Up All Night

Features, New Shows, Pilot Season

Still to come: New NBC comedies

No Comments 21 September 2011

Here’s a novel idea. How about publishing a preview of upcoming NBC sitcoms once two of them have already aired? Unconventional, granted, but we started work on this preview a while back and promptly got sidetracked with something else so it’d be a shame not to put it out there. Expect reviews of all the new pilot episodes in due course.

Anyway, onto the new NBC comedies. The network  has  an incredibly strong returning comedy line-up (Parks and Recreation, Community, The Office, 30 Rock) so the new shows will have to go some to stand out from the crowd. Let’s start with the sitcoms that will be airing during the ‘fall season’.


The fact that Will Arnett has failed to find the right vehicle since frequently stealing the show as Gob Bluth on still-missed sitcom Arrested Development is nothing short of a bloody big shame. So it was with excitement that we greeted the news that he was bouncing back from last season’s Running Wilde-shaped disappointment with a starring role in a new NBC comedy alongside some other exciting names. Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph have both shown that they’re more than capable of providing laughs, so there’s reason to believe that this could come together nicely.

That said, the trailer is far from convincing. There are a couple of nice observations (the surprising leg strength of a newborn, the knowing countdown to tears as the champagne cork hits the ceiling) but on the whole things fall a little flat. Creator Emily Spivey has many years of Saturday Night Live writing under her belt and also wrote a fun episode of TV’s current best sitcom Parks and Recreation, so despite the miss-and-hit promo we’ll continue to hold out with (very) cautious optimism.



An odd one, this. Free Agents first cropped up in the form of a UK sitcom pilot starring Stephen Mangan, Sharon Horgan and Anthony Head for Channel 4′s short Comedy Showcase season in 2007. It wasn’t until two years later that a series was aired; it went out with little fanfare and was received with a collective shrug of the shoulders from the viewing public.

Not the most obvious candidate for a US remake, then, but here we are. The always enjoyable Hank Azaria plays a newly divorced father who has a one-night stand with a colleague (Kathryn Hahn) and wants to take the relationship further. Unfortunately for him, she’s not really up for a long-term relationship; while she seems the confident type on the outside, she’s dealing with previous relationship issues herself — her husband-to-be dropped dead shortly before they were to tie the knot. Head, widely thought of as the best element of the original show, reprises his role as the foul-mouthed head of the PR firm that the will-they-won’t-they-with-a-twist couple work for.

Going by the trailer above, this could well shape up very nicely indeed. Azaria is a fine comic performer, so given the right material he could help Free Agents become a real dark horse. The main concern is the cocky ‘come on, bro!’ co-worker (Mo Mandel) who gets a bunch of screen time in the video preview — not funny at all, ‘dude’. On the other hand, Al Madrigal’s socially awkward staffer looks like a keeper.



Whintey Cummings comes over all Vincent Gallo; as creator, co-producer and star of a self-titled sitcom, it’s easy to see how things could potentially get a little self-indulgent. Cummings’ star is rising, though (she’s also co-creator and co-producer of CBS’ new comedy 2 Broke Girls), and having given her show the plum post-Office spot in the schedule NBC clearly sees her their next big star in the making.

Neither the trailer above or the official blurb from NBC give a great deal away about the show itself; it centres around the trials and tribulations of a long-term relationship and the lengths that people will go to in order to avoid amorous stagnation. Where it goes from there is anybody’s guess; what’s for sure is that it’ll need more than that relatively flimsy hook to keep people watching.

Cummings has developed quite the following thanks to some of her shock-based stand up — during the Comedy Central Roast of David Hasselhoff she addressed Pamela Anderson with: “You’ve slept with Brett Michaels, Tommy Lee and Kid Rock; why don’t you just save yourself some time and drink a vat of Magic Johnson’s blood?” — but it’ll be interesting to see how she fares in the more sedate surroundings of network television.


So, with Up All Night, Free Agents and Whitney all coming to NBC very shortly, what do we have left to look forward to as midseason replacements? These three, that’s what:



Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first; it’s a terrible title. Yes, it’s based on a best-selling book of the same name whose title is a skewed version of the Judy Blume novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. There are a couple of problems here. Firstly, the majority of people who are exposed to the show won’t get the reference. Secondly, even if they did, it wouldn’t hide the fact that it’s a horrible title for a TV show. In this era of social media being a huge marketing tool for new shows, it might have been an idea to go with something a little snappier than what we’ve got. Twitter users are going to have a third of their 140-character limit taken up by the time they’ve typed out the show title! We’re being wilfully ignorant for the sake of a poor attempt at humour, there. Clearly it won’t be a problem; they’ll be able to use a catchy hashtag instead. You know, like #AYTV?IMC. Oh.

Onto the trailer, and there’s not much there to get our hopes up. Bartender gets caught drink driving so buys apartment within walking distance of work so that she isn’t tempted to drink drive again. That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!



Jessica St. Clair, Lennon Parham and Adam Pally star in this single-camera comedy following a soon-to-be-divorced woman who flies back across the US to move back in with her ex-flatmate and best friend — only to find that said friend’s partner has moved in and converted her old room into an office. The short trailer is light on laughs but time will tell whether there’s anything more underneath the wobbly premise to get excited about.

One point of note: the pilot episode was directed by Fred Savage, who, quite apart from being a New TV Shows favourite purely for having played Kevin Arnold in The Wonder Years and the grandson in Top Five Best Film Ever inductee The Princess Bride, has plenty of experience with directing strong comedy, including underrated gem Party Down.



Bent stars Jeffrey Tambor. That’s Jeffrey ‘Hank Kingsley AND George Bluth’ Tambor, star of two of the greatest television comedies of all time: The Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development. That alone should be enough to have you tune in. Plus, you know, the trailer looks good.

The unimportant extra details: Amanda Peet (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) plays a single mother who hires a recovering gambling addict (David Walton) and his band of oddball co-workers to remodel the kitchen in her new home. Tambor plays the contractor’s father, an out of work actor — and hopefully gets lots of screen time. The extended preview indicates that the show has charm and we’re pinning our hopes on Bent being a winner. It’s just a shame that we’ll have to wait until later on in the year — or possibly even 2012 — to get a glimpse of the show proper.

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