Monday, November 02, 2015

TV: NBC tries comedy on Friday nights

"Our show has gotten so much better!"

Or: "We've added a new twist!"

Or even: "We've addressed the criticism you made."


These are some of the tired lines we hear from friends with shows we've slammed as they try to interest us in another look.

Life is short and, most of the time, bad shows stay bad.

They rarely get better in a later season.

So when a friend begged us to give UNDATABLE another look, we said, "Pass."

"I'm calling in a favor," was the response.

Which is how we got stuck wading through 10 episodes of the last five weeks.

10 episodes?

UNDATABLE, in its third season, has moved to live format.

And that means a live East Coast episode and, later, a live West Coast one.

If you're only going to watch one, we'd recommend the West Coast which is often sillier but also sturdier.

So the East Coast episodes are awful?


Not at all.

In fact, the show is watchable.

More than watchable, it's actually funny.

We'd argue Chris D'Elia still looks as if he needs a delousing -- and that ratings would be higher if he got a hair style -- or just style.

His timing has improved.  His confidence has returned.

The false bravado found in so many line deliveries in season one (we're referring to the actor's self-bravado, not his character's) have vanished.

He's almost as entertaining now as he was on WHITNEY.

Where he stumbles, where the episode stumbles, is when the opening revolves around his Danny and Brent Morin's Justin.

Smart writing would include Bianca Kajilch and/or Ron Funches in every opening scene because they have the instinct to set the comedic tone.  If it's floundering a bit -- as when Morin and D'Elia are riffing off one another -- the show's uneven until Kajilch or Funches shows up.

That's not to slam the talent of either D'Elia or Morin, but it is pointing out that the comic rhythms of Kajilch and Funches tend to be truer and they walk onto the set with energy that makes you feel like something is going to happen.

Along with those four, David Fynn (Brett) and Rick Glassman (Adam) have come into their own as well.

Bridgit Mendler?

It's be great if someone would get around to writing something for the actress to actually do.

This season sees her Candace slinging some sass as Kajilch's Leslie but little more than that.

In fact, that's our most serious complaint against the show.

If you read our take back in June 2014, you know that's saying a great deal.

And, again, UNDATABLE has gone from unwatchable to a solid sitcom.

Unwatchable is what people are saying about TRUTH BE TOLD.

We'd missed the show but hadn't missed all the copy and talk about how bad the show is.

So imagine our surprise to discover that the show paired with UNDATABLE actually shows promise.

TRUTH BE TOLD, at its worst, recalls CBS' awful YES, DEAR.  At its best, the chemistry indicates it could be something more.

Could be but probably won't.

Friday, NBC decided to cut the order for 13 episodes down to ten.

One would think Tone Bell's work as Russell alone would make them want to get on board with this show, back it and give the audience a chance to find it.

But as great as Bell is -- and he's a natural who hits every note without breaking a sweat -- the other three leads -- Vanessa Lachey, Bresha Webb and Mark-Paul Gosselaar -- hold their own and already have meshed as an acting team.

The scripts could be a little sharper, yes.

But when a group of actors finds collective chemistry, a network should sit up and notice because that's what brings the viewers in.

Friday nights, NBC's airing an hour of comedy that surprised us and, if you give it a chance, it might just happily surprise you as well.

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