Sunday, August 04, 2013

TV: The So-So behind The Mediocres

When we heard that Seth Meyers had at least stumbled a bit at Comic-Con recently when unveiling his new series The Awesomes, we mentioned it to two NBC exes.  One simply insisted that had not happened.  The other was adamant that Seth had not only wowed everyone but The Awesomes was an indicator of how he would wow NBC late night in February when Late Nigh with Seth Meyers takes over Jimmy Fallon's slot while Jimmy slides behind the desk for The Tonight Show.

To state the obvious: Seriously?

the awesomes

The Awesomes is a Hulu exclusive series and the big question there is: Why?

At one point Syfy was going to run with the show but then got cold feet, a few years later it was MTV but they passed as well leaving Hulu with bragging rights -- or maybe shaming rights?

The premise of the animated program is that Prock (voiced by Meyers) is a would-be super hero with the power to freeze time and he's trying to take the lead of The Awesomes -- a super hero team his father had led. His father didn't think to name Prock as a successor, not even when his first and only choice, Perfect Man (voiced by Seth's brother Josh) turns down the honor of leading the team.

Prock is a nothing.  He's tired.  He's boring.  He's just not interesting enough to be a lead.

One example, he has the ability to freeze time.  What does he do with it?

Even his father thinks it's not a super power.  Really?  We seem to remember Holly Marie Combs' Piper kicking some major butt on Charmed with that power.  But then, she used it.  While she had everyone frozen, she was setting up the next move.

Prock 'uses' it to launch into inner monologues and then, when he decides on what he'll say, he unfreezes time and screws up his planned speech.

No wonder his father doesn't think it's a super power.

If Prock is nothing, The Awesomes is even less.

The gay jokes do grow weary.  The first one is when Prock is auditioning members for his team and he's told he should call it try-outs because auditions gives the wrong impressions.  Cut to scene of a flamboyant male onstage performing a song.

This is really where we are in 2013?

Gay people exist to be made fun of?

In 2013, a gay person can't be part of the team?  But can show up for cheap jokes at their own expense?

Women are barely a part of the team.  In fact, until the last five minutes, the team consists of Prock, Muscleman (Ike Barinholtz), Frantic (Taran Killam), Impresario (Kenan Thompson), Tim (Bobby Lee) and Gadget Gal (Paula Pell). Needing one more member, they luck out when Hotwire (Rashida Jones) shows up.  She's invited to join because of her hot body.

Prock ogles her, doesn't care about her powers, just wants her but will settle for her being on the team.

Reminder, the year is 2013.

'Wait! There are two more women!'  Yes, there is Concierge (Emily Spivey) and Joyce Mandrake (Rachel Dratch).  They're not super heroes, they're not team members.  Concierge is a flunky who plays Mommy (usually Mean Mommy), a traditional role.

Joyce? She's fortunate in that Dratch's voicing resulting in so much more than what's on the written page.  Rashida Jones and Ike Barinholtz also deserve praise for their voice work.

It's 2013 and the sole African-American character sounds just like his mother -- because Kenan Thompson voices both Impresario and Impresario's 'sassy' mother.  Yes, it's time to put the African-American male yet again into a dress.

While it's clear why two networks walked away from it, it's still not clear why Hulu thought this crap was worth streaming.

In the comments left at Hulu for the first two episodes ("Pilot Part One" and "Part Two"), there's a fierce debate taking place.  Not over whether or not the show's any good.  A little over a majority of those commenting agree the show sucks.  The only debate is as to whether it's ripping off Mystery Men the most or The Venture Brothers or The Incredibles or Scooby Doo or The Legend of Korra.

It was Hulu's 14th most popular series of the week.  That's really not good.  For example, Melissa Joan Hart's Sabrina The Teenage Witch was at number 12.  We're not knocking Sabrina, it was a solid program but it ran from 1996 to 2003 and last week more people were streaming this at Hulu than the new content The Awesomes?  Even with all the promotion for The Awesomes at Hulu?

