It is beginning to be that time of year. When the weather turns colder and the leaves start to fall, driving everyone inside to the warmth of the fireplace and the flickering light of the television. While you struggle to adjust your watching schedule given the changing times for returning favorites, you might also notice some newcomers enter the television line-up. To save you the agony of rearranging your schedule for a show that turns out to be a bust, I have taken on the mission of screening a few pilots for you to identify the ones worth watching.
Before I begin, I would like to thank the lovely Jenners for letting me use her brilliant title. For more of her cleverness, check her out.
Also note that all pilots I will be reviewing are available prior to their live premiere dates on Hulu. If you feel the need to confirm my review, check them out and let me know what you think in the comments below. Now on with the comedies!
Tuesdays @ 9:00 EST
Premieres September 11th
Sportscaster Ryan King has just returned to work after the death of his wife. He claims he is doing fine and just needs to work. Unfortunately, his station does not agree and mandates Ryan attend 10 hours of group therapy. The board hopes that this will force him to deal with his emotions. How likely is that? Very unlikely. Ryan treats it as a game until a blow-up at work makes him realize that he actually needs to deal with his feelings by talking through them.
Familiar Faces: Matthew Perry (Friends, in case you lived under a rock in the 90s), John Cho (Harold from Harold & Kumar).
Favorite Quote: “You’re a very nice lady. I’m going to send you all my sad friends!”
This Reminds Me: Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Successful businessman finds himself in the position of having to leave work until he can complete some specified requirement. This requirement involves unwillingly joining a group of “losers” who will, over time, soften his cool façade and teach him about life outside of the office. If the business is radio and the requirement is group therapy, you have Go On. If the business is law and the requirement is getting a bachelor’s degree, you have Community. The main difference between Go On and Community is that the group in Go On has an actual leader who can bring the group back in line after Ryan has led them astray in their wacky shenanigans. The two shows also share repeated cultural references. In replacement of Abed’s media metaphors, you have Ryan’s sports analogies.
Other Aspects to Consider: The pilot is perfectly composed to introduce the cast of characters without being annoyingly detailed (the advertised “March Sadness” bit does this very well as each character must explain what brought them to the group in under 60 seconds). The therapy group provides many interesting storylines that could be explored over the course of the show, but there is also the opportunity to delve into Ryan’s work life and his past. You can surely expect many a sports star to guest on the show in the guise of giving an interview. And hopefully John Cho, as the boss, will not be relegated to the sidelines. When given the chance, he can create comedy gold.
Remaining Questions: Will there be any sexual tension between group mates? My only fear is that Ryan will end up sleeping with the group therapist. While this works on Community amongst students where there is no power differential, sexual tension with the group leader will undermine the point of therapy. Yes, I realize I am being preachy about therapy as portrayed on television (which is almost always wrong), but I truly hope this does not happen though I recognize its likelihood. They have a cute chemistry, but, just…. No.
How long can this therapy group be sustained? In Community, the initial time frame to which the main character has to commit is much longer. Here, Ryan only has to go to five sessions. By the end of the pilot, he has realized that he needs at least that much help, but can he quickly turn his attitude around and commit to going to therapy on a regular basis? While I already predict that there are many stories to be told, I question what will bond these stories together if the therapy group dissolves. Writers will also have to come up with some way to keep the group setting fresh if that remains the common factor.
The Verdict: DVR. I reserve the right to retract this after a couple of episodes, but this show has promise. For Matthew Perry’s sake, I hope this one sticks.
And in the next time slot… is The New Normal