After a raucous wedding weekend all I wanted to do on Monday night was to curl up on the couch and watch something light. It turns out I don’t have a Monday watch list and there wasn’t anything that caught my attention. Instead, I decided to surf the net for some new comedies I’d heard about but had yet to watch and see if there was a hidden gem in the mix – which is rarely the case.
First, I found Package Deal, a new sitcom about a girl who has to accept her boyfriend’s oddball brothers for the sake of their relationship. Sadly, it was so bad I turned it off after the first few lead-in jokes that were so hammered by a laugh track that I was cringing before the opening credits. I say sadly, because it’s a Canadian show and we, as a country, can do much, much better. Canadians are funny. Shame on us.
My rating: I hope it doesn’t last.
My IMDB rating: 1/10.
This also led me to wonder why comedies are still using a laugh track. Doesn’t everyone find stock laughter annoying by now? Sure, there are a lot of successful sitcoms that used (and I use the past tense purposely because I don’t find The Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men funny. At all.) the laugh track to their advantage: Seinfeld, Will and Grace, Friends – but is it still relevant or even necessary as tv enters a new Golden Age of creativity? I think not. Case and point was the next show I found:
Mom is also a new sitcom with a laugh track about dysfunctional moms played by two actresses that I really like: Alison Janney and Anna Faris. Faris is a talented comedian who, I feel, is forever dragged down by bad material. This happens to be more of the same. Faris’ performance is decent but completely ill-timed with the laugh track. Only Alison Janney, a consummate professional, is so natural in front of the multiple camera format and laugh track that she provides the only humourous moments of the show. I lasted into the second episode because I wanted so much to like it but seriously, the laugh track is doing the show no favours and I feel it would work better without it.
My rating: I wouldn’t be surprised if this show came into its own but so far I’m not interested.
My IMDB rating: 4/10
Finally, in typical Seth McFarlane fashion, the laugh track in his new sitcom Dads is used ironically, or at least I hope it is. The jokes are so Republican (read offensive) or so not funny that the canned bubbles of laughter that burst at the predictable punchlines is almost funny in itself. Almost. Again, a talented cast, including one of my favourites Giovanni Ribisi, is completely wasted and I couldn’t make it through the episode despite one or two moments that were genuinely funny.
My rating: I expect more MacFarlane.
My IMDB rating: 3.5/10
There are only two new comedies that I have been able to stomach this Fall season and neither of them have laugh tracks.
The first, The Crazy Ones, from super comedy creator David E. Kelley, stars Robin Williams as an ad agency exec who might be losing his mind or his touch. The show is funny because Robin Williams is funny and watching James Wolk’s character Zach Cooper try to keep up with him and roll with his frenetic improv is magic. I have never been a fan of Sarah Michelle Geller’s acting and this show has not changed my opinion. While I understand that she is meant to be the voice of reason, either it’s her performance that is lacking or the writing because her ‘I can’t believe he just did that’ facial expression was so overused to pass an incorrect judgement on Williams’ brilliance – a trite cliché for storytelling in general – that I hoped for scenes without her. That said, the show itself and overall cast (that includes an alumni from the Mindy Project and the New Adventures of Old Christine) has the potential to become very funny.
My rating: Wolk and Williams are worth the 30 minutes.
My IMDB rating: 6.5 but I guarantee it will be up to a 7 before Christmas.
Finally, Andy Samberg’s departure from SNL has led to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. For me the premise, a sitcom, cop show, is funny. Andy Samberg is funny. Some of the characters do a good job of getting some laughs but generally without Samberg the show would falter. His timing is impeccable and it seems that this is another show that could grow into its skin as the cast becomes better at feeding off each other or as the writing grows stronger so it doesn’t rely so heavily on delivery.
My rating: I’m looking forward to this show getting good.
My IMDB rating: 6.5
Thanks Fall Season of New Pilots but until The Crazy Ones or Brooklyn Nine-Nine have a few episodes under their belt, I think I’ll stick with what I know and love: