The biggest problem for the new TBS comedy Ground Floor isn't that it's yet another workplace sitcom, but that it's a workplace sitcom with a premise that's already been achieved to perfection by the likes of The Office, The IT Crowd, and Enlightened. Ground Floor may have a very similar concept as those three (the cultural and financial differences between the self-absorbed higher-ups upstairs and the everyday people working beneath them, literally and figuratively), but it lacks one key element that made them rise above the pack: an original sense of humor.
The show comes from Bill Lawrence, the man who brought us both Scrubs and Cougar Town, two shows with their own very unique brand of comedy. Ground Floor, on the other hand, feels like a mishmash of countless other sitcoms.
In the premiere, we met bro-y named Brody (Pitch Perfect's Skylar Astin), a handsome, charming, up-and-coming money manager who works alongside other ambitious suits like his pal Threepeat (Rene Gube), a catchphrase-spouting Alpha male, because the writers of this show must not have realized television already has a Barney Stinson. Their boss is Mr. Mansfield (John C. McGinley, more or less reprising his role as the crotchety Dr. Cox), a rich, powerful, and egotistical man who feels so much like every cranky TV boss you can pretty much expect an episode in which Brody invites him over to dinner to impress him and it all goes comically awry.
Then there are the ground floor drones, a wacky band of misfits we are meant to find endearing as opposed to the insufferable upstairs jerks, but they are just as obnoxious in their own special way. There's Jennifer (Briga Heelan), a pretty, lively gal who has a one-night stand with Brody, despite the fact that this entire office building has some sort of Montague vs. Capulets feud going on. Seriously, has no one in their office ever dated before? Do they really think the foundation of the place will come crumbling down if they do? Is that their biggest issue? (Unless, of course, Jennifer's affair with Brody goes awry and this turns into a kick-ass corporate take down a la Amy Jellicoe on Enlightened, though I have a feeling that really won't be the case).
Jennifer works alongside characters like the horn dog Derrick (James Earl), the party girl Tori (Alexis Knapp), and the sarcastic "Harvard" (Rory Scovel). Emphasis on the word "character," as none of them feel like anything that resembles a real person; they are as sitcom-y as they get. Same goes for the Wolf of Wall Street-wannabes from above. The underling characters on The IT Crowd and The Office may have felt silly or cartoonish at times (Maurice Moss certainly springs to mind), but at least they had some depth and genuine humor to them. They were the people you wished you work with, not caricatures of the people that you currently work with and can't stand.
I'd be willing to forgo the inane premise that two people who work on two different floors would be that discouraged from dating one another, but really this show is just one big identity crisis. The pilot shifted gears from raunchiness ("fiesta titties" and "ball tap" are just two of the high-brow gems uttered in the first half hour) to schmaltz (Brody reminisces about his last birthday with his late father; Jennifer comes to terms with her feelings for Brody after all of 22 minutes) but they just don't fit together here. It also makes the offensive (and outright wrong) implication that people who work on the "ground floor" are all play, no work, and don't want a bright future for themselves.
The cast is undoubtedly talented (Lawrence knows how to pick an ensemble) and the writers wasted no time in finding an excuse to have Astin sing (hey, the New Girl writers do it with Zooey Deschanel all the time), but it all feels too stale and generic for the wit and charm it seems to be aiming for. Sadly for Ground Floor, unless they find their footing in the next couple of episodes, they'll be doomed to live in the shadow of their original, smart and daring comedy predecessors.
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