2016 Fall Pilot Watch, part four: But for real… No Tomorrow?

All right, I’m back for the final round of these fall premieres. Sorry for the lateness of this final entry, but the release schedule of these pilots was feast or famine this year, and then I had to take a bit of time to watch baseball. Man… baseball. Can we all just agree to skip the rest of these pilots and rewatch the World Series? Cleveland fans can watch reheated Matt LeBlanc if they want, but I think I’ll just keep planning on how to rub that MVP award in the face of my friend who made fun of me for putting Ben Zobrist on my fantasy team. But yeah, then there was baseball, and then there was the election (which I had to pay extra attention to due to it being a part of my real job), and then my car broke down, so there were lots of things that delayed this. Whatever! You don’t pay me to do this! Onward!

If you’ve been here before, you know the drill: Watch it, try it, skip it or avoid it. All times are eastern.

Man With A Plan

man-with-a-plan

CBS, comedy, 8:30 Mondays

One-sentence summary: Guy’s guy Matt LeBlanc (his character’s name is Adam, but I had to look that up) becomes a stay-at-home dad so his long-suffering wife Andi (Liza Snyder) can go back to work.

This isn’t as terrible as the trailers would suggest, but that doesn’t mean that it’s good. “Man With A Plan” is a pretty standard “tough dude has to deal with icky kid stuff” premise with the same hackneyed jokes and premises as you’d expect, with perhaps the only surprise being the sheer volume of references to the budding sexuality of Adam and Andi’s pubescent son (Matthew McCann).

To the extent that any of this works at all, it’s because of LeBlanc, who is still eminently comfortable in the role of a broadly comic figure on a single camera sitcom. Though Joey wasn’t the best character on “Friends,” LeBlanc was among the most skilled in the ensemble at mugging the camera and playing to the audience in a way that, sure, was pandering, but pretty agreeable pandering.

CBS has offered and is currently offering much worse than this, though – more on that later – so there just isn’t a lot to say about “Man With A Plan.” It’s better than the similarly-themed “Kevin Can Wait,” I guess?

Ryan’s rec: Skip it.

No Tomorrow

no-tomorrow

CW, comedy 9 Mondays

One-sentence summary: The risk-averse Evie (Tori Anderson) thinks she’s met the guy of her dreams in Xavier (Joshua Sasse) – until she learns that he thinks a comet is going to wipe out Earth in eight months, which has led him to create a slightly deranged list of things to do before he dies.

It’s fitting that teasers for “No Tomorrow” billed it as from “The network that brought you ‘Jane the Virgin’ and ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,’” because while the show clearly wants to be in the same basic mold of “plucky protagonist has quirky adventures,” its creators haven’t infused it with the manic energy or absurdist dark streak that make “Jane” or “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” respectively, work.

That sounds like a takedown of the show, but I found it passably charming, though perhaps not enough to stick with it long-term. To its credit, “No Tomorrow” does try to craft its own off-kilter narrative engine to compete with those of its sister shows in Xavier, who genially ping-pongs back and forth between a rogueish charmer who embraces the moment to a irresponsible fanatic unsympathetic with anyone who doesn’t share his viewpoint. I’ve seen a few episodes of this now, and the reason I stuck with it past the pilot is because of a genuinely startling character turn for Xavier at the end of the first episode; it suggests that if the writing team can resist the urge to turn Xavier into a perfect hunk, it can create a narratively pleasing tension between him and the rest of the cast.

That said, the show still has a lot of flab that could be cut, along with a commitment to some bits of comedy that simply don’t work. It will need to improve in order to stay in my line-up alongside the shows its network wants it to emulate.

Ryan’s rec: Try it.

American Housewife

american-housewife

ABC, comedy, 8:30 Tuesdays

One-sentence summary: Overweight (I guess?) mom Katie (Katy Mixon) manages her schedule, her self-esteem, her one nice child and her two jerk children in an upper class neighborhood that she and her husband (Diedrich Bader) can scarcely afford.

I mentioned Katie’s weight because that used to be the premise of the show: as first envisioned, “American Housewife” was called “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport.” The retitling hopefully served as a needed balm for Mixon, who is not fat, but it seems somewhat insulting to the general populace. In “American Housewife’s” world, any good mom can’t help but be a chubbo, and real-American authenticity is synonymous with eating pizza so ravenously that you don’t have time to notice the grease stains on your clothing.

“American Housewife” joins “Speechless,” another ABC offering, in its mistaken idea that A. authentic families are utter tools to each other and B. that a family of misanthropes is inherently funny. Katie jokes that she’ll punch the next skinny bimbo who condescendingly calls her “real,” but that’s exactly what ABC is doing to their hoped-for audience: by giving the masses an abrasive, overweight (again, I guess?), image self-conscious heroine, ABC is trying to provide someone relatable. “Look at her!” the network says. “Isn’t she so real? Like you?” It’s simultaneously pandering and insulting in a way that “The Big Bang Theory” could never hope to be.

Ryan’s rec: Skip it.

The Great Indoors

great-indoors

CBS, comedy, 8:30 Thursday

One-sentence summary: When an outdoors magazine goes digital-only, its intrepid field reporter Jack (Joel McHale) is forced back into the office, where he must deal with a bevy of millenial employees who know nothing of nature.

I’m a millennial, and even I think some of us could benefit from being taken down a peg, but the jokes “The Great Indoors”uses to skewer 20-somethings are so old that they could cast a write-in vote for Jon Stewart for president this year. There are barbs about podcasts, emotional support animals, the vapidity of social media, and somehow in 2016, multiple gags about participation trophies – and not an original delivery in the bunch. “The Great Indoors” should be called “Get Off My Lawn: The Show.”

McHale, who with his snarky background on “The Soup” and “Community” should be the show’s biggest asset, somehow becomes yet another problem dragging “The Great Indoors” down. I watched “The Great Indoors” and “Man With A Plan” back to back, and it was remarkable to see how “Man With A Plan” took both a lead and a presence with limited range and turned it into something that, while still mediocre, was much more tolerable than “The Great Indoors,” which ostensibly has a superior lead and presence. McHale, who shined on single cam as “Community’s” Jeff Winger, seems so uncomfortable on a CBS laugh track joint.

The rest of the cast doesn’t do anything to help. The magazine’s millennials aren’t fleshed out, merely bare-bones premises designed to hang “aren’t the kids stupid” jokes on. Stephen Fry at least looks like he’s trying to make his role as Jack’s boss work, but the jokes he’s been given are so weak that he’s left squeezing a dry sponge. “The Great Indoors” is boring, hacky, and, ironically, so old that all any self-respecting millennial can do is ignore it.

Ryan’s rec: Avoid it.

Pure Genius

pure-genius

CBS, drama, 10 Thursday

One-sentence summary: It’s a medical procedural about a group of doctors (apparently starring Dermot Mulroney) who work in a sci-fi hospital founded by billionaire James Bell (Augustus Prew).

More than perhaps any other show this fall, I don’t understand the premise of “Pure Genius.” It’s certainly better made than some of the other pilots, but the appeal of its premise is inscrutable. Its elevator pitch is basically, “What if Tony Stark was more bland and ran a hospital,” with none of the snark or effects-driven battles you’d expect from an outing with Iron Man.

I’m not a medical procedural fan, and I’m even less a medical expert, but what I always thought the appeal of a medical drama was is to see what ostensibly goes on in a hospital, with the drama amped up and doctors finding improbable, but plausible cures for rare ailments. “Pure Genius” opines that at least some of its miracle cures are founded on real science, but the pilot also has a comotose girl channeling her voice through her mom after both of them are attached to what the show itself jokingly refers to as a Vulcan mind meld machine. When all of your medical devices are magic, where is the suspense of whether or not patients make it? They either will or they won’t depending on what the writers decide – the same as what would happen in any work of fiction, but with all of the pretense and suspension of disbelief stripped away.

And while the medicine is implausible to the point of disinterest, the high tech stuff isn’t cool enough to inspire oohs and aahs, either. The characters have been backgrounded to focus on the gee whiz, effects-driven fake tech, but if this was an Iron Man movie, the “Pure Genius” closet would be where Tony hides all of his gadgets that don’t look very good and don’t do cool things. Sure, in real life a magnetically adjusting swallowable ultrasound camera could be a great invention, but it’s not particularly interesting to look at and, once again, is so utterly created by the needs of the plot that it only serves to ratchet down the stakes. I watched the “Pure Genius” pilot only a few days ago and I’ve already forgotten how some of the patients end up. The show’s combination of hard-to-believe and boring only serves to slide it out of my mind as quickly as possible.

Ryan’s rec: Skip it.

That’s it for this year, folks! Thanks for reading, and I’ll give you a brief update: “The Good Place” has gotten a lot better, and “Timeless” remains absolutely insane, so watch both of those. I never could get past the ghost dad twist in “Pitch” to give it another try.

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