Saturday, November 18, 2017

Pilot Review: There’s Johnny!

There’s Johnny (Hulu)
Premiered November 16

Following its major Emmy wins for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu is making a play to be a top-tier streaming service, up there with Netflix and Amazon, offering high-quality programming. This is the second new show launched by Hulu this week alone, a period comedy about a guy who just wants to have the chance to work on Johnny Carson. His Nebraska enthusiasm took him to the set for what he thought was a live taping, and from there things just started happening around him, as George Carlin was nearly not present and he was able to stand-in as a runner with no experience whatsoever. The choice to have Carson and his guests appear only in archive footage as themselves, similar the way Joseph McCarthy was portrayed in “Good Night, and Good Luck,” is an intriguing one, since it helps the supporting players to stand out but also almost guarantees that there will be no interaction with the big dogs, at least nothing substantive since they aren’t likely to ever appear in non-taped scenes. Ian Nelson seems affable and excitable enough as Ian, and it’s good to see familiar faces like Roger Bart and Tony Danza in the cast, both having a great time playing their characters. I’m happiest to see the always-superb Jane Levy, who stole this entire pilot episode as Joy, who puts up with a lot and also manages to get a lot done. I’m not overly familiar with Carson, so the nostalgia factor doesn’t work as well on me as I’m sure it does on others, but I’ll give this show another chance to see where it goes.

How will it work as a series? Andy may have found himself a permanent job at the lowest level as a result of his misunderstanding and his curious attitude, and something tells me his positivity is going to propel him through all of the misery that might affect others, though it’s going to be a complicated journey with all the jokes he doesn’t get and the relationships that he can’t hope to comprehend.
How long will it last? Like “Future Man,” which premiered earlier this week, the entire first season – which here consists of seven episodes – was released on day one. Reviews seem to be pretty good, if not as strong as some of the network’s other shows, and it will just be a question of whether it manages to achieve any popularity. I think it’s possible, and I’d learn toward this one being renewed for a second season.

Pilot grade: B+

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