Monday, August 4, 2008

What I'll Be Watching This Year: Comedy...

With the new fall season just around the corner (where does the time go?), there are a slew of new comedies on the horizon that network marketing execs want you to believe are the most revolutionary things since the invention of color television. And with a good chunk of these being programs that got pushed through to series without networks even first seeing a pilot due to last year’s WGA strike, how can you weed through to find the deep belly laughs amid piles of mere canned chuckles? Well, that’s where I come in! I'll break it down night by night and highlight what is worth a try and what is worth a TiVo Season Pass.

Though Monday nights will boast the premiere of CBS’ Worst Week (airing at 9:30), it looks to be no match for timeslot rival (and Emmy nominee) Christina Applegate’s Samantha Who? Though Worst Week has the fact that it’s a remake of a BBC original going for it (just look at the success of America’s version of The Office, for example), its premise feels short lived at best. A sitcom with yet another hapless husband—or soon-to-be husband, in this case—at the helm (ironically another Sam, but this one played by Kyle Bornheimer), Worst Week focuses on the uncomfortable nature of telling your girlfriend’s parents (Kurtwood Smith and Nancy Lenehan) that she is pregnant and you are getting married, but today that really only warrants one slightly awkward conversation, so what kind of “wacky high jinks” will be forced upon the two couples for the rest of the episodes as they are forced to get very well-acquainted with each other? If we’re using the pilot to determine, then its safe to say there will be an abundance of pale, flabby, upper male nudity, and that can only be funny for an episode or two at best. Verdict? Give Worst Week a shot, but if it lives up to its name after episode two, it won’t get any better, and tune into the already established Samantha Who? on ABC instead.

The CW’s Privileged (Tuesdays at 9) is not your typical comedy: an Ivy-league graduate (JoAnna Garcia) puts her journalism career on pause to become a live-in tutor to a cosmetics mogul (Anne Archer)’s two spoiled granddaughters. Though Privileged is packed with so much melodrama and interweaving of different characters (including an estranged sister, a live-in chef, a next-door-neighbor dilettante, and a typical best-friend-who-harbors-a-secret-crush) that its trailer was five minutes long, it is on a network known for zippy (and often snarky) dialogue, even in its darkest of shows. Some may laugh with Garcia as she lightens the intensity of her own life, and some may laugh at her almost na├»ve optimism or even the over-the-top situations the sisters get in just because they have money, but either way, Privileged is a fun, light-hearted escapism type show that will leave you smiling and feeling better about your own life.

Wednesday nights will offer two new sitcoms—one from CBS starring Jay Mohr (Gary Unmarried; 8:30) about your typical work-in-progress newly single dad, and one from Fox about the intermingling personal lives of employees at a chic hotel (Do Not Disturb; 9:30). Though the pilot of Do Not Disturb full of broad, somewhat stereotypical humor, this up/down stairs comedy (both literal with the various floors in the hotel as well as metaphoric for the split between employees and guests) boasts perhaps the greatest potential for the fall season, as it stars Niecy Nash, Jerry O'Connell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Molly Stanton; is produced by one of the Arrested Development writers; and is directed by Jason Bateman. Each of these people are so funny on their own, they have legions of fans following them to whatever project they take on next, so throwing them onto one set together, assuming there is some room for improvisation, should be side-splitting. This is definitely the one to watch!

NBC is once again reclaiming its Must See Thursday nights with the addition of the quirky rendition of an Australian hit, Kath & Kim, at 8:30. Smack dab in the middle of already proven successes My Name Is Earl and The Office, Kath & Kim already has the right (dysfunctional) sense of humor to speak to that audience. And boasting actors that are equally as oddball like Molly Shannon, Selma Blair, and John Michael Higgins, Kath & Kim, even in its most outlandish moments, still comes off believable. They are the new Bluth family, and that alone is a huge positive in their favor.

Also on the horizon, though not yet with an airdate, is yet another adaptation: HBO’s Suburban Shootout starring Judy Greer, Rachael Harris, Kerri Kenney, and Kelly Preston. A satirical comedy, Suburban Shootout is one part-Desperate Housewives, one part-Weeds, and one part-Sopranos, centering on a couple who moves to a quaint little town from the big city only to find they are surrounded by rival gangs of housewives. Such comedic genius, paired with the smart style of HBO, makes Suburban Shootout the most eagerly awaited new program for the 2008-2009 season and well worth the price of premium cable service.

Tune back in tomorrow when we offer our opinions on the upcoming fall dramas!

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