|Left to right: Josh Gad and Billy Crystal|
Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
There is something odd going on over at FX. While their recent branching out with FXX that lead to the highly successful The Simpsons syndication deal, their programming has been hard to decipher. FXX was initially conceived as place for their comedy series while FX was a place for their prestige dramas. With exception to a few shows that transitioned over plus newcomer Man Seeking Woman, the network's original programming hasn't been nearly as segregated. In fact all of the good new comedy shows have premiered on FX such as You're the Worst. While it isn't true, FXX is beginning to feel like the dumping ground not for their good comedy, but for those shows that they are too embarrassed to slap a quality sticker on.
With that said, The Comedians comes with an identity crisis. It feels in every way like it should have premiered on FXX. For starters, co-creator Larry Charles' breakout series Da Ali G Show has been successful in reruns on the network. Also, attaching the names Josh Gad (The Book of Mormon) and Billy Crystal (Monster's Inc., City Slickers) to a project would help to bring a wider audience to the channel, especially with the former reaching a career high. Of course, it would be too contradictory to its tagline: "An FX original series about an FX original series." Either way, its placement on FX makes no sense except to fill up time until Louie comes on a half hour later.
With that said, the show is done in a familiar mockumentary style that is meant to create a behind the scenes experience for the viewer. Both Gad and Crystal are playing presumably exaggerated versions of themselves. Gad is too broad and obnoxious. Crystal is simply too old and not willing to put up with nonsense. Add in countless references to both of their careers, including how Crystal is a hasbeen, and you get the general idea of the show. Not only does it conceptually feel dated since Parks and Recreation brought an end to this style mere months ago, but there's very little that feels innovative within the constructs because it has been done before. The overall plot of making this disastrous show doesn't excuse the show's actual quality either.
In a way, it feels more like pandering than any revelation on these two opposing careers. Where Gad is likely rising in profile, Crystal is declining. This is both reality and the fiction of The Comedians. If you don't know or care about either career, there doesn't seem to be a strong reason to watch it. This is The Odd Couple with actors. If the advertisements are to hint at future plot lines as well, it isn't going to get much better. If watching Gad dance around in a diaper or get molested by animals in his trailer, then this may be for you. It seems like it will evolve into a revenge tale that essentially bankrupts the quality of the show.
Despite all of this, it is one of the more tolerable version of this scheme. Where last year saw the disastrous Partners fail to make much of their co-stars Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence, it is at least thankful that for all of the show's obvious jokes and lowbrow humor, it at least feels like minimal effort was put into it. It is trying to be meta in a way of bridging two generations together to make something authentic. Instead, it just reminds you how good The Larry Sanders Show was at doing this decades ago. It is a tolerable show and likely will only benefit for those too lazy to watch nothing before Louie. Either way, with the resurgence of excellent new FX series, it isn't nearly as cutting edge as You're the Worst or as memorable as Married.
Maybe I am wrong and The Comedians will be better than everything that has been seen. However, it does feel like it was created just to give Gad something to do until his next big project. He is, after all, trying too hard to be funny here and is mostly insulting his co-star. It could be charming, but I feel like so far he is nothing but a bully without allowing Crystal to have any quality character moments. The show could be fine, but mostly if you think that Gad's attempts at physical comedy are more interesting than doing something more highbrow with the meta mockumentary format that it has developed for itself.