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Face-off of the New Fall Comedies

The Fall schedule has its fair share of new comedies, and I can think of no better way to welcome these fresh faces than by pitting them against each other.  Matched up based on their similar themes of family, friends, relationships, and men that aren’t quite men; are eight of TV’s latest comedic ventures.  Single-camera series square off against the more traditional multi-cam format to decide which is worthy of your time.  So place your bets on which shows will make it to the twelfth round, and which will be knocked out as soon as the bell rings.


Up All Night (NBC) September 14, 8PM EST
A show about unwitting parents always draws me in quicker than one about the wholesome family with three perfectly planned children.  So when it comes down to Up All Night or Last Man Standing, the choice is easy for me.  It doesn’t hurt that this series stars Will Arnett(Arrested Development), Christina Applegate(Anchorman), and Maya Rudolph(Bridesmaids); all with a rich history of comedic roles.  This true-to-life look at the trials of parenthood may not produce as many laughs as your typical sitcom, but it should appeal to anyone that likes their humor with a healthy dose of depression.

Pros:
-A strong cast of lead actors.
-Creator, Emily Spivey, is coming off of producing Park and Recreation’s third season, and should bring some of that same charm to her own series.
 
Cons:
-Shows starring Will Arnett have a tendency to to be prematurely canceled.
-May be too dark for network audiences to appreciate.

Last Man Standing (ABC) October 11, 8PM EST
Tim Allen’s return to television is certain to draw a crowd, especially since he is reprising his role as a family man.  And though his clan has a decidedly more feminine aspect, not much has changed from Allen’s last TV venture.  The comedian turned actor is starring as a husband and father holding out against the onslaught of estrogen laying siege to his last bastion of masculinity.  Playing a “man’s man” isn’t exactly a big step for Allen, but at least it’s a character he has developed for years; both on stage as a comic and on screen as an actor.  So as long as you accept going in that this will be the comfort food of comedies, you won’t be disappointed by what you see.

Pros:
-Tim Allen playing a role he clearly has mastered.
-With five Emmys under his belt, creator Jack Burditt(30 Rock), is certainly someone you would want working in the writers’ room.  

Cons:
-It may be hard to tell the difference between this and Home Improvement reruns. 
-Allen’s character will likely be just misogynistic enough to not offend anyone, and as they say, “no risk, no reward.”

Outcome: They are opposite ends of the spectrum, but both could be well loved depending on what you’re looking for.


New Girl (Fox) September 20, 9PM EST
After a few big budget films and a slew of indie flicks, Zooey Deschanel is taking on her own television series.  Not her first foray onto the small screen(a guest spot on Weeds being her most notable gig), New Girl does mark Deschanel’s first time landing a starring role on a series.  It’s obvious from the preview that the show was built around the character and not the other way around.  Which you can’t knock Fox too much for; it is Zooey Deschanel after all.  The writing is still going to have to provide her something to do, because all the cuteness in the world is not enough to carry a series.

Pros:
-Deschanel’s irresistible charm is…irresistible.
-The three costars should have an easy time getting laughs with deadpan responses to their leading lady’s bewildering behavior.

Cons:
-Adorably cute can become annoyingly cute very quickly; especially if that is the show’s main appeal.
-The series lost Damon Wayans Jr. to ABC’s Happy Endings, which will at the very least force the remaining actors to readjust to a new cast member. 

2 Broke Girls (CBS) September 19, 8:30PM EST
A bubbly, blonde heiress meets a rough-edged, streetwise girl who has worked for everything she has -or stolen it- and they wind up teaching each other more than either thought possible.  I think I’ve seen that plot in a few Disney movies.  2 Broke Girls will be the first of two new shows from the mind of Whitney Cummings, and not unlike the comedienne’s self-titled project; it is clear that if anyone mentioned “highbrow” around the set, the only response they received were the writers furrowing theirs.  Though the series does have a chance of recapturing the magic of the classic sitcoms like The Odd Couple – which were clearly an influence on its humor and plot.

Pros:
-Kat Dennings plays the role of a world-weary waitress like she has done it all her life.
-This appears to be the better of Cumming’s two new shows.

