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."
In our final showdown of this fall premiere season of crap, we take on two of the cheesiest multicams of 2013. Rich watched NBC's Sean Saves The World, while Beejoli watched CBS' The Millers.
Rich: I hate Sean Saves the World for its perpetuation of the neutered gay man archetype in pop culture. Will and Grace did that. Many famous gays do that as part of their persona. I met one recently, and could not believe the sex that was coming off of him because his on-screen persona suggested nothing of the sort. And here we have Sean Hayes doing it again. There was a joke early on in which he explains to his daughter how he made a baby with her mother despite him being gay. It's because he "was" and then he "wasn't" and then he "WAS." She asked about his sexual history and he admitted that there wasn't a lot of "was-ing" going on. Because that would be too hard for straight audiences to handle — a promiscuous AND LIKABLE gay man.
Sean — also his character's name on the show — is a total coward when it comes to his boss. He works for an online retailer and he's afraid to stand up to this tyrant.
Boss: “If this is about you leaving early, no you can’t.”
Sean: “No I can’t!”
Sean: “Who are you to make me choose between my job and my daughter?”
Boss: “Your boss.”
Sean: “THAT is a truth.”
Even when he finally takes a stand, it is limp-wristed: “I will be having dinner with her. And I got you a coffee card. The first of two.” The problem is not with his effeminacy. It is with his weakness. In a way, it's very instructive to have a concrete example of the difference between the two. Because feminine guys are often very, very strong: see drag queens (on RuPaul's Drag Race, etc.) But I hate this character.
Also, the show didn't so much as make me chuckle. Mother rings the doorbell repeatedly, annoyingly. Sean: “Calm down, you maniac, I’m parenting!” Mom (through the door): “The good ones can do it and open a door at the same time!” Oh. That is all. I hate this show. I will never watch it again and I wish that I hadn't seen it.
Beejoli: Oy ve. I loved the show for a multitude of reasons that you and I both know all culminate into my love of campy multi-cams, but I agree that Sean was weak through the whole thing. I do think he played such a different character from Jack on Will & Grace though, and I was shocked by that, so my love of Sean will let me hope it finds its footing. Currently wasting Thomas Lennon though.
Rich: I liked him better on 30 Rock. THAT was a different character. He was virtually unrecognizable.
Beejoli: Anyways, by the by. The Millers left me with similar sentiments. I'm torn because the creator - Greg Garcia - made 3 shows I love: Yes, Dear, Raising Hope and My Name Is Earl. But this pilot was not great, sorta cheesy jokes, a little bit of a waste of J.B. Smoove. Parents divorce, move in with each kid, parents have ridiculous character traits. That being said, this is what Garcia always does: takes these crazy characters and then finds a way to rein them in later. And listen, it's a CBS multicam. It's never gonna be as good as My Name Is Earl, but I do see it getting to be as good as any other great for CBS multicam (2 and a Half Men, Big Bang, etc.)
Rich: That's a hopeful outlook.
Beejoli: The cast is excellent: Beau Bridges, Margo Martindale, Will Arnett, JB Smoove, Jayma Mays.
Rich: Right. Very strong.
Beejoli: Sad they recast Michael Rapaport and Mary Elizabeth Ellis (The Waitress from Always Sunny). And yeah, do I think the jokes could have been a little less yell-y? Sure. But it reminded me a LOT of Everybody Loves Raymond and that's not a bad thing. I think they strived a little hard for the heartfelt moment here, which Raymond actually doesn't do...it was kind of dark for a sitcom, all things considered. But Greg Garcia does THAT (dark for a sticom) super super super well. He had a whole episode of Yes, Dear on spanking your kid! And you actually heard it.10: No white people on TV are coming out in favor of hitting a child.
Rich: Yeah, that's cool. Feels subversive within a very constrained format.
Beejoli: So I feel like it will find its footing - it didn't in this pilot, for sure. But you have to sort of beat the audience tests, etc. It's a show I would recommend to people 2nd half of the season. SO. I'm torn on it, but that's how I feel. But I also love According To Jim so I don't know. If every episode feels the same as pilot big fail. But if it capitalizes on its cast and chooses to get weird, it'll be good.
Rich: I do hate the highly stylized multicams that we're discussing. It is a prejudice of mine.
Beejoli: I know me too.
Rich: You know, it's a format. So we must evaluate given the standards set and constraints experienced within that format.
Beejoli: Multicams currently are trying really hard to nail 3 jokes a page, etc, when the best ones didn't worry about "Is every other line hilarious?!" it was just organic. So yeah you watch these multis and are like "Wait no one talks like that."
Rich: Exactly. Which is OK.
Beejoli: But you watch, say, Cheers: and don't feel that way, because even though none of my friends are that funny, it feels believable.
Rich: You know, pop culture needn't be realistic to be good. But if it feels false and there's no good reason to explain why, that's when you run into problems.
Rich: So you can win this one because Sean Saves the World is NOT cutting it. Sean will save the world with the same sort of weak, passive victory, I am sure.
Beejoli: And great teeth. Really excellent teeth.
Rich: A chemically ironed face.
Beejoli: A win by default. I will take it.
WINNER: The Millers, because all fart jokes aside, this show has real potential.
[Art by Sam Woolley]