Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.
Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
Plus, as a bonus, check out today's "first look" at a pilot that didn't make the cut - NBC's "This Little Piggy."
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
THE PAUL REISER SHOW (NBC)
(written by Jonathan Shapiro & Paul Reiser; directed by Bryan Gordon; TRT: 22:36)
The network's description: ""The Paul Reiser Show" is a new single camera comedy from Emmy and Golden Globe nominated comedian-author-producer-actor Paul Reiser ("Mad About You") and writer-producer Jonathan Shapiro ("Life"). The show stars Paul Reiser as... Paul Reiser. It's been a few years since Paul's hit TV series went off the air. Since then, he's been enjoying the quiet life at home with his lovely wife and kids and generally minding his own business. Lately, however, Paul has been thinking that it's time he did something new, something meaningful. As to what that next thing might be, he has no idea. In his quest to figure it out, Paul is helped and hindered by his new "friends." Like most men his age, Paul didn't choose these friends. They're the husbands of his wife's friends, the dads of kids that his boys go to school with. Thrown together by circumstance, Paul and his friends form an unlikely comradeship -- and a horrible basketball team. In addition to Reiser, Ben Shenkman ("Angels in America") stars as Jonathan, Omid Djalili ("The Infidel") as Habib, Duane Martin ("All of Us") as Fernando, Andrew Daly ("MADtv") as Brad, Amy Landecker ("A Serious Man") as Claire, Brock Waidmann as Zeke and Koby Rouviere ("Greenberg") as Gabe. The pilot is executive produced and written by Reiser and Shapiro, produced by Craig Knizek ("Mad About You"), Merri Howard ("Cold Case") and Peter Safran ("Heist"), and directed by Bryan Gordon ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"). "The Paul Reiser Show" is a production of Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Nuance Productions and Warner Bros. Television."
What did they leave out? It originally ran under the working title of "Next."
The plot in a nutshell: Paul Reiser (as himself) has it all: a beautiful wife, Claire (Amy Landecker); two enjoyably precocious kids (Koby Rouviere, Brock Waidmann); a group of lovable misfit friends - lawyer Jonathan (Ben Shenkman), chef Fernando (Duane Martin), rich layabout Brad (Andrew Daly) and discount warehouse owner Habib (Omid Djalili); and a successful-albeit-stalled career. "Only problem is," he recounts to the audience. "I'm not dead yet. So what do I do next?" And so begins our tour of Reiser's suburban malaise: his weekly pickup basketball game routinely ends in humiliation; his wife frequently volunteers him for things that involve him actually leaving the house; his agent (Larry Dorf) is passing him off to a younger associate (Nazneen Contractor); and, most disturbingly, two kids at the batting cages picked on his son. And while all of the above would usually be met by some hand-wringing and modest complaining to his wife and/or friends,
the latter sees him actually confronting the children in question, giving them some choice nicknames of his own. This of course backfires as the kids' father apologizes to Paul, making him feel even worse about intervening. Really that's just about it.
What works: Reiser has made a career out of lightly prodding the idiosyncrasies of marriage and parenthood so it's no surprise that he's well versed in the peculiarities of his current status as slightly washed up actor/comedian. "I'm exactly famous enough so it's never good, only bad," he explains to his pals after they suggest he use his "name" to get them on top of the wait list at the batting cages. "Like if I was caught in like a seedy hotel room with a coyote, everybody would be like, 'Ohh, that's that guy from that show. Look at that.' Short of that, nobody ever heard of me." In other words, it's more of the same style of low-key observational humor that made him a household name over a decade ago.
What doesn't: Through the lens of 2010 however most of the show feels very dated and slow, especially when compared to NBC's current stable of manic, quirky comedies. Jokes about how he doesn't pick his friends anymore (they're all the husbands of his wife's friends or the fathers of his kids' friends) and the horrors of having to actually sell wrapping paper for the kids' school, when he could just pay for it himself, feel straight out of his standup specials from 25 years ago. Throw in the weird irony that he's constantly complaining to his agent how he's always offered the same "Jewish nice guy husband" roles, when here he is, literally doing the same thing for himself with this show, and the neurotic snake is eating its equally neurotic tail. That's not to say that the show is necessarily bad or unwatchable, it just feels like more of the same. If that's good enough for you, you'll find a lot to enjoy here. If not...
The bottom line: ...you'll probably be craving something more.