NvTV Episode 1: Nick vs. TV Part 1: The Beginning: Prelude

Admission: I have been neglecting this blog. I've posted precisely two entries, both basically just elaborate commercials for my books, and nothing even remotely blog-like… mostly because *boring personal explanation of neuroses and whining goes here*. 

That shit stops now. I set up a blog with the intention of blogging, so now I must blog. On my blog. Blog. Blooooooooog. 

Right. But what to blog about? I don't wanna talk about my life (and you don't wanna read about it), and I refuse to go down the Chuck Wendig road of pandering writer-bait*. 

*I'm sure Chuck Wendig is a wonderful writer and probably a not entirely shitty person. He might even be a pretty good person, though he's a writer and as a rule we're mostly scum. I still don't especially want to be him, and I certainly don't want a third of my books to be dedicated to telling other people how to write books like I write books. Even if I did, I feel like I could probably do it in one book, but that's just me, Anyways, back to the article! 

Still need to write about something, though. Lucky for me, I was my usual self-destructive anti-productive self last night and, instead of sleeping, I mainlined the entirety of both FX's Married and You're the Worst. They're spectacular. So, for that matter, was the last new show I watched, Netflix's Bojack Horseman. In fact, I can't remember the last time I've seen three shows that good in a row. I find myself filled with uncharacteristic optimism that the era of mind-numbing schlock (Looking at you, Two and a Half Men) and insufferable, repetitious cringe humor (The Office) is finally behind us. 

Yes, I know I'm wrong. Shut up. I need this illusion, or else I'm never gonna use this damned blog.

Anyhow, if I were smart, I'd individually blog about each episode of  Bojack, Married, and Worst, but I devoured them like *fat joke about your least favorite tubby celebrity going to town on some bacon-wrapped deep fried donuts goes here*. I'm planning to talk about some or all of those shows later this month, but I'll need something fresher to keep this game going. 

Enter Andy Greenwald's excellent sitcom preview over at Grantland; a convenient, all-in-one listing of nine brand new sitcoms on the way, most of which have at least something potentially going for them. So, because I'm a masochist (and because this stupid blog needs content), I'll be watching, and writing about, all nine of those shows this season for as long as I can bear them. Hopefully for the entire season*. If the workload is manageable enough, and something else grabs my attention (maybe Fox's Gotham or either of the new shows from Don't Trust The B's  Nahnatchka Khan), I'll add it to the rotation. But for now, let's start with these nine. 

* Failure here is probably inevitable.  The McCarthys , particularly, looks like the prohibitive favorite to send me screaming to old Norm Show reruns by episode five or so. 

I don't want to tread on the Greenwald piece too much here, but for the sake of posterity I want some initial expectations and assumptions on the record. I'll try and keep it short. Click the pictures to watch the relevant trailers. 

Selfie: Harold and Nebula go to Pygmalion.

Selfie: Harold and Nebula go to Pygmalion.

The only one of the crop I've already seen an episode of, I'll limit my comments here to what I thought based on the trailer, prior to seeing the pilot. Starring John Cho and Karen Gillan, Selfie is openly an updated My Fair Lady, only instead of  being a poor, uneducated harpy, here the "project" character is a shallow, oblivious social media junkie. Relevance!

Best Case Scenario: In a perfect world, this show'd combine the heart of Cho's underrated Go On with the laser-focused cynicism and darkness of Don't Trust the B. If it does, and manages  to be half as funny as either (or, really, even a third as funny as Don't Trust), it's a home run. 

Worst Case Scenario: It could  be every bit as vapid, empty, and trendy as its title. Think all the worst elements of The Big Bang Theory, only applied to social media instead of nerd culture. 

Prediction: Talented leads, high-concept premise, terrible title, iffy writing in the trailer… I'm expecting schmaltzy charm with occasional wit. Probably the kind of show I'd watch if it was on, but wouldn't DVR. 

