One of the problems with network sit-coms is that they often feel constructed around a target audience, rather than a good idea. In th case of Single Parents, this means that we’ve thrown together a setup that opens the door for a handful of precocious first graders to be fantastically cute while their parents rattle around in a world populated almost entirely by silly circumstance.
That’s a little worse than it sounds, because once in a while throwing out a collection of buffoonish, but lovable, characters who seem plagued by wildly unrealistic events will turn into something like The Middle, which is why these particular dice keep getting rolled. When it goes wrong, a show opts for caricatures created by mashing types together, and is more worried about quick gags and one-liners than developing personality or comedy. Jokes, or points of plot development, don’t necessarily work, and we know that, but they get the next kid on screen to deliver a zinger.
This is where Single Parents comes in. It’s a show that, despite a lot of potential, and in a way that is somewhat meta, has no sense of self. It’s a slave to the trappings of a genre that doesn’t quite exist, but seems to have fans, and it rarely goes long without some uncomfortable, disjointed offering in service to it that pulls the whole thing apart. It’s dangerously close to a show that has its characters watch cat videos during half its runtime, or more accurately, other sit-coms.
For Single Parents, the worst hurdle on its road to ratings is that the pilot is really showing off two efforts, and it isn’t clear which one we’re going to get, or if it’s going to try to keep both balls in the air. In one, a group of single parents from a variety of walks of life have banded together in an attempt to help keep each other sane, and semi-distanced from the other parents at their children’s primary school. In the other, we’re just spit-balling odd parent jokes to see if anything lands. A small child sniffs longingly at his mother’s scarf, we kick up a running gag about a giant purse with a mermaid on it, or we have Brad Garrett set his twins to work detailing his car.
One of them is like a group therapy version of Odd Mom Out, or American Housewife, minus the wealth status of the “others,” the other is Three’s Company with kids and less laughs.
The show only delivers in the smallest chunks, and only when it is almost working against itself to establish the existence of the group. Four people, who are as unlikely a group as you could imagine, bond over their shared need for babysitters and as a certain support of their single-parent struggles. The mashing of worlds makes its own comedy, and getting to the heart of their dedication to each other is a road that Leighton Meester and Brad Garrett already deliver well, which is impressive. It only manages a rating as high as it does because the cast already outshines the material.
The hope for the show comes by way of the fact that the pilot seems to actually set in motion the demise of everything its establishing. Over the last five or ten years, this has managed to become a trend, and sit-coms now frequently pull you in, hopefully, with some shtick that makes for a clever title, only to abandon it almost completely about a half-dozen episodes in. Assuming they last that long.
Single Parents is a series that wants to lay the groundwork by focusing on a new single parent to the school, played by Taran Killam, and treat him as something of an avenue for the goofiest, silliest humor it can find to inject into things. His house is full of forts and bean bag chairs, his sexual drought is almost unimaginable, and he’s making necklaces out of Post-It notes. He’s also really, really cheery. Basically, he’s succumbed to single parenthood. Meanwhile, the kids all speak as though they’re not only fourteen, but have watched a lot more instructional parenting videos than you have.
It makes for an easy period of spelling out the situation, because the group gets to be opposed to the school-centric “duties” they want to avoid, and another single parent (and his “doing-it-wrong-ness”), but it’s lazy and there’s very little to hope for in the comedy department.
If the show can run screaming from its establishment as a hijinx-focused one-liner vehicle, give the kids more to do, and offer some depth to its parents, then there might actually be some laughs, and something worth watching.
Given that virtually all dramas, especially on network television, revolve around cops or doctors, it isn’t surprising that they are as beholden to the “gimmick plot” as sit-coms. They generally nail things down as simply a quirk of the main character, but even that simplicity is falling away as ideas run dry. Worst of all, many of them only care so much about gimmicks or plot setups, because they’re lazy spins through melodrama.
New Amsterdam is a show that looks to run so hard at a gimmick that it bursts beyond some form of event horizon and comes full circle to not having a gimmick at all. What if our doctor’s quirk was… wait for it, that he wanted to be a good doctor? And, what if our gimmick was that no one else could figure out what the hell he was talking about, and everyone at the hospital was so jaded by the horrible system, that they didn’t believe it was possible to make things better? Well, or just that it was a doctor who wanted to run a hospital well.
We arrive at New Amsterdam with the hospital’s new medical director, Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), and he’s about to make a lot of changes. Of course, every new director has some speech or other, and New Amsterdam has been averaging one per year of late, so no one really cares. That is, until he actually makes a lot of changes. Big changes.
We’re in a hospital that has been around forever, within a system that has been grinding down its gears for untold years, where nothing changes, and someone just showed up and started shouting, “You get a car! You get a car! You get a car!”
Despite Dr. Goodwin’s semi-cheery demeanor, and his almost exhausting penchant for entering every room with a warm, inviting, “How can I help?” no one expects him, or his changes, to last long, even if they find themselves motivated to keep things going. Who doesn’t want the free car?
The show’s background quickly becomes a strange dance of wondering what’s really possible while dodging the powers that be, all in the extraordinarily new environment that is the wake of a medical director who will fire whole departments.
(Photo by: Francisco Roman/NBC)
The foreground centers mostly on a small set of doctors and their patients. Dr. Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine) runs the psych department, and is one of the first to jump on board with the new director’s efforts. Dr. Vijay Kapoor (Anupam Kher) and Dr. Lauren Bloom (Janet Montgomery) are also early converts to the fan club. On the other side of the viewpoint fence, Dr. Hana Sharpe (Freema Agyeman) spends most of her time on an almost neverending publicity tour, and that doesn’t go over well with Dr. Goodwin and his zany, “Let’s do good for our patients” philosophy.
As you might imagine, this foreground collective offers the chance for us to get up close and personal with new and exciting cases, and unexciting cases, as a gateway to connecting to Dr. Goodwin’s do-gooder agenda.
It’s a surprisingly interesting mix of characters and effort, avoiding a lot of the requisite drama that is supposed to be keeping you watching, by simply creating enough drama tearing apart a hospital. There is a bit of actual drama, so far by way of who is or isn’t going to keep sleeping with who, but the show is mostly content to set the hospital structure spinning and find out what the doctors are going to make of it all. It’s refreshing, and apart from the fact that the show goes one shmaltzy contrivance too far in the second episode with a ritual, it actually sells the idea of watching a hospital run simply to watch a hospital run. The un-gimmick.
Woven into the battle that will be Dr. Goodwin vs. The Board, and the subsequent aligning of troops, we get the routine cases which eat at time, shed light on our doctors, and showcase the fact that other doctors suck and cause irreparable harm to patients. It would be nice to find a medical series that could have a doctor say, “Well, no, I mean you’re doctor didn’t exactly do anything wrong, it’s just that we did this test/noticed this/your symptoms are slightly different now,” but this is the game we signed up for.
New Amsterdam, which is inspired by Dr. Eric Manheimer’s memoir “Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital” and his fifteen years as Medical Director there, approaches an almost meta (or something) reaction when watching it. It’s fun and it will pull you in, but it is also pulling the rug out from under viewers who are comfortable with the stagy shenanigans of hospital staff. It’s unsettling, and certainly doesn’t make you feel solid about what’s coming next. Just as certain doctors might respond to Dr. Goodwin, “Sure, it would be great if things were like that, but what the hell is happening here?”
As if to fan the fear by revealing a chink in the armor, the show misfires when it comes to Freema Agyeman and her character. She’s forced and wooden, somehow mawkish at the same time, and doesn’t come near convincing that she’s a high-powered doctor who rolls her eyes at the new director as if she owns the place.
