Friday, April 15, 2011

Paul Reiser returns to television with self-titled series

     Years after Mad About You has left the airwaves, NBC brought Paul Reiser back last night in his new series, The Paul Reiser Show. The series is about Paul (playing a fictionalized image of himself) being a dad post-TV career, and hanging out with his kids' friends' dads, whom he now reluctantly calls friends. Besides Reiser, the other main characters are four fellow fathers and Paul's wife (the lovely Amy Landecker, A Serious Man), so despite the concept, kids do not appear as major screen presences. The pilot, "The Father's Occupation", delivers some funny moments, but having spoken with people who have seen more than one episode, it's apparently quite a disappointment.

     Factor number one against The Paul Reiser Show: it is incredibly similar to Curb Your Enthusiasm. So much so that CYE star Larry David (playing his CYE version of himself) has lunch with Paul in episode one and tells him he should have his own version of CYE. He does, tongue in cheek, and its The Paul Reiser Show. If you do not get HBO, or are missing David because of the nearly year and a half hiatus CYE has been on (it went out November 2009 and returns in July), last night's entry may be an acceptable placeholder, if the show maintains the quality portions of the premiere, which word is, it does not.

     The best part of last night's episode is Reiser's lunch with David, where they argue about doing a game show. Reiser isn't interested in hosting, until he learns that David is being considered, and then suddenly he wants the series. The scene could easily have been shot for HBO, with the editors even bleeping David's profanity. Will the scene appear again when CYE returns? The second best part is Reiser's actual audition for Mark Burnett's (appearing as himself) game show, where Reiser gets annoyed with the contestants and tells them so. Burnett loves it, and wants to hire him immediately. Reiser refuses, knowing he would be miserable with the gig. But his misery is the whole reason Burnett loves him! Reiser is his own worst enemy.
     Should the show stick with Reiser and his grumpy, neurotic run-ins with others, the series would be pretty good, albeit a clone. Instead, there are the four other fathers, who try to make it into a buddy comedy. Reiser considers himself mostly seperate from them, and so it feels like two different shows are being forced to mesh together awkwardly. The four actors who play the dads, Andrew Daly (Eastbound & Down), Omid Djalili (The Mummy), Duane Martin (All of Us), and Ben Shenkman (Damages) are capable enough, but the material given to them is trite and stale. It's been done a hundred times before on other sitcoms. They easily bring to mind when Raymond would occasionally sneak away to a friend's garage on Everybody Loves Raymond. So it really doesn't work.

     Since NBC waited until April to premiere the show (originally scheduled for summer, but replacing ratings-challenged, yet hilarious, Perfect Couples), chances are not good for a long run. If you're curious, check it out now while you have the chance. The Paul Reiser Show airs Thursday nights at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

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