Monday, January 27, 2020

TV: What develops

A fetal ultrasound, more commonly referred to as a sonogram, provides an image of a developing fetus. Parents-to-be can find out many things including the gender of the developing fetus.  The sonogram is not going to tell them the education level the eventual child will attain, it does not tell them the success in life that the child may have, etc.  Pilots are a lot like fetuses, you don't know what they'll become as they grow.


OUTMATCHED debuted on FOX last week.  The sitcom stars Jason Biggs and Maggie Lawson as a married couple with four kids -- three of which are geniuses.  The fourth?

The fourth is not a genius.  Why does that translate, as a writer on the show told us, to "dumb"?

We have no idea except maybe some members of The Water Cooler Set weren't paying attention when they watched the show.  The two oldest as well as the youngest are geniuses.  The second youngest?  She's not stupid or dumb.  The worst might be that she's average but you can argue that she's above average.

What's the worst that you can say about the show?  That it's got good bones.  If it were a house, that's what you'd say.  It's a sitcom with a strong cast and an interesting premise.  We're looking at a sonogram.  It could live up to -- even surpass -- its potential and become a long running sitcom, an audience favorite.  Or it could never develop beyond what it is.

NEWHART?  We all remember that as a funny show.  It wasn't always funny.  The show really only came to life when Julia Duffy showed up as a guest.  Making her character Stephanie a regular made NEWHART finally click.  Mary Frann was not capable of providing serious laughs.  Bob Newhart?  Of course he was.  But he needed people to work off of.  Julia Duffy provided the spark the show needed.  Later adding Peter Scolari helped the show as well.  We would gladly watch any episode of the show -- provided it was from the second season forward.   We especially love the episode where Bob does a sitcom on the show -- he's a single father of twins -- both played by Stephanie -- and Joanna (Mary Frann) plays death -- a character one of the twins asks, "Why so glum, Grim?"

CHEERS?  A very funny show.  But a show that gets better each episode into the first season, wrapping up that first season as a classic TV show.  THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW?  Did anyone know where Ted Baxter was headed when they watched the pilot "Love Is All Around"?


Ted Knight played Ted Baxter.  He also played Henry Rush on TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT.  That is an example of a series that had promise but never lived it up to it.  In fact, as each episode progressed, the show actually got worse and worse.

What will be the fate of OUTMATCHED?  We don't know.  No one does at this point.  We hope FOX will give the show time to develop because it does have promise.

Our advice?  Spend some more time developing the adult parents.  Walton's character works in a casino with Rita (played by Tisha Campbell of MY WIFE AND KIDS and MARTIN fame).  There's enough going on in their one scene to argue more time needs to go there.  Jason Biggs is playing a contractor.  We need to see some of that.  The funniest physical bit was when Biggs had to address the two youngest and tossed the youngest son onto the couch with the child then rolling off.  We'd argue bits are better for the kids.  A lot of the comedic lines they're given are wasted due to pacing. Some may be wasted for other reasons.  A line about Salieri ("I will not be a Salieri in my own home"), for example, may just be too fleeting and too obscure to deliver the intended laugh.

The show has a strong cast and a lot of promise.

WILL & GRACE still has promise and it is one of the best shows on TV currently.  It was a groundbreaking sitcom when it debuted in the 90s.  Even with a changing landscape, those episodes from its original run remain some of the funniest television ever produced.  The reboot has been funny as well.  It's now in its third season which is also its final season.

Why is it the final season?  We already covered this: Debra Messing doesn't play well with others.  She's destroyed the harmony of the cast and Megan Mullally has had enough.  We learned that last season.

So why cover it again in this space?

Because two weeks ago, NBC felt the need to weigh in.


Because the ratings are down.

So NBC came along to lie that there was no feud.  No problem.

Then why end the show?

More to the point, how stupid does NBC think people are?

If there was no feud, Megan and Debra are both capable of denying it themselves.  In fact, Debra's not shy about social media.  On Sunday alone, Debra Tweeted 26 times.

There is a feud.

And NBC should be thrilled there's a feud.  It takes the attention off the execs who failed.  They failed over and over.

WILL & GRACE, even with lower ratings this season, is a hit for NBC.  NBC doesn't have a lot of hits.  NBC used WILL & GRACE to prop up a bunch of floundering sitcoms that should have been cancelled long ago.  We especially include SUPERSTORE on that list of sitcoms.  Season five has found the show delivering even less viewers.

The execs should have taken that garbage off.  In addition, the original plan was that David Kohan and Max Mutchnik, the team behind WILL & GRACE since the very first episode, would develop another sitcom that would be paired with the rebooted WILL & GRACE.

What happened?

Stick up their asses execs didn't like the studio audience factor of the new show.  Viewers have no problem with studio audiences.  The Water Cooler Set doesn't like a studio audience.  They prefer to live their lonely lives without any laughter.  But TV viewers have no problems with studio audiences.  In the '00s, when this nonsense started, the biggest sitcoms were the ones with a studio audience (see TWO AND A HALF MEN and EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, for two examples).  The same was true in the '10s when THE BIG BANG THEORY ruled.  NBC had a chance for an hour bloc of Kohan and Mutchnik sitcoms and passed.

What the execs went with instead?  Failures.  There's not one sitcom they've aired other than WILL & GRACE in the last three years that has delivered viewers.  They wasted their chance.  Now, because of a feud, their only sitcom worth watching is leaving the network.

NBC has a new sitcom that will debut the same night WILL & GRACE airs their final episode, February 6th.  That sitcom's cast includes Adam Pally.

Pally was a star on HAPPY ENDINGS which was the only single-cam sitcom that did not rip off Christopher Guest.  Christopher owns the mockumentary format after THIS IS SPINAL TAP, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, BEST IN SHOW, A MIGHTY WIND, FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION and MASCOTS.  He owns the genre and, whether its the team behind MODERN FAMILY, PARKS & RECREATION or THE OFFICE, they all owe Christopher Guest.

THE NANNY's Fran Drescher was in Christopher's THIS IS SPINAL TAP.  She's also in the new sitcom with Adam Pally.  INDEBTED teams her, Adam, Abby Elliott (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE) and Steven Weber (WINGS).  WINGS? Andy Ackerman directed on that show.  He's a show runner on INDEBTED and his other production credits include THE ELLEN SHOW, CHEERS and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE.

INDEBTED should have been paired with WILL & GRACE as soon as NBC started airing this last season of WILL & GRACE.  That's another mistake that NBC execs should be answering for.  Meanwhile, maybe it's time for THE HISTORY CHANNEL to answer for PROJECT BLUE BOOK?

There was never a need for this so-so show that airs on THE HISTORY CHANNEL and pretends to be 'historical' should have aired in the first place, let alone started season two last week.  The only thing that has developed on this show is the unintended homoerotic attraction between Michael Malarkey's Captain Quinn and Aidan Gillen's Dr. Hynek.  It's hard to imagine that even in the developmental stage PROJECT BLUE BOOK looked like a potential winner.

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