Marry Me: The Drunk History of a Ladies' Man's Burning Love of Happy Parks Stuck in Internet… this gimmick worked better on the last caption. I'll do better next time, I promise. 

Marry Me: The Drunk History of a Ladies' Man's Burning Love of Happy Parks Stuck in Internet… this gimmick worked better on the last caption. I'll do better next time, I promise. 

Happy Endings genius David Caspe puts the never-not-funny Ken Marino (Party Down, The State) and equally consistent human comedy-geyser Casey Wilson (Happy Endings, SNL) into a loving, but destructive, romance. 

Best Case Scenario: The leads and the show runner all have basically unimpeachable comedy resumes, so the sky is the limit here. The ceiling would be prime Happy Endings anarchy with Marino's trademark oblivious charm thrown in to create some kind of beautiful sitcom Frankenstein that turns both of its criminally underrated leads into household names. 

Worst Case Scenario: Overly twee, cloying heartstring puller that squanders the assembled talent. Happy Endings took almost too long to find both itself and about half of its characters. If that happens here- without the cushion of a superstar ensemble loaded with Eliza Coupes and Adam Pallys- we're looking at a six episode show that's mostly total crap, with probably a few solid chuckles from Marino and Wilson that only serve to tantalize us poor comedy lovers with dreams of what might have been (think those incongruously wonderful Judy Greer/Tyler Labine scenes in the otherwise abominable Mad Love from a few years ago). 

Prediction: I think this show's going to be competent out of the gate, but ultimately not on the level of peak Happy Endings or Party Down, and that's going to make me sad. Having said that, despite my fears in the above paragraph, supporting player John Gemberling (Fat Guy Stuck in Internet) is capable of being at least as funny as Wilson and Marino when allowed to indulge his beautifully deranged creative impulses (Fat Guy Stuck In Internet,  written by and starring Gemberling, had its moments of sublime, if bizarre, comic inspiration... though whether or not his perma-fried mad scientist approach to comedy can translate to a more traditional sitcom remains to be seen), and Tim Meadows is great more often than not. If it sounds like I'm waffling here, it's because I am; this, like Happy Endings before it, will probably be a magnificent show if given enough time to work out the kinks and figure out who's funny why (so, probably, it needs to make it to a second season)… but in today's increasingly unstable comedy landscape, and without a major name on the marquee, it might not get that time. 

Black-Ish: Laurence Fishburne's supposed to be in this photo, but he's busy possibly bleeding to death in Hannibal Lecter's wine cellar. HIs family seems weirdly ok with it. They must still be pissed about the Matrix sequels. . 

Black-Ish: Laurence Fishburne's supposed to be in this photo, but he's busy possibly bleeding to death in Hannibal Lecter's wine cellar. HIs family seems weirdly ok with it. They must still be pissed about the Matrix sequels. . 

Anthony Anderson tries to keep his family's black culture alive in spite of their affluence and suburban setting. Lawrence Fishburne plays his dad. 

Best Case Scenario: This could be really, really good. While I'm opposed to anything stealing Fishburne from Hannibal, the trailer's surprisingly solid for what's all but guaranteed to be a pretty gimmicky pilot episode (nature of the beast, not the show's fault), and obviously Anderson and Fishburne are big time actors with big time pedigrees. The premise is potentially the funniest of this bunch (well, this or Selfie) in a vacuum, and if they stick the landing this thing could be a grand slam. 

Worst Case Scenario: Tyler Perry. 

Prediction: I think we've got something here, though there's going to be some necessary range finding in the first half of the season; race is one of the biggest guns in the comedy arsenal, but also the easiest to misfire. As long as the writers can resist the urge to ignore the low hanging fruit, and as long as Fishburne's character has more going on than the trailer would suggest, this one's a strong contender for best of the batch. 

Cristela: She can dream, but it's the same dream every time: a world without a laugh track. 

CristelaShe can dream, but it's the same dream every time: a world without a laugh track. 

