Which overhyped show should you watch? In Showdowns, Defamer's Beejoli Shah and Gawker's Rich Juzwiak tackle the tough issues: Which show each night this week sucks the least during the premiere season of this "Golden Age of Television."
Last night, we took on the best of the worst new loser buddy comedies! Rich watched ABC's Super Fun Night, while Beejoli watched CBS' We Are Men.
Beejoli: I would like to say, early on, that just because We Are Men was very, very not great, it doesn't give you an automatic victory for Super Fun Night.
Rich: YES I WIN. End of chat. I get why you don't like Super Fun Night. I mean, I don't really like it, but I think it's weird enough. I don't like the whole, "These characters are nonspecifically stupid" device.
Beejoli: I just think it's a premise that can't sustain. Also, I hate when crazy is piled on top of crazy. I don't feel like there's anything realistic and full of heart, so it's easy to just become bombastic. And that gets old reeeeeal quick, and people lose interest. I never understood WHY Rebel was good at her job. I never understood why her and her friends never left the house. I never understood why if they never left the house they all had knockoff Herve Leger. It was just 30 minutes of gags, and that's not comedy, that's easy.
Rich: Yeah, I agree. However, the absurdity is sometimes heady. "I love London." "Oh have you been?" "No but I have been to several renaissance fairs." That is funny. "He's not gay, he's just British." That is REAL.
Beejoli: Sure. It wasn't 30 minutes of dullardness. While I like the Ren Faire joke (I have been to quite a few myself, thanks), the gay/British? C'mon. That joke has been made a ton.
Rich: I love love love Rebel's lesbian friend, and her really awkward, shifty reaction to her. When she said, "I love you too, Kimmy," all obsessed, and then Rebel kind of stuttered over a half beat before delivering her line. Perfect.
Beejoli: Rebel is excellent, and I love that she's not just playing her Bridesmaids character here or Fat Amy [from Pitch Perfect]...but she's not far off. She's just playing a nebbishy version of those characters.
Rich: You can hear her Australian accent on certain words. "Our" is bad.
Beejoli: Yeah but not as annoying as Malin Akerman attempting unaccented English instead of embracing her Swedish roots on Trophy Wife.
Rich: Also this show is humiliating. On one hand, you are supposed to empathize enough with the characters that their being humiliated should make you feel something. On the other, they are just constantly humiliated by people who are cooler and conventionally better-looking. It's pretty rough. Beyond awkward.
Beejoli: I'm no pioneer for social justice, I just don't think it accomplishes anything. Like am I supposed to walk away and be nicer to the weird girl in our office? Oh my god, is that why you've been so nice to me since I started, Rich?!
Rich: A cautionary tale. Deep down inside her is a Troll-doll party. I mean, it's a goofy show. Pasta-bar jokes. On one hand, I like that even though Rebel Wilson's character is the butt of fat jokes, that's not the only type of joke that she's the butt off. On the other hand, I wonder how much her general social incompetence relates to her size. And that the show isn't just one big fat joke, just one way to humiliate her for her size after another.
It reminded me of The Comeback. And while Valerie is pathetic, at least some of that is because of her own arrogance, whereas Rebel Wilson's character is generally kind and clueless. So it all seems pretty mean.11:00 AM
Beejoli: See, it did NOT remind me of The Comeback exactly for what you listed! This had no purpose. I didn't get what made Rebel Wilson tick, what her life was like before or after, it just dropped me into the middle of a very sad scene, sans any sort of context.
Rich: Well you can see what I'm getting at with the cringey humor that is dependent on humiliating its protagonist. Sad and dumb. I mean, I guess she's being punished for her stupidity.
Beejoli: And I don't think her victory was big enough, and also...kinda superficial?
Rich: Her victory was not a victory.
Beejoli:Again, no campaigner for social justice, but your victory being the hot guy being nice to you before he leaves? Cool. Weird. I'm glad they're getting out of their Friday nights spent inside after 13 years, but I kind of hate that the message is "We're losers and we must rectify this!"
Rich: Leaves with the girl who just publicly humiliated you after encouraging you to wear something that "shows off your chunk." I don't know, I think the message may emerge as, "We're losers and that's OK." But how much dignity will they have to sap in the process? Anyway, I assume that We Are Men, being about men, has no such torturous agenda for its protagonists?
Beejoli: It does not. One more caveat for the day: I met with the exec producers when I was being considered to write for this show, who are not only really nice but really great writers. And they actually assembled a GIANT writer's room of TV heavy hitters, so I am cautiously optimistic this will get better. That being said, the pilot episode of We Are Men was not good. I just don't understand...the jokes? I'm on board with the premise of four dudes, single not by choice, living in a ridiculous short term living complex. And Jerry O'Connell is actually kind of funny. But it just seems like everyone is hamming it up so hard! It is very cheesy. Kal Penn yelling "We are MEN! And we love each other!" Even though mocked by O'Connell...wasn't funny.
Rich: Yeah, doing the sitcom thing, right?
Beejoli: Not even just doing the sitcom thing - the jokes aren't...that joke- And everyone, right now, is just sort of a caricature.
Rich: What is it going for? Is it supposed to be a satire of man things? A celebration of bro culture? A rally against misandry?
Beejoli: No! It's supposed to be a buddy comedy of four dudes. It's not as chest-thumping as the title suggest, it just seems a little unmoored. It's like a very weird not funny comedy version of Men of a Certain Age, which was fantastic, by the way.
I think both shows we watched are just a waste of talent, because they're making these actors be very cheesy caricatures of their characters and relying on that as the humor instead of actually digging into the characters themselves, and why they are the way they are. Audiences aren't stupid enough to want to just blindly accept someone simply because you put them on screen in a Speedo and a robe (but thanks for that, O'Connell's body is BANGIN). I don't know. I feel like both were really big fails, even for network comedy, and we live in a world where a show about aliens living among us is in its second season!
Rich: Yeah, I think Rebel's character is a little more specific and idiosyncratic than just a caricature, but she's sort of just inexplicably, unrealistically dim. I am curious to see what's going to happen with Super Fun Night, but I am not marrying it.
Beejoli: Totally. I think all these new comedies do need a bit of breathing room. I just felt like both started from such a place of "Wahhh we're losers pity us," it was hard to root for them, but we'll see.
Rich: So what wins? Or nothing?
Beejoli: Cable dramas?
Rich: Sounds good to me. More love for the high-brow stuff.
Beejoli: We do love our eyebrows.
WINNER: Neither. There is a reason cable dramas are kicking your asses network TV. Get on it.