Pictured: (l-r) Anupam Kher as Dr. Vijay Kapoor, Tyler Labine as Dr. Iggy Frome — (Photo by: Will Hart/NBC)
On the other hand, Tyler Labine and Anupam Kher are so good that the spin-off with their characters would instantly outperform this show. Eggold carries things well, and he’s clearly capable of being the driving force behind a show for several seasons, once we get through the establishment sprint he’s forced into, but Labine and Kher are solid gold out of the gates.
It’s a great show all around, but it isn’t as solid as it could be. It might grow into an even better effort, capitalizing on the available talent it has, but it comes with as much risk as potential. If there’s any chance you’ll like this show, you’ll love it, but you’ll be a little nervous about where you’ll be come episode 10.
NEW AMSTERDAM | Official Trailer | NBC Fall Shows 2018 - YouTube
The series kicked off with Cake Week, and as we got to know the hopeful bakers, it was pretty clear who was going to go home, and how Canada’s version of the series (which now iterations in about two dozen markets) was going to continue to put its “Canadian” mark on the brand… flagrant niceness.
As the bakers made their way through an upside-down cake, a chiffon cake technical challenge, and finally a birthday cake showstopper, it was surprisingly difficult to run odds on them. Ultimately, it was Brockville, Ontario’s Tim Chauvin who went home, but judges Bruno Feldeisen and Rochelle Adonis found the positive in everything presented to them. In stark contrast to the British version of the show, the judges give the impression that they’d rather be rid of the technical challenge’s ordering of the contestant’s work.
Either Canada has better bakers, the show has lowered the bar on difficulty, or test audiences in Canada really hate Paul Hollywood.
Of course, the show also reinforces its Canadian magic with hosts Dan Levy and Julia Chan, but the hosts are supposed to be encouraging. Levy especially, who seems something of a coup for the show off the back of Schitt’s Creek‘s popularity and critical acclaim, is a wellspring of affable charm.
With one baker down and Andrei picking up Star Baker, nine remain and the competition is wide open.
In the next episode of THE GREAT CANADIAN BAKING SHOW, it’s Biscuits and Bars Week, and the remaining nine bakers have another chance to show off their skills and creativity. The baking continues next Wednesday, September 26 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC, the CBC TV streaming app, and cbc.ca/watch. Fans can enjoy past episodes anytime on the CBC TV streaming app and cbc.ca/watch.
The bakers still in the tent are:
Mengling Chen, 30, a market research account manager from Toronto, Ontario
Timothy Fu, 19, an undergrad student from Edmonton, Alberta
Andrei Godoroja, 58, a software engineering consultant from Vancouver, B.C.
Sadiya Hashmi, 38, a homeschooling mom with an MBA from Edmonton, Alberta
Wendy McIsaac, 54, a senior policy analyst from Cornwall, P.E.I.
Sachin Seth, 43, a dentist and dental professor from Halifax, Nova Scotia
Megan Stasiewich, 30, a hair stylist from Leduc, Alberta
Devon Stolz, 27, a gravestone carver and substitute teacher from Regina, Saskatchewan
Ann Marie Whitten, 49, an operations manager from Pickering, Ontario
Kristen Bell shared the news today that Veronica Mars will be returning to your living room, and Hulu is going to be where you’ll find the show’s return.
It’s going to be hitting next year, probably mid-summer, and the special bonus news is that all past episodes (and the 2014 film) will also be available on Hulu starting summer 2019.
The series has a direct order for an 8-episode run that will be part of the new slate of Hulu Originals. The series will center on events in Neptune which find spring breakers getting murdered.
Spring breakers are getting murdered in Neptune, thereby decimating the seaside town’s lifeblood tourist industry. After Mars Investigations is hired by the parents of one of the victims to find their son’s killer, Veronica is drawn into an epic eight-episode mystery that pits the enclave’s wealthy elites, who would rather put an end to the month-long bacchanalia, against a working class that relies on the cash influx that comes with being the West Coast’s answer to Daytona Beach.
