100 Questions (NBC)
Premiered May 27 at 8:30pm
Five years ago, the now-defunct network UPN premiered a comedy called “Love, Inc.” about a dating service that’s just about as good as it sounds. Why an infinitely more mature and once wise network like NBC is starting up a show with almost the same premise is a mystery, but what’s even more puzzling is how it came to be so incredibly awful. There a number of mistakes that NBC seems to have made in commissioning and picking it up. Cutting the episode order down from thirteen episodes to six last December seems to be just about the only smart move the Peacock made. To begin with, why didn’t the show premiere earlier in the season, like back in January or March? Starting it off in the last official week of the television season is an especially stupid move. Quality aside, the quick demise of “Happy Town” is probably due in part to ABC’s decision to premiere it at the tail end of April when no other new shows are starting. At least ABC promoted their show, however. I didn’t see a single ad for “100 Questions,” though if I had, I don’t think I would have watched it. After years of struggling to fill slots in between “Frasier,” “Friends,” and “Will & Grace,” and then trying to recover from losing those three shows, NBC has finally found a Thursday night foursome that works. What do all four of those shows have in common? They don’t have laugh tracks. Being prodded to laugh at every painfully unfunny joke on this show when it’s sandwiched between “Community” and “The Office,” where it’s your choice whether to find a line amusing or not, makes the show come off as even worse than it is (though I’m not dead set on that kind conclusion regarding the show’s quality). Casting a horribly annoying lead is something some other shows have gotten away with – see “Grey’s Anatomy,” but the biggest blunder is the cast count. Five friends instead of six? If you’re going to try to replicate a successful comedy, at least follow the rules! There’s no way this can ever work. The worst surprise is saved for last: the whole first twenty minutes of this series that you can never get back was just thee answer to the first of 100 questions. “My Name is Earl” may have had a long list of misdeeds to atone for, but this is simply inexcusable.
How will it work as a series? If you want to sit around and listen to star Sophie Winkleman wine for fifty hours about how she can’t pick up on social cues and find a compatible mate, be my guest. There’s nothing in the pilot to suggest that anything else will occur in any of the one hundred episodes.
How long will it last? It will be lucky to be able to answer even the first of its six questions, and there’s no way that NBC would ever dream of bringing it back in the fall considering their surplus of new original series to premiere. Premiering a show at the end of May on network television is a death sentence, but why do viewers even have to suffer through a full episode? Shouldn’t this one have been halted before it ever made it to the public?
Pilot grade: F-