 A Latin American woman is trying to become a lawyer while still living with her family. There's a laugh track. 

Best Case Scenario: The trailer has a few hints of real wit (though they're badly outnumbered by dad jokes and groaners). I don't know much about any of the people involved, but if we can get a smart, funny show with a mostly Latino cast I'm all for it, and all the nice things I said about Black-Ish mostly apply here; it feels a little cheap to lump the two minority shows together like that, but they're the two trailers that have mostly racial humor and old-school family sitcom DNA, so… it's not my fault? 

Worst Case Scenario: Tired, lazy writing that wasn't funny on all the 80s shows Cristela seems to be descended from remains unfunny, and laugh tracks remain obtrusive and borderline insulting. This could be Roseanne  by way of Carlos Mencia, though I don't especially want to live in that world. 

Prediction: Harmless crap that aims for easy, tired jokes and mostly hits them. One of those shows that everybody's aware of but nobody really watches. Probably stays on the air for like five or six years without anybody really loving or hating it. I'd really like to be wrong about this, because, you know, I have to watch it. 

A to Z: Is it just me, or is it weird how he's staring directly into her ear? I don't know what he's looking for in there, but damn if he doesn't look thrilled about finding it. 

A to Z: Is it just me, or is it weird how he's staring directly into her ear? I don't know what he's looking for in there, but damn if he doesn't look thrilled about finding it. 

How I Met Your Mother knockoff starring the only good thing about the last season off How I Met Your Mother

Best Case Scenario: Miloti works yet another miracle and extract actual heart from what appears to be a pretty soulless HIMYM wannabe, and we get an original, sweet, and touching show with Katey Sagal doing her best Arrested Development era Ron Howard impression. 

Worst Case ScenarioHIMYM season 9, but with no Jason Segel. Also, nobody has eight years of built up affection for these stupid, bland, unlikeable characters and everybody bails after two episodes. 

Prediction: Starts as an insufferable knockoff, but buoyed by Sagal and Miloti matures into something really good in the last third of the season or so before being cancelled for its awful first fifteen episodes. 

Bad Judge: Look, I don't wanna get all technical here, but if she's upholding the rules by day, doesn't that make her a good judge? Pretty sure judges only really work during the day. Unless she was on Night Court, I guess, but that'd be a pretty weird crossover considering that show's been off the air for twenty-two years. Ooh! Maybe she's a bad judge of cross-promotional opportunities?  

Bad JudgeLook, I don't wanna get all technical here, but if she's upholding the rules by day, doesn't that make her a good judge? Pretty sure judges only really work during the day. Unless she was on Night Court, I guess, but that'd be a pretty weird crossover considering that show's been off the air for twenty-two years. Ooh! Maybe she's a bad judge of cross-promotional opportunities?  

Kate Walsh plays a dysfunctional, mostly amoral judge who takes an underprivileged youth under her wing.

Best Case Scenario: Bad Teacher (the movie) as a TV show, only she's a judge. 

Worst Case Scenario: Another one of those awful, saccharine shows that doesn't have the balls to actually make their lead character flawed or damaged enough for us to care about their struggle for redemption, and just ends up cardboard and preachy. With bad jokes. And nobody's funny in it except Kate Walsh. 

Prediction: Full disclosure, I can't be objective about this. Kate Walsh starred in my favorite three episode run of one of my favorite shows of all time when she played Jenny on Norm. She has excellent comic timing, and the trailer was passable enough (while still being burdened with pilot-expositionocitis) that I'm already all-in and expecting this to be a sleeper hit. If I'm wrong, I'll find out soon enough, and curse words will follow. 

Mulaney: On a scale of 1-10, how sure are we that Martin Short and Ellen Degeneres are two different people? 3? Mayyyybe 4? Does anybody have a picture of them together? For that matter, how sure are we that they both aren't Clay Aiken? I'm onto you, Martellenay Shegeneken. 

