>For Part I, My Dissection of “The Winner” starring Rob Corddry, click here.
Unlike Fox and “The Winner”, CBS is heavily promoting “The Class” (see IMDB), a dark comedy filled with neurotic, depressed or otherwise unhappy and unfulfilled characters. Plot Outline from IMDB: A 27-year-old is reunited with his childhood friends.
Before delving into my autopsy, let me just state what I think is so tricky about sitcom pilots in general. Nearly 99.9% of the time, the show has 23 minutes in which to set up the story, introduce brand new characters and show how those characters might relate to one another all while being funny with the hopes that viewers will come back for another 23 minutes when they don’t have to sit through all those machinations and can just get on with watching the show. The chance for failure is great, indifference even greater.
The Good: There are eight (!) main characters with at least four supporting characters that have a greater than average likelihood of returning. The possibilities are endless. All of the characters have their little hang-ups, their kryptonite or whatever you want to call it.
There were a few “Oh no they dih-en!” or otherwise awkard, envelope pushing moments that I think might titillate the average viewer. I was a bit nonplussed by them (read my earlier statements about being comedied out in real life) but I do think that Middle America will find them progressive and radical. The writers’ decision in the final scene clinched it for me. I have to watch the next episode and I have NO clue where they will or won’t “go” in the story lines. That is good Tee Vee in my book, sitcom or no.
I won’t spoil the ending for you but if you like sneaking peeks at the end of a book then this video my friend Liam links to will clue you in.
The Bad: Besides the initial pilot problem I prefaced above (introducing eight main characters and more than four supporting!!!), there was the other pilot problem: establishing relationships with those characters by getting their lives to interact after 20 years. It’s asking a lot of the writers to cram it all in under a half hour. They do it but it’s so forced. Couldn’t they have pieced it out over two episodes or maybe given them an hour pilot? Whatever. They did it, now let’s get on with the show.
There was a lot of typical campy schtick by a couple of characters that makes me roll my eyes. Lucy Punch as “Holly” (pictured in red, far right) was the worst offender. Not only was she over-doing it, she was over-doing it badly. And the costume designer must hate her. Clearly she is trying to be the next Megan Mullaly (“Karen” in Will & Grace) and it made me cringe. In her defense, she’s paired up with a zealously gay Sam Harris as “Perry Pearl”, Holly’s closeted homosexual husband as a fruity Queen.
Incidentally, I was the biggest Harris fan when he was –brace yourselves– a contestant on Star Search back in 1982. I rooted for him as though my life depended on his victory solely for the fact that he was a cute Oklahoma boy and now he plays a flaming closeted husband…the very part Christian auditioned for back in LA this last pilot season. Ahem. Moving on…
Then there’s Jason Ritter, essentially the lead of the ensemble (at least in the pilot episode) as it is his initiative that brings everyone together to a party he is throwing for his girlfriend. He has as much flavor as plain oatmeal. BORING! (Sorry John, RIP.) He’s the “normal” white boy in the bunch of all the other quirky white people and is just dwarfed. I’m sure it actually will work in the sense that he’s kind of the narrator, the hub, the core and so he can be sane and bring people together a la Judd Hirsch in Taxi or Dear John or every other show Judd does but jeez…there wasn’t any other actor out there that could fit the bill? Judd got on my nerves but he’s got character.
The Verdict: A more than fighting chance of getting renewed.
Post Script to the Verdict: A few days have passed since I first began typing this and the more I think about “The Class” the less I can remember about what I didn’t like and only recall the good. Good sign, I guess. I still don’t like Punch & Ritter, but it’s early still.