The show’s return, especially following the marginal success of the 2014 film, is a testament to the growing brand that is Kristen Bell, who is apparently in love with being Veronica Mars.
Be that as it may, there’s every reason to believe that this is going to be a fantastic series, and it’s going to be interesting to see who else will find their way on board this one as next summer approaches.
It’s hard to imagine that a show that only lasted three seasons, fourteen years ago, on UPN no less, is still considered viable enough to be worthy of a return, but the show had a kind of magic. If a new version, with a new mode of delivery, can capture any of that, this could be a huge win for Hulu.
Sometimes the general hope surrounding a movie’s production is simply that there be some reaction by audiences. Depending on the depth and breadth of the intention behind the effort, the only way to truly go wrong is to induce boredom. It isn’t hard to see that almost any comedy falls into such a category, and if you’re (theoretically) pushing boundaries, hate and love will probably balance out. When you’re a shock comic, the fact that a lot of people don’t like what you do is part of how you know you’re doing it right. The Happytime Murders calmly meanders through this ground like an extreme preacher demanding the persecution the Bible promises.
But, this is a movie that obviously has another avenue to polarize people, the fact that Jim Henson’s son is the one taking his father’s legacy and turning it into a dark collection of sexual gags and shocking, fluff-flying deaths.
Much like many Muppet efforts, The Happytime Murders throws us into a world in which Muppets exist alongside humans, but this is no happy adventure we have in store for us. Muppets are looked down on, treated horribly, and have only recently managed some small degree of equal treatment. Thus, Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) was, not long ago, the first “fluffy” cop on the force. Of course, he has since been disgraced and now works as a private detective.
We enter the story when an attractive damsel walks into Phil’s life with a plea for him to help her. From there, things wander through the pages of Film Noir 101, and without even the slightest effort to deviate from the outline. It turns out that someone seems to be after bumping off the entire cast of an old children’s show, and Phil is bizarrely close to the case, because both his brother and ex-girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) were on the show. Once bodies start dropping, Phil is forced to work alongside his old partner, Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), and it turns out that things might not be as simple as they seem.
You now know everything that’s going to happen in the film, and if you don’t, brother have I got some movies for you. The only difference between this and an equally unfunny, uninteresting, cut-and-paste film noir montage of an effort is that when Phil “dives into the seedy underbelly of the city,” you get to actually see the niche porn in all its glory. You also get to watch Phil have sex with the damsel in distress, and when a murder victim is killed by being torn apart, you get to watch that happen too. I mean, what are the censors going to do?
Worst of all, though there are perhaps a couple of laughs, the thing just isn’t funny. That may not be surprising for those of us that wonder how long Melissa McCarthy can keep making movies without anything good or funny happening in any of them, but even Maya Rudolph and Joel McHale are wasted. Not only do they not get much that’s worthy of their comedic abilities, their best chances come largely by being in the vicinity of Muppet sex and acting vaguely awkward, which isn’t exactly a Herculean task.
It’s hard to fault a Muppet film for failing to meet any plot expectations, a fact the film hopes to take to the bank, but at best it offers up a few, extremely juvenile laughs, so why make it at all?
That’s actually pretty obvious and almost immediately renders the bland, goofball effort somewhat painful to watch. It isn’t hard to imagine that growing up in the shadow of the man who created an entire world of wholesome family entertainment might have certain ups and downs, but watching what I assume is some kind of attempt at a cathartic rejection isn’t a lot of fun. “Oh yeah, Dad? How about if you watch them have sex for a while? Maybe we’ll get a few Muppets who get to show up in the credits as “cheap hooker,” take a shotgun to a few of them, and have a couple OD. How do you like that, Dad?” Hooray.
I suppose we can hope he has it out of his system, especially considering there are efforts in the works that could ruin a lot of childhood memories, but there’s nothing about The Happytime Murders that suggests there was ever any need to actually release it.