Tuesday, May 20, 2014

NBC Sitcoms 2013-14: Renewals and Cancelations

Parks and Recreation
While this show is not the ratings success that The Office was or the Emmy favorite that was 30 Rock this remains NBC's most dependable sitcom.  Going into its seventh season this is the only show that could still be considered Must See TV even if ratings have never backed it up.  By the time sitcoms get to six seasons they usually experience a drop in quality, but Parks and Rec still feels fresh.  Everyone involved clearly loves being on this program and the writing is as sharp as ever.  The show survived the loss of Rashida Jones, Rob Lowe and the diminished role of Chris Pratt by increasing the importance of the dependable Retta, adding in the lively Billy Eichner and continuing to include memorable guest stars with the brilliant Sam Elliott being the best of the bunch.  The show is taking a big risk by jumping ahead seven years in the timeline, but then again this show has always been about big risks.  This show has always overcome its obstacles because it is clearly a project of passion for the artists and the audience.  Next season is its final one and it is good that it will end on its own terms, but that is not good for NBC who will essentially be starting fresh with comedy if their new shows continue to falter.  I am a little nervous because the series has not been scheduled for the fall.  It will most likely premiere mid-season (possibly to accommodate new movie star Chris Pratt?) or will replace an early cancelation (my money is on A to Z).

About a Boy
Extremely notable as NBC's first new sitcom to get a second season in two years.  NBC is no longer the home of comedy that it once was but this pleasant dramedy seems to be doing well on Tuesdays.  This is NBC's third Jason Katim's series based on a movie and his experience shows.  The kid is well cast, Minnie Driver is fun on a sitcom but the real reason to watch the show is David Walton.  Walton, who was a stand-out on New Girl and the failed NBC sitcom Bent, plays the type of man-child we have seen in a dozen other sitcoms.  Yet his distinct likability and sincerity makes him a great character to base a series around.  I am happy to see this continue.  Also notable for having a unique crossover with Katim's Parenthood.  Walton had a small cameo on that show this season while Dax Shepard had a similar cameo on this one, making for an interesting shared California universe.

Never got to the six seasons and the movie that fans have been hoping for, well on NBC anyways.  It really is astonishing that this series made it to five seasons on network television.  It has always done horrible in ratings, has always been put on hiatuses and even had a change in show runner before hiring Dan Harmon back.  But for the five seasons we had we got a real special show and last season was one of its best.  Dan Harmon did a great job re-establishing the premises and making it more accessible.  The exit of Troy was meaningful and Pierce seems to mean more in death than he ever did in life.  The addition of Jonathan Banks has done wonders for the group dynamic.  The show was still funny, insightful and heartfelt.  I hope that a sixth season shows up on another network or online, but NBC unfortunately didn't have much more to gain from it.

Welcome to the Family
This was one of the earliest cancelations of the TV season and I am not quite sure why.  Like many modern sitcoms it is not laugh out loud funny, it is much more like a half hour dramedy.  But there is a pleasantness and likability that this had that was lacking in many other new shows.  This could have improved with a second season, as many shows with a decent foundation do.  The highlight was Ricardo Antonio Chavira who is deserving of a leading role, but Mike O'Malley, Mary McCormack and Justina Machado were also great in their roles.  The show did not reinvent the wheel, but not all sitcoms should.  I saw more potential here, but clearly most people did not.

Michael J. Fox Show
One of several new shows that did not service the star it was based around.  Much was made of Michael J. Fox's return to acting, but his titular show was a dud.  It definitely tried, but the talking heads segments did not fit the style of the show, the jokes weren't funny and the supporting characters didn't work.  Despite the good overall premise of a father with Parkinsons going back to work the individual episodes did not have much going on.  It was just a dull show.  NBC was banking on a lot with this as they beat out all of the other networks in a bidding war but it did not do anything for them.

Sean Saves the World
This was another one that I personally think was canceled too soon.  It was not brilliant by any means and never stood above the competition.  But unlike most modern multi-cam sitcoms this show understands how that format should work.  Sean Hayes is great at playing to a studio audience and his physicality brings a lot of energy that most modern sitcoms lack.  Thomas Lennon also is pitch perfect in his gimmicky character role, he finds loads of weird idiosyncrasies that are just entertaining.  This series was pleasant, balanced work comedy with home comedy and most notably dealt with homosexuality in an extremely progressive way.  Sean's sexuality is openly acknowledged but is never treated like a joke.  This show really could have improved had it received a second season, but not many people seemed to like it.

Growing Up Fisher
I only saw the first episode and it was good enough, but not good enough to keep me coming back.  The highlight is clearly J.K. Simmons who is perfect in a goofy dad role, but aside from him there was not much that stood out.  The Goldbergs and Surviving Jack were other new shows that were structured around a narrator recounting his childhood and this series just felt redundant.  It was probably always just meant to be a mid-season filler.

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