MulaneyOn a scale of 1-10, how sure are we that Martin Short and Ellen Degeneres are two different people? 3? Mayyyybe 4? Does anybody have a picture of them together? For that matter, how sure are we that they both aren't Clay Aiken? I'm onto you, Martellenay Shegeneken. 

John Mulaney, Martin Short, Nasim Pedrad and several other funny people take Seinfeld structure and mash it up with a (going by the trailer) less cynical worldview. As Greenwald noted before me, this will not be the only Seinfeld comparison the show gets, and distancing itself from those expectations is going to be paramount for survival. 

Best Case Scenario: The show is consistently as funny as Mulaney himself is capable of being, with veterans Short, Pedrad, and Elliot Gould sweetening the pot with their respective considerable gifts; any of the three of them could easily carry their own show, so the potential here is more or less limitless.

Worst Case Scenario: I don't like that laugh track in the trailer. We could end up seeing a bunch of very funny people hamstrung by outdated multi-cam sitcom rulebooks, and then we all die a little inside. 

Prediction: Another one of those shows that's going to be funny from the get-go, get funnier as it goes, then piss me off by not getting renewed right as it starts to peak.

Manhattan Love Story: You know, of all the iconic Manhattan landmarks, I have to agree that the blank white infinity is the most romantic.

Manhattan Love StoryYou know, of all the iconic Manhattan landmarks, I have to agree that the blank white infinity is the most romantic.

Two pretty, dull people played by actors I've never heard of have an awkward first date then slowly grow closer while doing touristy crap in New York. Also, they use more voiceover than is probably a good idea. But at least there's a classic Aretha Franklin song in the trailer. 

Best Case Scenario: They somehow successfully turn Kevin Nealon's old "Mr. Subliminal" gimmick from a great two-minute bit into the engine that fuels  an incisive comedy about perception and awareness. 

Worst Case Scenario: It's exactly as stupid, overproduced, and underwritten as the trailer would lead you to believe… but, because it's aiming almost exclusively for the lowest common denominator, it does monster ratings and stays on the air for ever and ever and ever. 

Prediction: There's not an especially good joke or setup in the trailer, but all may not be lost:  both the leads seem to be more than capable of making lemonade from the rotten joke-lemons they've been handed. Sadly, that's ultimately not going to be enough by itself, and I think the show crumbles under its own over-narrated weight almost immediately. That said, while the voiceover is almost guaranteed to be a disaster, if they manage to make it work, this will be an extremely fun and different show…. but they're, you know, not going to do that. It's gonna suck. 

The McCarthys: I don't know what they're watching, but fifty bucks says it's better than "The McCarthys." Even if it's just a blank screen. 

The McCarthysI don't know what they're watching, but fifty bucks says it's better than "The McCarthys." Even if it's just a blank screen. 

An overworked and underpaid TV Critic from 1989 had a night terror that somehow traveled through time and was given a full series order by CBS.

Best Case Scenario: The trailer is an elaborate ruse to trick us into lowering our expectations and none of the scenes in it are actually in the show. It's secretly a sitcom about Joseph McCarthy's paranoid hunt for the Communists in his own family. 

Worst Case Scenario: It's exactly what it looks like. 

Prediction: It's exactly what it looks like, but the creators defend it in the media by insisting that anyone who doesn't like it is a homophobe because it happens to include a gay character. The gambit works, and CBS is far too afraid to cancel it so it lives forever, slowly spawning spinoff after spinoff like some kind of horrible comedy cancer.

Well. That's all nine of them. My optimism is not what it was at the beginning of this column, but it's too late to turn back now.  

Welcome to Nick vs. TV. Brace yourselves, I have a sneaking suspicion some of these shows are gonna make me use some naughty words.

And violent metaphors.

Probably lots and lots of alcohol, too. 

And maybe, just maybe, some Deep Web™ contract killer websites. I wonder if they do bulk discounts? Whack four McCarthys, fifth one's free?