by Matthew Thompson
With March upon us, I thought it was a good time to look back on the new shows that have premiered in 2014 so far. In this post, I will be talking about the comedies I have had a chance to check out, giving you a little about their respective premises as well as letting you know if they are worth your time.
Enlisted (Premiered January 10th, Episodes watched so far: 6)
The Premise: This new comedy from Kevin Biegel (co-creator of Cougar Town) focuses on members of the U.S. Army’s rear detachment stationed at Fort McGee, a fictional post in Florida. This group stays behind to take care of the base while others get deployed overseas. After an incident in Afghanistan, Pete Hill (Geoff Stults) is sent here to whip one platoon into shape, a group that happens to include his two younger brothers, Derrick (Chris Lowell) and Randy (Parker Young).
My Take: The three brothers are fantastic together and their differing personalities make for a lot of fun moments. Pete is the arrogant super-soldier who thinks he is a bit too good for his current position, but his brothers do a good job of bringing him down to earth. He also makes a good pairing with another platoon leader, Jill Perez (Angelique Cabral), who has a very similar personality to Pete and there is plenty of ground to mine in their growing, friendly rivalry. Derrick is super sarcastic which works in great contrast to his brother Randy who is more of a gun-ho goofball, playing a similar role to his hilarious one on Suburgatory. These two are gold together and the show deserves a lot of credit for making me like the guy who played Piz on Veronica Mars, not an easy feat! The Seargent Major played by Keith David also works well as the overseer of the whole thing. The rest of the supporting cast is good for some comic relief here and there, kind of a group of misfits with various idiosyncracies that help them standout. They aren’t quite as strong as the more central characters, but help round out the cast.
Grade So Far: B: I love the cast and have enjoyed this way more than I anticipated. The military dropback doesn’t seem like an overused setting for a sitcom and it’s had some truly memorable jokes and gags. I’d put this behind only Brooklyn Nine-Nine as far as new comedies introduced this network season. Admittedly, there is a pretty sizable gulf between the two shows, but Enlisted is still a show I think is worth a try if not quite something I’d call a can’t miss like B99.
About a Boy (Premiered February 22nd. Episodes watched so far: 2)
The Premise: Based on the book of the same name (like the Hugh Grant movie before it), About a Boy focuses on the unlikely friendship that develops between carefree bachelor Will Freeman (David Walton) and his new neighbor’s son Marcus (Benjamin Stockham).
My Take: My main reason for tuning in was that it was developed for TV by Jason Katims. I love Katims’ other two shows, Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, and I am very curious what he might be able to do with a different format in what will likely be a much lighter affair than his previous works. I liked the pilot quite a bit. Some extremely funny moments highlighted the first half hour, my favorite when young Marcus said “What a puss” in response to Will describing one of his married friends. I wouldn’t normally love the overly sappy ending, but I think it worked here… it just seems like that kind of show. I was much less into the second episode, but it had a few good moments too. I could certainly see this premise working as a more comedic take on Katims’ typically heartfelt dramas.
Grade So Far: C+: It’s a little tougher to gauge this than Enlisted due to the smaller sample size. There is promise here, but it is a little rough around the edges still and I just don’t find it as funny as Enlisted even just looking at the first couple of episodes of each. It feels like a wait and see approach is best advised here, but I am definitely going to keep watching for now. I hope some more of the Katims’ magic shines through as the show continues on.
Mixology (Premiered February 26th, Episodes watched so far: 2)
The Premise: Mixology focuses on ten people at a bar in Manhattan with the whole season taking place over the course of one single night as they meet and mingle with each other throughout.
My Take: I like the concept, an almost 24-esque quasi-realtime comedy that focuses on a single night. I’ve been told this isn’t new in comedy, but I have not seen the others that have tried it. I think the flashbacks and narration could work to help flesh out the characters enough to sell us on them during the night focused on. But the content here is just bad. The characters are obnoxious almost across the board. Bruce is just THE WORST and since he plays the part of the narrator, he drags that part down too. And I’m just not sure the whole “looking for love” angle can work in this format. I guess the idea is that we should care whether some of these people start a relationship or sleep with each other by the end of the night, but I don’t care. I think maybe just a wild crazy night full of silly hijinks might have worked better than a relationship drama for this concept. And it certainly lacks the kind of drama and stakes that 24 struck gold with using a similar setup. I’d overlook these problems if the show was funny, but laughs were hard to come by during the first two episodes.
My Grade So Far: D: Really hard to advise this to anyone. Other than the basic concept, there isn’t much redeeming about Mixology at all.
That will do it for the new comedies I gave a look in January and February. Look out for my take on a trio of new dramas that premiered in 2014 tomorrow. Thanks for reading!