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October 9, 2015

The Winner - an early look

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 2nd 2007 6:39PM
The Winner castWhen I was in college, FOX aired a show called Get a Life. In it, Chris Elliot played a 30-year-old paperboy who lived with his exasperated parents and just refused to grow up. It was a weird little show, but it had its moments.

If you were a fan of that show, you'll like The Winner. Think of it as a less-creepy version of Elliot's show, with just as many funny moments. And for those funny moments, you can thank Rob Corddry.

The former Daily Show correspondent stars as Glen Abbott, who is currently the richest man in Buffalo, but in this show, he looks back fondly at 1994, when he came of age... at 32. Yes, the voice over method is a bit of a takeoff of The Wonder Years, but the show isn't really a parody of that.

In fact, if The Winner satirizes anything, it's the whole coming-of-age genre itself. We see Glen, who lives with his doting mom Irene (Linda Hart... she replaced Julie Hagerty, who played the mom in the original pilot) and his annoyed father, Rob (Lenny Clarke), resolve to get his act together after a childhood crush, Alison McKellar (Erinn Hayes) moves in next door. Luckily, he's got an in: he completely relates to Alison's shy 14-year-old son Josh (Keir Gilchrist), who is as much an awkward hypochondriac as Glen is; in fact, they bond over their tendency to check their pulses all the time.

But Glen knows that he can't hook up with Alison right away; she's a doctor who just divorced her lazy-ass husband. So he spends the five episodes FOX sent for preview sowing his wild oats, on the same track as his friend Josh.

What sells this show for me is Corddry; even on TDS, he was quite good at playing someone who was a bit on the naive side. Here, the naievete is innocent and even a little sweet, and Corddry makes it look natural. So what if a bald 32-year-old man hangs out with a teenager and calls sex "intercourse" all the time? Corddry makes it look... well, not natural, but certainly not creepy.

Gilchrist is also good as the more-mature-than-his-years Josh. In the episodes sent for review, he gets away with saying words that kids his age don't usually say, and I don't mean swear words. He has the vocabulary of a smart teenager who knows he's not like the rest of the kids, and that comes through in his performance.

The Winner is created by Family Guy writer Ricky Blitt, who told critics in January that the show is very much based on his own late-bloomer existence. Indeed, for a guy who didn't get going in life until he was about 30, he's doing pretty well now; he not only is a successful TV writer, but he currently has a girlfriend that he'd probably consider "out of his league" if pressed about it. When I met the both of them at the FOX press tour party, my jaw dropped to the floor.

Blitt's old boss, Seth McFarlane, is also an executive producer, and you can see some of his influence; there are some forced 1994 references -- "O.J. couldn't hurt a fly!" -- that become more infrequent as the series goes on. And there's a bit of a "let's make fun of wacky sitcoms" vibe that's especially apparent in the pilot. But as the show continues, that falls away in favor of Corddry's sweetly comic characterization of Glen.

And, as sweet as it is, there's still enough sexual references to make people aware that this isn't exactly an episode of Full House. In one of the episodes, Glen becomes friends with a guy who he doesn't realize wants to be more than friends with him, and in another, he gets some important "lessons" from a sexy former teacher of his (Katey Sagal, proving that she deserved the top spot on my "sexy over 50" list).

FOX has decided to show The Winner at 8:30 and 9:30 PM on Sundays, running through all six produced episodes in three weeks. And, they have four episodes available online. Neither is a good sign that the show has much of a future. So my advice is to catch it while you can, even if you're not a fan of 32-year-old bald virgins.

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This show has really grown on me. How could you not laugh your ass off when Glen ends up in a gay relationship without knowing it? Rob Corddry is awesome!

March 22 2007 at 11:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great, another shameless attempt at bone-head-grown-up-guy as object of comedy. This didn't work for that idiot-who-won't-stay-away Chris Elliot and why should it work for mostly unknown Rob Corddry ? Just because he's a 5-min spinoff talent from "The Daily Show" ?! Or because the show's funded by Family Guy/American Dad's Seth McFarlane ? Who by the way made the interstitial comment that he thought the show was going good enough to keep it past six episodes. Ugh. Note to Seth: we like Homer, Peter Griffin, and Stan Smith as male cartoon idiots; stick with The Formula.

March 05 2007 at 11:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anthony V

I find that there is too much in common with "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" to make this series anything more than a formulaic rehash of the movie with a laugh track (because nobody else is laughing).

March 05 2007 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Adam Rakunas

"Creepy" didn't come to mind. "Unfunny as hell" did. Sorry, Rob, but this show blew. Better luck next series.

March 05 2007 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris Crosby

GET A LIFE was about five-hundred times funnier. Although it didn't really get super-great until the second season.

March 05 2007 at 3:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Are they kidding with that obnoxious laugh track? I couldn't get through 5 minutes.

March 04 2007 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't believe a relationship is immediately creepy just because of the age difference. But I don't think a 32 year old man should be taking a 14 year old boy or girl to a prostitute, and have that child help pick the woman out he is then going to sleep with. If that makes me old fashion then so be it.

I think the show has a whole lot of other problems then just people not being able to get pass the age difference. I had watch three of the other episodes before he took the kid to the prostitute, and wasn't bothered by the age difference.

I actually like the rest of the episode that had Katey Sagal and the visit to the prostitue the most, I just think they should have focused more on Glenn and the teacher's "relationship" and had some other side story with the kid.

March 04 2007 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John C.

Look at this, through the perversion of popular pop culture all of a sudden a friendship is viewed as 'creepy'. Everything that is not exactly average or appropriate is 'creepy'. Lighten up and maybe take it that every situation doesn't have to have a hidden meaning?

March 04 2007 at 9:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'll define "creepy" for you. I watched the four episodes they had online and I now believe my IP address, name, and home address are currently on a watch list some where.

CREEEEEEPY...Case in point: In one episode, the 14 year old boy knows where there is a "massage palor" and Cordry's character takes the 14 year old boy with him to the place, and helps him choose the woman Cordry's character is going to lose his virginity to. CREEEEEEEPY

March 03 2007 at 10:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You say it is less creepy than the Chris Elliott version?

Define creepy ?????

March 03 2007 at 12:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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