A few years ago, I did one of these, and out of the three shows I talked about (Limitless, Muppets, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) two were indeed dead within the year, while the last became a smash hit. I’m calling that a pretty successful evaluation of both the shows’ quality and the market’s ability to sustain them, so now that we’ve had long enough for new stuff to fill the airwaves, it seemed like a good time to turn you on to more under-appreciated gems.
This one is on its second season, hence the early placement, but I’m putting it on this list because aside from like the maaaaaaybe 3 people who told me to check this show out I can’t really find anyone who watches it. And that’s a shame, too. Despite a weird premise and rocky start, once the show hits its groove in mid-season 1 the whole thing really starts to sing, and it’s only gotten better as the show evolves and the cast has better interplay. Basically, we’ve got a Parks & Rec situation, where the first chunk turns off so many that they don’t get to the goodness, only Great News doesn’t have the easy fix of saying “Just skip season 1”.
For those who don’t know, Great News is about a modern news station where the protagonist’s (Katie) mother (Carol) joins her crew as an intern. Insert wacky hijinks. As far as pitches go, I’m well-aware it isn’t the strongest. Honestly, the show is at its weakest early on, when it tries to lean way too hard on the Katie/Carol dynamic. Much like 30 Rock before (Tina Fey is a producer and eventual guest on Great News) it’s at its best when working as an ensemble comedy. They’ve got some spectacular talent in their cast, including Nicole Richie who legitimately steals the show from more seasoned actors with regularity, and it’s once the show pulls away from Carol and Katie a little that we’ve got enough fun personalities to create a good episode.
What’s running now is genuinely enjoyable, one of my favorite things to watch each week, but I fear the sluggish kickoff and hard-to-sell premise has started this show too far behind the line. Maybe it will see a resurgence later in its life if it can last that long, however if you want to check this one out while the getting is good, Season 2 and (sometimes) Season 1 are both on Hulu.
I almost didn’t even bother to consider this one, I just assumed a comedy with Patton Oswalt as a side-character would be kicking ass, especially with It’s Always Sunny’s Glenn Howerton in the protagonist role. According to the ratings sites though, it’s not doing great. The numbers it’s putting up would be good for a new show debut if it starred nothing but unknowns. Given the star-power and sizable push from NBC, the results are probably not what the network was hoping for, putting it in at least enough jeopardy to qualify for this blog.
Aside from the obviously experienced cast, this is a program that strives to flip expectations on their head, or use them against us, although not in nearly so subtle a way as we’ve seen from shows like The Good Place. The intent is declared in the pilot, where our main character (Jack) says he will not be secretly teaching the kids biology, nor is he going to be learning more from them. And, to its credit, AP Bio backs up that promise. Every hokey, school-aged plot line is sent spiraling off in unexpected directions because of Jack’s dedication to living life his way.
A lot of this show is hung on Jack himself, as he aggressively dances the line of unlikability. Here, it becomes apparent why they needed someone like Glenn Howerton, as he has years of experience selling audiences on characters that should be unlikable. I think the deciding factor on this show, at least for me, is one core character concept the writer’s gave to Jack: his honesty. Jack tells it like it is, exactly how it is, without pulling a single punch. At first, this reads as arrogance and feels off-putting, but over time we see that this is something he’s legitimately dedicated too. Even when it involves taking unflattering looks at himself and his actions, Jack still brings the same level of no-nonsense honestly. The more you see it in action, the more we grasp that this really is the way Jack chooses to live his life, not an affectation to keep people at a distance. It makes things objectively harder, yet he keeps at it, and eventually it’s hard not to kind of like the guy.
I’m not sure where this one will go in terms of long-term story-telling, it’s still quite new, but there’s so much potential here that I really hope we get a chance to see what they can do with enough time.
Trust me; no one is more surprised than me to have this thing on the list. When I first saw ads for this, I didn’t even bother remembering the name of the show, that’s how sure I was it would be shit and gone within the first two weeks. But then, on a day when I was bored and it popped up as a suggested next episode, I decided “what the hell” and took a 20 minute chance on entertainment. It was good, too. A strong first opening, setting everything up nicely for a solid, traditional sitcom run.
Then, in the next episode, they blew up or paid off half of what I expected to be longer running threads, all while upping the depth of dialogue and characterization. The pilot of a show is often the weakest episode, since no one is on steady ground, from the writers to the actors to the director. It’s all new, and people are finding their feet. That said, this show has one of the sharpest improvements after a pilot I’ve seen, and remember, the pilot was already pretty good.
The premise of this one is that some people, for a variety of reasons, fly back and forth between LA and Vegas every weekend. Since they see each other often, it becomes a half-office/half-community where people familiar with one another must sit together for several hours every week. As the show goes on the sets expand, it’s not a whole slew of bottle episodes or anything, but it all keeps coming back to the characters interacting with each other. Strong as the writing is, with another cast I think this show might be a total piece of shit. Everyone on screen fills and expands their roles with unexpected ease, and there’s literally not a single member of the core cast I’m disappointed to see get some spotlight, because they’re all great. That’s extra impressive given that, aside from Dylan McDermott, most of the cast is either relatively unknown or a “hey I know that person!” kind of recognizable.
Like Limitless before it, this is a show where I know it shouldn’t work, but it fucking muscles through on pure charm. They took a drab premise and build a weird multi-color castle on top of it, complete with drawbridge-slide and drunk town crier yelling from the armaments. You can watch the whole thing on Hulu right now, and I highly urge you to do so.
If history is any indication, most of these won’t be around for long.