Tuesday, February 11, 2020

TV: The good bones of INDEBTED

As HGTV viewers, we're aware of the importance of 'good bones.'  On the show of that name, mother Karen E. Laine and daughter Mina Starsiak find rundown homes with 'good bones' and restore the homes to their former glory. It's a popular show that will begin airing its fifth season shortly.

We were thinking of GOOD BONES and good bones last week when NBC aired the pilot of INDEBTED.  It's a sitcom that's gotten some lousy reviews and that's why NBC should stand by it.  The same Water Cooler Set trashing INDEBTED has praised various crap that viewers have refused to watch.

INDEBTED has a strong cast and has found an interesting way to explore the nuclear family.  Andy Ackerman is an executive producer and directed the pilot.  He has extensive sitcom credits (including GRACE AND FRANKIE, SEINFELD, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE and CHEERS) but the one that is most pertinent here would be EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND.  Family bonds were explored in that show with the gimmick that the favored son lived across the street from his parents.  Here the gimmick is that the parents are broke and have to move in with the favored son. 

Adam Pally plays Dave, the favored son.  Pally has been an important part of ensembles (HAPPY ENDINGS and THE MINDY PROJECT) but this is first chance to really be the lead in a sitcom and he pulls it off effortlessly.  He's funny and he's likable.  One of his best moments may be, when his son is trying to get candy out of a pinata but accidently hits Dave in the crotch, he gasps, "My sweet, son, there's no candy in Daddy."  SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE's Abby Elliott is effective as Rebecca.  Who is she?  Dave's wife.  That's really all the writers offer her.  Maybe that will change later on.  She's given much less to do for now.

Fran Drescher is perfection as Dave's mother Debbie.  She was THE NANNY for years on CBS and she was very funny as THE NANNY but with Debbie she's created a new character and she's just as funny and just as lovable.  Fran's connection is immediate and visceral.

The same cannot be said for Steven Weber.  His best moments are when he's not connecting -- an aside about dark chocolate, ignoring Debbie to promote their daughter's website again.  He is best with asides and when he comes off oblivious.  The daughter, the unfavorite, by the way is Joanna and Jessy Hodges (ANYONE BUT ME) plays her.

 These are the bones for a long running sitcom.  A show that will live forever in syndication -- like FRIENDS, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, THE BIG BANG THEORY, etc.  This is not a Water Cooler Show.  That would be crap like MY NAME IS EARL -- stuff that really isn't funny and doesn't produce a single, honest laugh.

NBC has a hit on their hands if they play this right, a long running hit.  But, time and again, NBC has blinked when they had a show worth watching.  With one episode, the show has gotten the same number of viewers as any episode of SUPERSTORE now in its fifth season on NBC.  It's ratings were also in line with the other shows NBC broadcast Thursday night (two episode of BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, one of WILL & GRACE and one of LAW & ORDER: SVU).

INDEBTED isn't perfect, by episode three, the show is much stronger.  We would have tried for a better title, for example.  What?  Anything?  UH, YOU'RE JUST VISITING, RIGHT?

INDEBTED makes you think this is a show about economics.

But the actual show is funny and has 'good bones' which will make for a strong, long running series.

It made us think about NETFLIX.  Specifically about all the bad shows they've aired.

Yes, we complain about the cancellations of SENSE8 and SANTA CLARITA DIET, for example.  But there should be a much larger critique of how so many of their shows don't have good bones.

Take MARCO POLO.  Has NETFLIX ever aired a bigger piece of crap?  The network lost 200 million dollars on that show alone.   The only reason that they aired it was because they wanted to be in business with Harvey Weinstein.  How that dream work out for them?

It had nothing to flesh out a basic idea and no reason for viewers to watch -- so they didn't.

THE GET DOWN?  Baz Lurhmann does a musical for NETFLIX?  Okay, that's interesting.  But where was the actual plot, where were the bones?  No where to be found and it was another high profile mess.

SOUNDTRACK was more garbage without bones.  And what was with casting Campbell Scott?  Didn't the world give up on him after he crashed and burned in SINGLES?  Time and again, NETFLIX makes highly questionable casting decisions (file Kevin Corrigan's casting in THE GETDOWN in the same pile).

LOVE had a weak premise and no one ever worked to improve it.  It also had a serious casting issue: Paul Rust is disgusting and can't be a romantic male lead but no one seemed to know how to break that news to either Rust or show runner Judd Apatow and elevating Chris Witaske to a lead in the third and final season was way too little way too late.

More often than not, NETFLIX serves up a kink (see BONDING) under the pretense that it's a plot or gimmick.  It's not even satisfying on a prurient level.

You have to wonder where the adults are at NETFLIX.  And when they're casting losers like Kevin Corrigan and Campbell Scott and not somoene like Lela Rochon, you have to wonder where the adults are?  And let's get back to BONDING.  How do you set a show in NYC and make it about young people and not have any people of color in the regular cast?

Where are the adults at NETFLIX?

It's in this climate, please remember, that the decision was made to axe the popular ONE DAY AT A TIME.  Good bones also includes a schedule of programming that is varies and diverse.  Diversity for NETFLIX has only meant sex.  Titillation.  In 2020, everyone should be striving for more (that includes INDEBTED which needs to build up Asif Ali's role).

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