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."
Since most network comedy apologists tell you to give a show time to find its footing, this round we waited until we were three episodes in before reviewing FOX's new comedies. Rich tackled Brooklyn Nine-Nine, while Beejoli took on Dads.
Rich: So, I'm already over Brooklyn Nine-Nine. As is the rest of the country: this week's audience was about half of its premiere audience. (This is only its third week on the air.) It suffers from the same problem that you mentioned re: Super Fun Night: it's just gags. The plots are threadbare and terrible. There was a subplot about Terry Crews' character's inability to assemble a doll house this week. There was a weaksauce scared straight speech. Andy Samberg's character was in a slump. Boring. Boring. Boring. It's a shame because the characters are really specific. Especially Stephanie Beatriz as the unsmiling Rosa Diaz. She's great. (Also her character's favorite cop movie is Robocop so I relate to her on a really deep level because that's my favorite cop movie too. I wish this show were Robocop. Not a remake or a series rendering of Robocop. Just Robocop. Every week. I'd buy that for a dollar.)
Beejoli: You could just buy Robocop for 9.99 on Amazon.
Rich: I have it on Blu-Ray. The entire series, in fact. I like that Andre Braugher's character is gay. A good mix of matter-of-factly gay and consciously gay. You know, he talks about his struggles with having been an out cop for the past 25 years. I don't see much evidence of said struggles in his character, but at least he's talking about them. This show also does that thing where they'll reference something in the past, and we'll get a 10-second flashback that out-absurds the set-up. Very Family Guy. I don't like that. Too tropey. I thought this show had a lot of promise two weeks ago, but it doesn't. It promises nothing but some zany people doing semi-zany shit in a police station. Chelsea Peretti's pretty awesome, though.
Beejoli: So the only thing I will say, so that I can check my biases at the door after that, is that Parks & Recreation went through this in its first season. The development of the characters, as you said, is razor sharp and that is a REALLY underrated skill in TV right now.
Rich: Yeah, that's clearly the show's skill. Strong point, rather. There are a bunch of really pointy crayons but no construction paper.
Beejoli: I have my own issues with the show (I think they could develop Samberg's character better - we're supposed to accept his ridiculous behavior because he's a good detective, but we never see it, so to me he's just kind of a dick coworker), but - and I'm sort of giving away all my arguments against Dads here - they do a good job of finding NOT overused situations, which is also underrated. So yes, Terry Crews building a dollhouse may be a little silly, but I actually feel like some of the situations they've gotten into, ONLY THESE CHARACTERS could get into them.
Rich: That's a good point. I mean, everyone shits differently, but I don't necessarily want to watch that.
Beejoli: Which is sort of (in my mind) the formula for great network comedies: Very very well developed characters coupled with things that you watch and are like "That would only happen to you" e.g. if someone made a show about me meeting a new coworker for the first time, and then sleeping on his floor in a ball at 5 AM, you might go "God that's so Beejoli"10:30 AM
Rich: Haha I would pay more than a dollar to watch a recreation of you in a ball. Your epic emotional night! That is a sitcom in itself.
Beejoli: I will stick with it, though I'd really like more from Samberg's character. I do find some of the characters trope-y (see: Chelsea Peretti; I am the only person in America who doesn't like her acting right now but I am coming around on her, because her standup has always been fucking hilarious), but I think it'll find its footing. Not just because "Parks did too!" but like, Parks did too.
Rich: I love Peretti.
Beejoli: Dan Goor & Mike Schur have always been beyond excellent at developing these characters that are totally believable real people who exist in the world, but are also ridiculous humans who are unique and very different from the other ridic humans in their ecosystem. Whereas the creators of Dads do no such thing.
Rich: Enlighten me.
Beejoli: I really, really wanted to come around on Dads, but have 3 major issues with it.
1) Characters: The characters are all exactly the same. There's this old trope that if you take a script and cover up all the names, you should be able to instantly tell which character is saying which line. If your characters don't pass that litmus test, you need to develop them out better.
Rich: Yeah, definitely.
Beejoli: And I know that I'm using perfect examples, but Friends, Will & Grace, Frasier, Cheers, Taxi, all did exactly that. BuzzFeed posted the first page of the Friends script with character descriptions a while ago and literally every character from episode 1 to Season 10, final episode matched those descriptions. So that's issue 1: Giovanni Ribisi and Seth Green sound exactly the same. Which on one hand I'm glad they didn't just go "Gio is a pushover for his wife, Seth is a fratty single dude"...but there's no differentiation. Same with the dads.
2) Plot. The situations are so...typical. "We ate pot brownies, madness ensued." Good shows, like I said when I interjected earlier into your speech, find situations that could only happen to those characters that you have come to know so well. I know I keep going back to Friends, and this isn't even my favorite episode, but Monica first flips out that Chandler gets a maid because she is a neat freak + control freak, but then makes Chandler try to seduce their maid because she thinks the maid stole her jeans. Like, I saw that, and again not even a top 10 episode for me, but I get it. No one else is doing that. Dads is so not killing it on originality, which is too bad since Family Guy is pretty original.
3) Offensive humor. The offensive humor doesn't bother me at all, the Mexican jokes, the Asian jokes, any of it. They're just not that funny.
Rich: Yeah. It's not enough to simply be offensive. You think people would have learned that by now?
Beejoli: Also, their office place is crazy given that Brenda song wears open-weave sweaters that you can always clearly see her bra through, on purpose.
Rich: Very early '90s.
Beejoli: Very Grace Adler. So I will not be watching Dads again. Actually that's a lie, Seth Green was my childhood crush ever since Can't Hardly Wait, and I looooove Giovanni Ribisi who by the by, is TOTALLY wasted on this show.10:41 AM
Rich:Neither of them do it for me, but OK.
Beejoli: He is an excellent actor, even in sitcoms (especially in sitcoms actually, because I'm always so impressed that he can go from dramas to being ridiculous funny without being a caricature in a sitcom guest role), and it bums me out that he only has like 3 facial expressions on this show. So fine I guess I'll kind of keep watching it, but mainly just to rub one out at night without a risk of malware on my new laptop. Brooklyn, I actually want to keep watching because I'm sure it will hit that balance of zany + grounded. It has the grounded part down, it just needs to dial down the zany a tiny, tiny bit. Or earn those victories and the right to be zany by first giving you a sense of what people like Samberg + Braugher went through to earn their station in ...well, the station.
Rich: There is something kind of comforting about Brooklyn Nine Nine, because the characters are so well drawn that they feel immediately familiar. But I don't think I have time to watch them do nothing. I'll stick to Robocop.
Beejoli: Just come back to it Season 2. And also, Rush Hour > Robocop, forever.
Rich: You are insane. Have fun with Samberg & company.
Beejoli: OH I WILL.
WINNER: Brooklyn 9-9, if only because some of us (Beejoli) are convinced it will find its footing, while some of us (Rich) are mainly just tuning in for Chelsea Peretti.