NYTVF: Pilot reviews, part four of six
When I spoke to Eben Russell, the NYTVF's main spokesperson, about how there seemed to be a lot of comedies this year, he mentioned that they wanted to judge the pilots being sent into the festival on their own merits, instead of shoehorning them into categories, like they did the first two years. "We adopted an approach taking the most outstanding pilots, regarding of genre. We have a large amount of comedies as compared to other genres," is what he told me in an e-mail prior to the festival.
The implication is that the other categories didn't have enough quality entries to justify their own categories. Judging by the uneven quality of the following pilots, it makes me wonder what the pilots that were rejected look like (you can view the pilots at MSN).
Well, it had to happen eventually. Everything else has been outsourced to India; why not TV shows, too? This pilot, shot completely in Bangalore, follows four ex-pats as they try to make their way in their lives in India's newly-burgeoning high-tech capital. Not only do they find that they have to deal with cultural differences big and small -- Kelly (Dawn Falato), for instance, doesn't want to call the police to remove a bi-polar suitor from her apartment because she just thinks they'll accuse her of being a slut -- but they find that they have to stick together, no matter what their differences are.
It's a pretty interesting concept, in more ways than one; writer, producer and director Kevin Napier does a good job at capturing the chaos of Bangalore, as well as the isolation that the ex-pats feel there. A particularly funny scene is where Nathan (played by Napier), an acronym-spewing corporate trainer, encourages his reluctant class to give him feedback and gets depressed after they give him what he's looking for (his final acronym was the funniest gag in the pilot). All the actors do a fine job, and, even though some of the situations come right out of Sitcomville, this could have some potential in its exploration of how societies clash, but in a place where the Westerners are in the minority.
This one has some comedic "brand names" behind it, and it shows. Yes, that's The Daily Show's Rob Riggle in the picture; he stars as Theo Gladdings, a "values-ologist" who is in line to become the President's "values czar" (a name which he thinks is "too commie" and vows to fix if he gets the job). One little problem: right before the President comes to visit, his neglected wife leaves him and his kids escape to the hippie single mother that lives next door. How is Gladdings going to be the values czar if his family doesn't fall in line?
Riggle isn't the only Daily Show employee involved in this show; Rob Kutner and Mike Shapiro, who respectively write and direct on TDS, are the creative team behind Family Values. And, while the production is definitely low-budget (especially on sound), the humor is much sharper than what I saw in most of the other pilots. Given the team's experience, that makes sense. Still, it could use even more sharpening, mainly because they tend to fall back on some well-worn comedy cliches about conservatives. But mixing TDS humor with sit-commy situations might be a winning combination that their bosses at Comedy Central should take a long look at.
Fat, Broke and Horny
This show probably has one of the least sympathetic main characters I have ever seen. Mark Phinney plays... well, Mark Phinney, an actor struggling to make his way in Hollywood. But this Phinney is a big asswipe who doesn't think of anyone but himself; in the span of a day, he fights with his agent, breaks up a friend's relationship, lies to and hits on his Overeaters Anonymous sponsor, and picks a fight with a customer at the record store where he works, which he pays for later on.
Lovely. I admire the show for showing a side of show business that isn't so glamorous. But if Phinney wanted the audience to sympathize with his namesake's plight, he failed miserably; all you see is Phinney making a wreck of his life and the lives of the people around him, without a lick of remorse or humanity or anything that will make him seem like a person the audience should care about. Of course, all of this would be OK if the show were funny, but the fact that his exploits seemed more sad than funny made Phinney's character just look pathetic. Maybe his plan is to reveal Phinney's human side in subsequent episodes. I hope it is.
Oy. I really am at a loss for words with this one. I'll give it this much: it's got the best production values of any of the pilots in this group. Other than that? Again: oy.
Gnome (Will Janowitz, who is also the writer and EP) is a half-Jewish, half-Gnomish writer who became a recluse after he wrote his first book (the cover of the "memoir" is at the top of his post); his only communication with the public is via a NPR show that he broadcasts from his woodland home. But he comes out of the forest (i.e. Central Park) to confront the people at his publishing house who have put his website under the category of "Alter-native Lyfestiles." Not much of what goes on in the episode makes much sense, beyond communicating the fact that Gnome is a) paranoid and b) a touch insane. I figured that out within the first two minutes, making the other twenty a mess of seemingly random dialogue, much of which is screamed at the top of people's lungs. Not sure where this could go as a series, and I don't think I want to find out.
The Grass Is Greener
How many shows do we need about young couples trying to figure out the rocky nature of mature relationships? I guess one more, as that's exactly what we get with this mostly forgettable pilot.
Elliot and Bailey have just moved in together; Elliot is still having a hard time moving from drinking beer and playing video games with his lecherous buddy Troy to quaffing wines at dinner parties with other couples. Troy, as I said, is still a horndog, as is Jessica, Bailey's single friend; she keeps a particularly weenieish guy around just so he can clean her apartment.
Hm. Add a pregnancy, and this show looks exactly like Notes from the Underbelly. But its tired formula is saved a bit by some witty writing on the part of EP/Director/writer Randall Bobbitt. I did find myself laughing -- well, chuckling -- a few times during the pilot, especially at Bailey's repeated efforts to get Elliot to slow down during their first sessions of condom-less lovemaking. But I just had the overwhelming feeling that this formula has been done to death; no matter how funny it is, Bobbitt may want to wait a little while before pitching it around.