Cons:
-Preview not only summed up the Pilot in four minutes, but likely how every episode will turn out.
-Raunchy sex jokes, inane visual gags, and racial stereotypes seem to be the writing’s only means of entertaining the audience.

Outcome: A tentative vote for New Girl, but it could lose it’s charm within weeks. 


Free Agents (NBC) September 14, 8:30PM EST
This UK import may have the most comedic potential of the all the new shows this fall, though that certainly doesn’t mean it has the best chance of lasting.  Like Up All Night, this series is carving a new comedy block on Wednesday nights for NBC.  Competing against the draw of Survivior, and Fox’s latest reality competition series, The X Factor(another adaption from across the pond); Free Agents will have to work twice as hard to find an audience.  Though there does seem to be substance to this darkly humorous take on casual relationships.  If it can balance comedy and drama in the half hour format -not an easy task- than this series should find critical success if nothing else.

Pros:
-Could follow in the footsteps of The Office.
-The chemistry between Azaria and Hahn is obvious in their scenes in the preview, and will only grow as the series continues.

Cons:
-Could follow in the footsteps of Kath and Kim.
-Along with Up All Night, this series will be struggling to bring in ratings from the very first episode.

Whitney (NBC) September 22, 9:30PM EST
From the preview it seems Miss Cumming’s goal is less to make the audience laugh, and more to ensure she is seen as a sex symbol.  This series could have come out in the 80’s and no one would have known the difference; the humor is that cliched.  In addition, neither member of this “happily unmarried couple” have the acting chops to carry a show.  Perhaps some TV viewers will enjoy the nostalgia of hearing a studio audience’s catcalls over the star’s skimpy outfits.  For anyone that doesn’t however, it just plays as the most contrived attempt at humor television has seen in some time.

Pros:
-The comedienne’s fans will enjoy seeing her standup brought to life.
-If you fall asleep after The Office, the laughs from Whitney’s easily amused studio audience serve as an alarm clock.

Cons:
-Humor, plot, and acting; it’s all bad.
-It sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the Thursday night lineup on NBC.

Outcome: Watch Free Agents, and be prepared for Thursday’s “Must See TV” to become a little less obligatory.


Man Up! (ABC) October 18, 8:30PM EST
This is another in the already long line of “new” comedies that does not seem to mind that its humor is tragically outdated.  A fat guy that is insecure about his body, a wife that doesn’t want to have sex, and someone with a guitar singing off-key; we have seen all these jokes before.  If the series can however come up with some of its own material, than the pieces are in place for it to be a working series.  Fogel, Zickel, and Moynihan(also a creator of the series) do squeeze some laughs out of their archetypal characters.  But hopefully the chubby goofball, whipped husband, and sensitive geek will develop with time.

Pros:
-Fans of executive producer, Victor Fresco(Better Off Ted), will be thrilled to see him working on another series.
-The three lead actors compliment each other well, showing comedic potential despite their one-note roles.

Cons:
-Recycled jokes.
-Recycled characters. 

How to Be a Gentleman (CBS) September 29, 8:30PM EST
While the humor is broader than I like, the cast is enough to merit some attention.  David Hornsby, who also takes credit as creator, leads them in this series inspired by the book of the same name.  And though Kevin Dillon and Dave Foley are the most recognizable actors; Hornsby, along with Mary Lynn Rasjkub and Rhys Darby, have all had very memorable roles in the past.  That being said, the gentleman and tough guy schtick doesn’t feel like it has much staying power, and the funniest moments take place outside of it.  Still, this seems to be the best offering from CBS this season.

Pros:
-It’s Rickety Cricket and Gail the Snail!(It’s Always Sunny)
-It’s Murray!(Flight of the Conchords)

Cons:
-Some of the material is charmingly juvenile, some of it is just juvenile. 
-CBS forcing people to choose between watching this or Parks and Recreation on NBC doesn’t end well for these fine gentlemen.

Outcome:  Watch How to Be a Gentleman for the cast, and check in after a few episodes to see if Man Up! develops.

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