Premieres of Fall’s New TV Comedies

Community – “Pilot” (Thurs. @ 9:30/8:30c – NBC)

Community follows a group of people who, for various reasons, find themselves at a community college. Though I have to wonder what different situations they can go through from episode to episode, I doubt this is going to be the main concern. Instead, like The Office, as random as the plots will probably be to liven up these semi-boring settings, this is going to be a character driven comedy more than anything else. As it is said in the opening speech: “What is community college? Well, you’ve heard all kinds of things. You’ve heard it’s loser college, or remedial teens, 20 something dropouts, middle age divorcees, and old people, keeping their minds active as they circle the drain of eternity…” These are just a few of the characters presented in this first episode, and though most fill a stereotypical role of the many students found in this learning setting, their representation is anything but boring in this show.  Each character has been realized so strongly already, which is why I hope they stick to this core group of students for the remainder of the show. Though not all of the actors are as well known as Chevy Chase, each performance promises great things to come in the future, especially in their interactions, which is exemplified perfectly during Jeff Winger’s (Joel McHale) “everyone has good inside them” speech. However, as awesome as this speech is, McHale’s character is going to have to work a little harder to move past his personality of douchebaggery. Well, at least slightly. It is entertaining after all.

Final Grade: A-

Modern Family – “Pilot” (Wed. @ 9/8c – ABC)

Another show sampling from The Office is Modern Family, a show following three different branches of a family tree as they go about their lives (as well as in an interview setting). Furthering the comparison to The Office, they are very similar in how they draw from believable situations, like having a daughter bring a boy over for the first time, and then exaggerate the moment (yet in a simple way), such as when the father accidentally shoots him in the neck. Though this is closer to deadpan comedy than laugh-out-loud comedy, it works really well for this show.

The advertising for this show has been very intense leading up to the premiere, and I was a little disappointed that a lot of the best moments were ruined by the countless times I have had to sit through an in depth look at the show while waiting for my movie to start at the theater, there is so much more that in the end it doesn’t really matter. For example, all the previews show Phil (Ty Burrell) taking his son out into the back yard to shoot him, but they don’t show how prior to this the family has to look through the events on their calendar to schedule it in. Another great moment worth mentioning involves the gay couples The Lion King inspired presentation of their adopted, Vietnamese baby girl to the rest of the family. Suddenly, “The Circle of Life” begins to play as Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) walks slowly into the room, thrusting the child into a spotlight, bringing about this interaction:

Mitchell: Turn it off.

Cameron: I can’t turn it off. It’s who I am.

Mitchell: The music.

As I said before when talking about Community, this is another example of a show about the characters, with the plots just adding great opportunities for ridiculous character interactions. And though all of them seem really strong, the two standing out most for me are Phil, the oblivious father who just wants to be cool to his kids, and Gloria (Sofía Vergara), with her strong motherly instinct to protect her son, whether it is berating another mother at his soccer game or pushing him to express his emotional side.

If you haven’t checked Modern Family out yet, you should really give it a chance because it is promising to be one of the better new shows of the season.

Final Grade: A-

Cougar Town (Wed. @ 9:30/8:30c – ABC)

Of these three new comedies, this is by far the weakest. Cougar Town follows Jules (Courteney Cox) as she readjust to life as a cougar (or an older woman who likes younger men), and though Cox has promised this show will be so much more than just that, so far it has not done so.

The main problem stems from the subject matter. Because it is about what is deemed as appropriate behavior for men and women by society, there are bound to be some mentions of double standards. However, what is preachy enough with Jules’s first speech about this later becomes worse when she rants to her neighbor about how scary it can be for older women to put on a brave face as they realize they may remain unmarried. Yes, these are real concerns for a lot of women, and are important issues that Jules will be dealing with, but these off-putting, big sermons should have been avoided, especially in the first episode. Later they could have been introduced more gradually, as to not completely scare away any chance of having a male audience to go along with the bitter women that this show seems to be aiming at right now.

The second issue I took with Cougar Town is the comedic style, which does not really fit into any of the categories on TV today, such as sitcoms or the more subdued comedies that are very prominent today (The Office, Parks and Recreation, Community, Modern Family). I am afraid that this show is not up to the competition that the others provide; especially considering Cox’s main character is slightly obnoxious with her exaggerated acting. Though it worked for Monica in Friends, it needs to be brought down here because it ends up being a little annoying, not a quality you want with the character the audience is supposed to sympathize with and relate to.

As I have hinted at, if this show is going to succeed, some changes need to be made. First, the comedy needs to be rejiggered because right now the jokes are very hit or miss. Something they should keep (and make stronger) are the relationships between the characters, especially with Jules and her high school aged son, Travis (Dan Byrd), as well as with her business partner Laurie (Busy Philipps). Also, if her interactions with her neighbor, Grayson (Josh Hopkins) become more than preaching time for Jules, then these have the potential to be some of the better parts of the show as well.

Though the pilot failed to live up to my expectations, I will give it the benefit of the doubt because of the potential it has, especially with the cast it was able to pull together.

Final Grade: B–

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