For those two people on the planet who were anxiously awaiting Paul Reiser's triumphant return to the sitcom world after Mad About You, keep waiting, because this new series isn't remotely amusing. In fact, it's dreadful, which basically renders the plot of the pilot episode moot, as it focused on Reiser turning down a game show gig that he deemed beneath him. So subpar "comedy" is okay, but a twisted new game show is somehow selling out?
Paul Reiser is trying to bring the Curb Your Enthusiasm format to network television, and that's exactly the place it shouldn't be. While Larry David's series has been great on HBO, he can get away with anything on that show and you feel that. While Reiser's knock-off filled with the typical celebrity cameos and features a bitter rich guy with too much spare time on his hands, the material falls flat.
Reiser is "playing" a dad who was famous for making Mad About You, is married and has two kids and a bunch of friends (Omid Djalli, Andrew Daly, Ben Shenkman and Duane Martin) who are fellow fathers with kids who go to the same school. In the first episode, Reiser struggles with what to put down as his occupation on the emergency contact forms for his children. So he waffles with taking a job as a game show host, until he finds out that (guess who) Larry David is also up for the part.
Then he calls his famous buddy and he and Larry David talk circles around each other while David scoffs at the idea of either of them hosting a game show. Larry advises Paul to make his own version of Curb, but didn't remember to tell him that he should strive to make it funny and Emmy-worthy. Having Larry on screen is only a cruel reminder of what this show could have been in more capable hands. There's a tag at the end where Larry rambles on, in his way, about how he thought that Paul was gay. It's a highlight, but that's because it seems like something Larry brought to the table in an outtake, rather than anything that was planned.
The other bright spot of the episode was the fake game show audition, in which Paul basically berates people for being stupid and lacking the ability to use buzzers. It's actually genuinely humorous, believe it or not. Example: "Name something made of wool." "Sheep." Watching Paul's frustration grow is fantastic, which producer Mark Burnett (playing himself, natch) recognizes and wants to exploit for ratings purposes. This is because Burnett knows how to make money. Watching a show like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with the host actively yelling at the contestants is a genius idea that I'd watch in real life. But that's not what we get here. Instead, Paul turns the hosting gig down, eschews his chance to become the mean version of Howie Mandel and goes back to being a formerly successful (and probably still enormously wealthy) actor turned stay-at-home father.
In the hopes that this series would continue with the wacky auditions for different random shows, I watched the second episode, which had been made available to the media in advance. Spoiler: my hopes were dashed. The episode revolves around Paul dealing with household issues and playdate confusion and having a run-in with Henry Rollins. Rollins is great, but solid cameos do not make or sell a show. Though then again, it seems to have worked for Hot in Cleveland.
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