Fall Show Premieres Prove Comedy is Still a Hot Commodity

Rebel Wilson Super Fun Night

The last couple weeks have been fun and exciting for viewers and stressful for broadcasters, which can only mean one thing: the new fall TV season is officially off and running. Of the fall show premieres we have been waiting for, 13 comedies have finally aired, while others are still waiting in the wings. One thing seems certain though, and that is that sitcoms are back, baby!

FOX’s new comedies began with Dads, another Seth MacFarlane/Green collaboration. The show boasts a decent cast in Giovanni Ribisi, Peter Regert and Martin Mull. Still, the writing and pacing are dated and the show seems like a project that was maybe rejected around the time Friends was hitting its peak; it’s just not that funny. Also, controversial content (i.e. racism) that may work in an animated format is not really acceptable with live action. Adding to that all, the premise of awkward parents infiltrating the lives of their 30-something children isn’t particularly original.

Over at CBS there are two fall show premieres with similar plotlines: Mom and The Millers. The former involves the eponymous parent, played by the incomparable Allison Janney, suddenly wanting to be a part of her daughter’s life again after years of estrangement. For newly sober, single parent Christy (played by Anna Faris), the arrangement has its own separate challenges on top of everything else she is trying to cope with. The latter features Will Arnett, Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges as Nathan, and Mom and Dad Millter, respectively. In this version, Mom moves in with Nathan while Dad moves in with Nathan’s sister after Dad suddenly decides to end 40 years of marriage. Unfortunately Mom had a very poor start in spite of Janney as the show’s anchor, and The Millers has been deemed “uneven” by analysts despite a 3.3 debut rating and a 3rd place finish. Both shows have a strong cast, however, and deserve to be given a chance despite their traditional sitcom format.

Taking the opposite tack are ABC’s Back in the Game and NBC’s Sean Saves the World. ABC’s version stars James Caan as the curmudgeonly dad who takes in his former all-star softball-playing/single mom daughter and her son after an ugly divorce. It’s sort of a “Bad News Bears meets Up” that covers all the sentimental bases while still managing to be funny. NBC’s features Sean Hayes as a divorced, gay dad whose teenage daughter decides to live with him full time. Hayes’ overbearing mother is played by Linda Lavin, but the pretty unoriginal show did not do well its first time out. We may not see much more of this one, while Back in the Game seems like it will be given a chance to grow.

Other fall show premieres of family comedies include The Goldbergs also at ABC. Hailed by some as the next The Wonder Years, others have said that without the 80s nostalgia hook, the show is nothing more than a family who yell at one another all day and hug before they go to bed. Still it did earn a 3.1 in the ratings. The Trophy Wife, which follows The Goldbergs and scored a 2.1 its first time out, stars Malin Ackerman as the former party girl who decides to settle down with the twice divorced Bradley Whitford, his two exes and his three children. What seems like a pretty thin premise actually has a lot of comedy potential, especially in the hands of a cast as skilled and experienced as this one. Welcome to the Family is the story of two families coming together when they learn their teenage son and daughter, respectively, are about to have a baby. Though it scored just 1.2 even after a successful lead-in from The Millers, fingers are reportedly crossed that the show will find its footing.

For workplace comedies NBC gave us the long anticipated The Michael J Fox Show. Fox still has impeccable timing, despite his disability, which is actually the show’s premise. A former news anchor, who has been on a lengthy leave due to his condition, is strongly encouraged by his family to go back to work since his being home all the time is driving them crazy. Wendell Pierce is the supportive producer who gives Fox his old job back. Hilarity ensues, earning the show a 2.2 rating for its debut but it hasn’t done as well since. The FOX Network offered Brooklyn Nine-Nine, about a lax police detective (Andy Samburg) who must immediately improve under the supervision of his new by-the-book commander. Samburg’s series came out at 2.5, doing considerably better than its lead-in Dads, but not enough to put FOX back on the map as the go-to for comedy on Tuesday nights. The Crazy Ones is a hybrid of workplace and family comedies. This is the one with Mork from Ork I mean Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle “Buffy” Gellar as the daddy-daughter ad agency partnership. Williams’ return to television nabbed a top-ranking 3.9 at its coming out, but it has since fallen considerably.

We are Men premiered. There’s not much to say about a series involving a group of guys who live in the same apartment complex and bond over their romantic failures, except that it stars Tony Shaloub and Jerry O’Connell. The show had a dismal debut, unsurprising since O’Connell has never really had a series go longer than a handful of episodes and should seriously consider new management. On the other hand, Rebel Wilson, the scene stealing supporting Australian comedienne, has Super Fun Night, which had a pretty strong debut at 3.2. Touted as “the anti-Sex and the City” the show features Wilson as Kimmie Boubier, a hapless misfit looking for love along with her two best friends. Wilson is certainly capable of carrying this one to a strong season finish and I hope she does just that.

13 new dramas have premiered as well, and I’ll talk about those next. How is your new season so far?

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