Maybe that promotion is what ran off viewers?

Long before Sabrina was a live action show, it was a 1970 Saturday morning cartoon on CBS.   31 episodes aired for four years on CBS.  This was produced by Filmation which is not generally seen as an artistic giant but the Filmation shows had much better animation than does The Awesomes.  It has a cheap and 'animation-lite' feel to it.

For example, if you're enemy is a huge mountain of poo, it needs to look like it.  Otherwise, why did you write the character?

About the best thing we can say about the show is that Seth is a much better voice actor than he is a live action actor.  Doing voice work spares America his Ann B. Davis face and a great deal of his Don Knotts style mugging.  At the same time, it also points to just how bland Meyers is.

His writing is bland as well.   The big winner in his move to late night week day TV is Saturday Night Live which has felt increasingly tired in the last years.  Seth has 'written' and overseen the 'writing' of many a bad scene which existed solely to demonstrate that Seth can't parody politics.  He really can't. SNL political jokes in his tenure have been an embarrassment (and very one-sided).  Seth is most comfortable, as a writer, making every skit have a TV setting.  His world's been very limited and it sorely shows.

Which means we may have to review late night in 2014.  Jimmy Fallon was made for late night.  He had the energy that can perk viewers up.  He's got the looks.  He remains the best looking late night host.   Later this year, he turns 39.  And later this year, 'newbie' Seth turns 40.

Yeah, Seth's a little long in the tooth.

David Letterman was 34 when he carved out the time slot.  Conan O'Brien was 30 when he replaced Dave.  At the age of 34, Jimmy Fallon took over from Conan.  At the age of 40,  Seth will be replacing Jimmy?

Seth will also be a year older than Tonight Show host Jimmy.

NBC might need to start worrying.

Comedy is, of course, derivative.

So maybe it's not all that surprising that over at CBS' late night program, there are snickers and comparisons of Seth to an actress and that the same comparison and laughter is being heard from the Jimmy Kimmel staff?

Derivative or not, NBC is aware that Seth repeatedly failed to connect with most audiences, right? That could cause problems in a format where he's required to deliver an opening monologue five days a week.  On his inability to connect with viewers, for most SNL viewers, Seth's best moments come with Stefan (Bill Hader), for many those are the only moments worth remembering. That's especially sad when you grasp that Meyers has been in the show's cast since 2001 (doing bad bits like Nicolette Sheridan impersonations).

If The Awesomes were supposed to put these concerns to rest by presenting Seth in a lead role in an animated series, it's only established him as the most bland member of the cast.  Bland has often been an ideal quality for a talk show host . . . on daytime TV.

But late night has always demanded charisma.  Those without it (Dick Cavette, for example), have failed repeatedly to find audiences while those with it have become TV stars (Jack Parr, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Joan Rivers, Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon).

Everything on paper about Seth Meyers is supposed to add up to stardom but the reality is that he's the least well known (or liked) Weekend Update anchor ever (Colin Quinn rejoices as he's finally able to hand off that 'honor').  And, again, except for popping his eyes at Bill Hader's Steon, there's really been no moments that seized the country's attention.

Which brings up back to the comparisons the people at Letterman and Kimmel are making, to the actress who supposedly got the break of a lifetime when she joined the cast of a hit TV show but it all failed miserably and led to the king of late night, Johnny Carson, declaring on air, "When Hack's A is put where her T should be, it still doesn't jiggle."

Carson was speaking of Shelley Hack.  The model had found fame in a series of commercials for the perfume Charlie, leading her to be known as "the Charlie girl."  Kate Jackson had left Charlie's Angels after the third season of the show.  Kate had class and the Charlie ads were seen as classy.  And wasn't Hack already crowned "the Charlie girl"?  What a perfect fit!  Until the shows started airing and America rejected Hack as Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd's co-worker.  Comparing Seth Meyers to Shelley Hack may just be a form of late night rivalry but, then again, it may be an early portent.

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