the group. I thought the woman with the dead cat and the creepy dude would need to be used sparingly until they were better developed, and Suzy Nakamura needed more to do other than fret, but the others – especially Tyler James Williams as Owen and Julie White as Anne – were very promising, and the show did a great job with balancing the comedy of their interactions with the grief they’re all carrying. Plus, Khary Payton was there, which was a huge plus for me since this is more or less where I live now.
The second episode was…yikes. First of all, Khary Payton wasn’t even IN this episode, so WHAT ARE WE EVEN DOING WITH OUR LIVES, and second, half the episode was about Ryan’s workplace, specifically his overdependence on his assistant after his wife’s death, and…this was not the time to tell that story, it really wasn’t. His assistant barely registered as a presence in the pilot, and even though she held her own in 102, it was just too much of a shift in focus too early in the series, and besides that, the story made Ryan look ridiculous. I have to wonder if they mixed up the episode order, because other things – most notably George, a member of the group, already having a rapport with Ryan’s boss – seemed a little too advanced for a second episode. The undercurrent of grief other than Ryan’s was gone – group discussion focused mainly on George’s relocation to a nursing home, and, overwhelmingly, Sonia and her cats.
To recap – “everything was great except the work stuff, they’ll be fine as long as they don’t overdo it with the creepy guy or the cat lady!” And then a whole episode of work stuff and cat lady.
Credit where credit is due, after the pilot revealed that Lauren’s counseling experience comes entirely from Weight Watchers, this episode did a nice job of establishing that she is a genuine help to the group and that, even if she could stand to mix sessions up a bit, she really does understand the people she’s working with.
I’ll probably stick with the show – it has a lot going for it, provided it can find its feet.
This is a sitcom from Ryan Murphy. That is everything you need to know, that’s all she wrote, I had a little awl and I stuck it in the wall and that’s all.
Ugh, fine: It’s not terrible. The story has a weird way of skipping from point A to point D and leaving you to fill in the gaps yourself. The client/surrogate relationship seems to have moved from interview to FAMILY remarkably quickly (particularly since in the pilot, Bryan and David are taken advantage of by a different surrogate) and it’s really not something we get to see as it unfolds. Nana is TOO RACIST/HOMOPHOBIC, and it’s handled super weirdly, like it’s funny because…she’s racist? And racism is bad? And if you’re willingly watching a show about a gay couple, you probably agree that racism is bad, in which case it’s okay if you laugh when the old lady says “there’s a few bad beans in every burrito” or asks a black woman if she’s even allowed to use a particular bathroom. You’re not laughing WITH the racist, you’re laughing AT…the racist comment the racist made. And nobody tells Nana to just fuck off and die! Goldie is kind of a nonentity, which is unfortunate, and I’d like to know why she thinks turning down a rent-free living arrangement when she’s an unemployed newly-single and newly-pregnant mother with waitressing experience is somehow the noble choice, particularly if she’s somehow going to afford living in LA, putting herself through college, and the vicious divorce she’s about to go through.
BUT I really liked David, Bryan, and Shania, especially Bryan, and it’s decently funny, and the scene where Bryan tells Shania to be herself was really sweet. There’s promise there, but let’s be honest: It is a sitcom from Ryan Murphy, so it is what it is, you know what you’re getting into, and only you can decide if that’s the right viewing decision for you.