Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pilot Review: The Paul Reiser Show

The Paul Reiser Show (NBC)
Premiered April 14 at 8:30pm

When I heard about this show premiering, I couldn’t quite understand why. I never watched “Mad About You” since it aired mostly when my television intake was limited to PBS and some comedies that aired during the daytime, and since it hasn’t had the same kind of afterlife in syndication as many of the shows that aired with it, I have no real frame of reference for Paul Reiser. What I can say right off the bat is that it’s rare for shows to have their stars’ names in the title, and more often, projects start out that way and then get renamed. It seems, as I suspected, that the idea for the show was that Paul Reiser wanted to do a show, and then something had to be built around him, and whatever it is, it’s not funny at all. Instantly referencing (and featuring) Larry David elicits a comparison that I’ve already seen many make, and there shouldn’t be a need for that crutch, especially since it’s unfavorable. Paul’s lunch with Larry shows that he’s not nearly as unlikeable, but he’s not as funny either. He can’t talk fast or obnoxiously enough, and therefore it just seems like he’s permanently in a bad mood. The show also achieves a moment that’s just too meta, when Larry essentially suggests the idea for this very series by saying that Paul should do a “Curb Your Enthusiam”-like series. It just doesn’t work on any level. People thinking he’s funny while he’s not funny doesn’t make the show funny. Mark Burnett deems that his misery is the funny part, but who’s laughing exactly? Habib gluing himself to the car is moronic, and the proud father bit in the last scene is way too forced. I noted the one time that I did laugh in the pilot, and that was one of the game show responses: “Who won the Civil War?” / “We did!” One might call that a success, but when jokes are produced rapid fire and only one in a dozen it’s funny, that’s hardly a hit. This show is terrible.

How will this work as a series? Not well. There’s no premise besides Paul going on about how he doesn’t know what to do with his life. This might be a show about nothing, but why then do there have to be the typical supporting characters who are Paul’s friends? Having fathers trade their children’s school projects is going to get old fast. There’s not enough of a basis for anything here, and what does exist is awful.
How long will it last? Not long at all. It’s a show for an entirely different demographic than anyone who watches any of the other programs on NBC Thursday night, with the possible exception of “30 Rock,” with which it’s not paired. This is the kind of series that represents immediate failure, and even committed detractors of NBC can recognize that most of their programming is better than this. I’m not even sure it will make it to a second week.

Pilot grade: F

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