The first episode of a comedic television series is a good indicator for what the show can become. They are also almost always not particularly funny, needing to spend the majority of their time giving the viewer a tour of their expansive house that isn’t completely constructed yet. On the other hand, we were bombarded with news from the upfronts about the new shows that are going to change the way we live and breathe, so it’s only fair that we unfairly judge them based on three minutes of footage.
There are eight comedies premiering this fall on the four major networks. They are listed in order of how promising they look.
8. The Neighbors (ABC)
Only the network that put Work It on television could not only green light this show but schedule it after the high rated Modern Family. This looks awful. I don’t know any aliens personally (as far as I know), but this is so offensive to extraterrestrials that it hurts. It was created by Dan Fogelman, the man responsible for the surprisingly pretty good Crazy, Stupid, Love, so you’d think it was all some sort of allegory about race or society as a whole, but no, it’s just some show where a Ralph Kramden disciple, his strong silent wife and his two boring kids deal with actual honest to goodness aliens. I suppose it’s comforting to know that a life form capable of traversing millions of miles and interacting with any species would take advice from a gruff New Yawker to fix the completely unique to television issue of your wife being pissed at you for something that was probably your fault to begin with.
7. Partners (CBS)
People shouldn’t hate on this show because it’s pretty much a direct ripoff of a 1995 Fox sitcom. They should hate this show because Sophia Bush and Brandon Routh are about as funny as One Tree Hill and Superman Returns. Michael Urie’s gay character isn’t painfully flamboyant but is still stereotypically fey all the same, to the point where an actress is forced to describe him as “zany.” Partners’ only strength is the bromance between Urie and David Krumholtz, which could potentially be as charming as J.D. and Turk’s, except one of the characters is actually a homosexual. And since it’s the only sitcom first place CBS is premiering this fall you better get used to it being on the air.
6. Guys With Kids (NBC)
The highlight is seeing Anthony Anderson in a multi-camera show with a laugh track on NBC again — it’s been too long since my friends felt like part of a team and never alone watching Hang Time. There’s nothing offensively horrendous to Guys With Kids, but there’s nothing potentially special here either. And whether or not it’s fair, the laugh track makes it seem one hundred times more banal and uninspired and from twenty years into the past then it actually is.
5. The New Normal (NBC)
“From the imagination of Ryan Murphy” means that The New Normal will start off pretty good and heartfelt and by the end you’ll be left wondering why you began to watch in the first place, maybe even going so far as retconning your GetGlue viewing history. The show has an above average cast, and Nene Leakes’ rant to the homophobic and racist Ellen Barkin was really damn inspired, but the Single Female Lawyer fantasy was the only portion of the trailer that can be considered amusing.
4. Animal Practice (NBC)
Future trivia question: What was the first television show to ever receive a then known-to-be-impossible 120 share? The answer is Animal Practice. There’s no way this show can fail. Cute animals and sexual tension between two attractive people that both love animals? Forget it. The only thing stopping this is if three horses die on set. I hope Matt Walsh and Tyler Labine will still be cool after they become two of the richest people in the world.
3. The Mindy Project (Fox)
Mindy Kaling stars as an OB-GYN in a show that for a day was titled It’s Messy. Tragically the title was changed to The Mindy Project, but I’m still on board. Kaling has deserved her own show for years now and the trailer shows the unspoken promise that it would be an extension of Mindy’s comedic personality was kept, even if everything isn’t all there yet. Most of the issues stem from the lengthy exposition and the two male leads being neither particularly likable, but the former will naturally dissipate and the latter is easily fixable.
2. Ben and Kate (Fox)
Ben and Kate’s showrunners are former Community executive producers Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman, and star Nat Faxon co-wrote The Descendents with Jim Rash, so a certain devoted fan base is going to be giving this show a lot of chances. The full-length trailer resembles a short film significantly cut for time — Faxon’s character abruptly stays at his sister’s place while stalking his ex-girlfriend, who he discovers is about to get married to another man. In the process he helps his sister out with his niece and with her relationship with a duplicitous guy. Seems like a lot of plot even for a pilot, but the jokes were funny and Faxon was too goofily charming to come off as a creep for the spying on a woman thing. I wouldn’t mind if the lewd English bartender was recast — one Catherine Tate a week is all television should handle.
1. Go On (NBC)
There are only two possible explanations for why NBC didn’t put Go On in the Thursday at Friends’ old 8pm time slot: 1)It looks good, and therefore they don’t appreciate it; 2)They remember Joey. Probably to compensate for how soft Chandler Bing became after season four of Friends, Matthew Perry has been playing his characters as less insecure and quippy and more wry, bitter and douchey, which works well with the premise of Perry playing a recently widowed sports shock jock who is forced to attend group counseling. There are a lot of potential stories that can be drawn out of the various flawed people in the group (including the hilarious Brett Gelman), and how Perry can shut them down with a savage one liner, only to apologize and make them feel better by the end of the episode. The combination of built-in pathos with a grieving widower and the sarcasm deriving from a misanthropic mind should theoretically make Go On a success. Theoretically. Who knows with these things?
Roger Cormier is a Deering Tornado for life.