Spring 2015 Review: The Comedians

29 Apr

The Comedians

The Comedians tries every tack in the modern sitcom toolbox to get laughs, but along the way proves that it while it uses all these tools, it imitates but doesn’t really quite pick up on what makes any of these techniques work. Though the show ended up not being nearly as bad by any means as I anticipated from its endless barrage of commercials (a backhanded compliment if there ever was one), ultimately it’s still unsuccessful at getting laughs. There are a number of ideas that have worked in other’s hands and will again, but not here.

The Comedians is extremely meta, which of course screams its connection with the type of modern comedy young, hip people (myself included) revere. Billy Crystal, within the show, playing a version of himself, pitches FX on a sketch show starring himself; the network is interested, but only if he’ll co-star with Josh Gad as two equal partners. The two meet and find they don’t particularly care for each other, but eventually agree to do the show when they realize the network won’t move forward any other way. The pilot is shown as a making-of documentary style affair taking us from their discussions with FX and first meetings with one another to the taping of the first episode.

As mentioned above, The Comedians mimes a panoply of relatively recent sticoms. Curb Your Enthusiasm is probably the single greatest influence. The pilot of The Comedians resembles the movie that began Curb, which purported to be a behind-the-scenes look Larry David trying to get a stand up special on HBO (replace HBO with FX, and stand up special with sketch show, and you’ve got The Comedians). There are several other similarities to Curb. There’s the portrayal of real celebrities as unlikeable, arrogant, stupid, and eccentric; well-exaggerated versions of themselves. It’s Always Sunny and Curb were masters of the unlikeable people do horrible things comedy The Comedians reaches for. There’s an attempt at awkward humor of shows like Curb, The Office, and Peep Show. Billy and Josh’s first dinner was incredibly awkward as they both acted like weirdos and Billy callously apologized to fictional-and-real-life director Larry Charles (more meta), after he fired him within the show, leading Charles to think he was rehired, while Crystal merely wanted apologize for the manner of his firing.

The Comedians is filled with cutaways to documentary-style interviews conducted later that have become de rigueur starting with The Office (also prominent in Parks and Recreation and Modern Family). It also takes the 30 Rock approach to sketches; the sketches within the fake sketch show are obviously terrible, and the show attempts to highlights that by just showing some ridiculous short bits.

So, you get it. The creators have clearly been watching TV for the past decade. That’s not a bad thing, and I love most of the shows they crib from, and some of my favorite shows have been great but largely unoriginal. Unfortunately, while they get some of the methods and gimmicks that were used in many great shows during that time period, that forget that these gimmicks are just methods of delivery for well-written jokes; if the jokes stink, the most clever methods of telling those jokes in the worl, won’t help make them funny.  The Comedian, is just filled largely with jokes that are not good, and the show is not funny. The Comedians is not offensive, it’s not cringeworthy, it’s not full of the type of Chuck Lorre-delivered lazy tropes or attempts at troublingly out-of-date easy laughs. It’s just not funny either.

Will I watch it again? No. It was not funny. Unlike some not very good comedies, The Comedians clearly has some ideas of what is good, but they’re nowhere close to be being fully formed, or realized.

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