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I’ve felt a burning desire to re-watch The Office, or at least its second season, lately. I’ll give you two guesses why.
If you guessed Jim and/or Pam, you’re absolutely right.
I love comedy, and I love romance. I can’t always say I love sitcoms, because they vary, and the term “sitcom” is developing a canned laughter/unrealistic situations/ridiculous misunderstandings kind of stigma. But I dearly love to laugh (a family trait, I think), and it’s good to have a half-hour long program that I can zip through when I want a break but don’t have time for an hour-long show.
Problem is, sitcoms, especially romantic ones, seem to be going the way of the dinosaur. Fewer new ones are introduced each season, and they tend to be the first to get canceled. That’s certainly true of this 2014 fall season. The networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and the CW) introduced 14 new dramas (15, if you include Fox’s reality show Utopia), and only nine new comedies. They’ve already canceled four of those comedies, while Utopia is the only hour-long program to get the ax.
Romantic sitcoms, like romantic movies, are in even bigger trouble than general comedies. There were at least four new sitcoms attempting to fill the romcom void, and all but one of them is now canceled. ABC introduced Selfie and Manhattan Love Story on Tuesday nights, while NBC put its hopes in A to Z, starring Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti, and Marry Me, with Ken Marino and Casey Wilson.
The winner of the dubious honor of the fall season’s first cancellation goes to Manhattan Love Story—and deservedly so. The terrible show relied solely on the tiredest clichés and perpetuating the oldest, stupidest stereotypes for its humor. It’s dreadful, and though its second and third episodes got marginally better (perhaps because there was no where to go but up?), it’s still not worth continuing to produce. Good riddance.
Selfie got a lot of backlash on social media when it aired, perhaps for its treatment of social media, though I don’t fully understand why. It officially got the ax just last week, and I, for one, am heartbroken. Created by Emily Kapnek of Suburgatory, it’s a kooky updated version of Pygmalion (or My Fair Lady) with John Cho as Henry Higgins (or Higgs) and Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan as Eliza Doolittle (or Dooley).
It’s not a perfect show, by any means, but it’s cute and funny. The fun leads have a great chemistry and play off each other well, the surrounding players are slowly developing into full characters, and the premise gets far enough away from the Pygmalion ideal that Henry needs Eliza’s help as much as she needs his (My Fair Lady is definitely not one of my favorite musicals). While it’s at times ridiculously silly, it also has some very sweet, touching moments. I’m sad to see it go.
A to Z has an interesting premise: a narrator (Katey Sagal) tells us exactly what will happen, that the two characters will date for eight months (the length of the season, presumably), and that we’ll see certain events or situations in their dating life. The alphabet construction is a little contrived, most grievously in the name of Milioti’s character, Zelda (ick. Is she an old woman, or a video game?). The pilot isn’t terrible and the leads are sweet together, but following episodes get a little more into clichéd, stereotype territory. A to Z, along with its time slot companion Bad Judge, were the second and third cancellations this season. I’m not exactly sad to see A to Z go, especially for its highly competitive Thursday night time slot, a very difficult place for a new show to survive.
NBC’s Marry Me is the only romcom hit, though critics seem to like it more than audiences. It received a lot of buzz before it aired—Entertainment Weekly called it out as one of the shows to watch this season—but its ratings aren’t really holding up. It did start later in the season and hasn’t aired as many episodes yet, so it remains to be seen whether it’ll survive the chopping block.
I wanted to like Marry Me because I like both of the actors (Marino and Wilson), but I didn’t. In fact, I hated the pilot. It’s definitely in the school of extremely embarrassing, awkward humor that has been so popular in recent years. Yes, I know The Office falls in that category too, but it’s not the reason I watch the show. In fact, I often hate Michael Scott (Steve Carell), who can be such a jerk. As I said before, I love The Office because of Jim and Pam.
Marry Me starts with an embarrassing situation that just gets worse: when Wilson’s Annie assumes that Marino’s Jake is not going to propose to her, she starts bad mouthing his family and friends—only to find that they’re there, hiding out for a surprise engagement party. Gee, making myself look like a mean-spirited, stupid idiot in front of my future in-laws is so funny. Apparently others think so, but I don’t.
I haven’t seen any more of Marry Me than the pilot, though I read the episode descriptions, and I don’t think I’m missing much. The pilot set up the type of humor to be found on the show, and it’s not for me.
Bad Judge stars Kate Walsh (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice), as the titular judge, who really isn’t that bad. There’s nothing particularly romantic about it (yet), but I enjoy it, finding Walsh a dynamic, entertaining lead, who has fun chemistry and amusing interactions with her friend and coworker Tedward (Tone Bell). It’s not an amazing show, certainly, but it’s fast-paced and funny, and I like Walsh. I’m sorry to see it go too . . . but I’ll survive.
The remaining new network comedies this season are black-ish and Cristela (both ABC), Mulaney (Fox), and The McCarthys (CBS). Mulaney is pretty terrible, which is unfortunate because John Mulaney’s standup material is hysterically funny (see New in Town), but some of that material is repeated in his sitcom, and Mulaney is awkward when trying to play a character. Black-ish ratings are very strong but I haven’t seen it, nor have I seen The McCarthys, which only premiered two weeks ago. I eventually got around to seeing the pilot of Cristela and it pleasantly surprised me. Star Cristela Alonzo is cute and very entertaining, and I look forward to seeing more episodes, though I didn’t find the show on demand.
So the season’s clear winner, to me, is already canceled. Selfie will run its course and then be gone for good, and we’ll see what will crop up in its place. Considering the way the fall season’s sitcom scorecard is looking, I may have to go back to reruns of The Office for my romcom cravings.