Monday, March 12, 2018

Pilot Review: Champions

Champions (NBC)
Premiered March 8 at 9:30pm

This show is a variation of a pretty typical sitcom setup, where a father who didn’t know that he had a kid or knew but wasn’t involved in his or her life is suddenly forced to be an active and responsible parent. This particular series doesn’t have all that many identifying factors that distinguish it aside from the presence of an uncle who forms a much closer bond with the kid than the actual dad. This show is notable because it’s produced and co-created by Mindy Kaling, who just finished up her own show that ran six seasons and happened to feature actor Anders Holm for a bit of it. Holm is used to playing a somewhat spacey dud, and here he’s slightly more focused but equally aimless, less committed to his brother’s big gym dream and more just to taking care of himself. The sudden need for Vince to be involved in Michael’s life definitely threw a wrench in that, but at least the ill-equipped Vince redeemed himself by episode’s end by showing his enthusiasm and helping to get the downtrodden Vince accepted into the school of his choice with a knockout audition. J.J. Totah, who plays Michael, is the real reason to watch this show, and he’s both talented and entertaining if his role feels a bit too familiar since this has been done before. I’m going to hope that Fortune Feimster, already insufferable as Dougie in occasional appearances on “Life in Pieces,” doesn’t show up too much as gym employee Ruby since she’s not good here either. It doesn’t appear that Kaling is going to be a series regular on this show, which makes some sense since her part didn’t seem nearly meaty enough for her talents, with Mouzam Makkar getting much more of a showcase as Vince’s current Indian girlfriend. This isn’t a show I need to add to my lineup, but it was more enjoyable to watch than I expected.

How will it work as a series? Vince was feeling good about his relationship with his son when he got the call offering housing he didn’t think that Michael needed, but he was smart enough to take the guy’s number just in case since Michael is still giving plenty of attitude to Vince despite his changing outlook on the situation. This show just needs to find ways to be creative that elevate it beyond a premise that’s been tried before.
How long will it last? Reviews are actually better than I would have thought they would be, possibly due to industry respect for Kaling and her ability to do comedy well. The ratings, on the other hand, aren’t great, and it’s going to be hard for this show to stand out when it’s not performing as well as some of NBC’s returning series. Its fate isn’t sealed, but at this point I’d predict that this show will close after one season.

Pilot grade: B-

No comments: