The All-Pilot Project

The All-Pilot Project: Worst Week & Opportunity Knocks (Oct 1)

Pilots! Reviews! Reading! I trust you’re up to speed now. After recapping five hours of programming in three nights, I’m not sure that I have a hilarious introduction in me.

Worst Week

Monday 9:30, CBS

The Premise: A single-camera sitcom, based on a hit BBC series. Regular guy Sam suffers from bad luck and a constant stream of humiliations.

The Personnel: The series was developed by Matt Tarses, who wrote for Scrubs and Sports Night. Star Kyle Bornheimer is best known for commercials, and female lead Erinn Hayes seems to have a history of one-shot roles on successful shows and regular parts on quickly canceled series. Kurtwood Smith and Nancy Lenehan play Sam’s in-laws, and they’ve both got about a thousand credits each.

The Poop: If you spent the summer watching Big Brother, you have seen a nearly infinite number of ads and screen crawls for this show. Many of them show an adult male wearing a diaper. So, you know, they’re obviously trying to class up the joint.

(Sidebar: Watching nine consecutive summers of Big Brother, I’m used to having ridiculously high expectations for their fall schedule. When you’re adrift in ads for The Mentalist, you end up thinking that everybody is talking about it. There was actually a time when I was excited about the quickly canceled baseball drama Clubhouse, simply because I’d been told how great it was over thirteen weeks of thrice-weekly episodes.)

In truth, I guess I don’t really get the premise of this show. The first episode features Sam and girlfriend Melanie going up to spend the weekend with her parents, and tell them that she’s pregnant. I’m still not clear on who these people are or why there’s a show about them. Since they never get around to sharing the pregnancy news, perhaps the series will be about the couple constantly being stymied in their attempts to tell people. Sort of like Frank Leaves for the Orient.

The advertising focuses on Sam’s many humiliations, and that’s pretty well what all of the jokes are about. The first episode, at least, is entirely built around setting up situations where Sam will be uncomfortable and embarrassed. I enjoy some solid, discomfort based-humor (see: The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm), but Worst Week seems to be nothing but. And frankly, it’s not even particular clever. (see: Sam wearing a diaper.)

The situations are really labored and artificial, often depending on people behaving in ways that nobody would ever behave in the real world. If you’re in an unfamiliar house, and you’re pretty sure you’ve made it to the bathroom, would you, oh, look for a light switch or just start peeing? You would find a light switch, because you’re not a mental patient. When you lose power, do you grab a flashlight or light a candle and walk around with it? You grab a flashlight, because you are not a Dust Bowl sharecropper. It’s the sort of Three’s Company plotting that makes me sad when I think about how television used to be. (Sidebar 2: There’s a mid-episode scenario wherein Kurtwood Smith falls outside of a mortuary. The funeral directors let him come in and lay down for a bit. First off, they let him lay down in the corpse identification room, which, no. Second, they call his home to say that they have him because he collapsed outside the door. Wouldn’t you think that a funeral parlor would phrase things a little more carefully so as not to imply that the man had died and was not, in fact, taking a nap? Yes, yes they would. Or else they wouldn’t even call and they’d just let the man lay down for a bit.)

When Larry does something stupid on Curb Your Enthusiasm, you know it’ll go wrong, but the joy is in finding out how it all goes wrong. In Worst Week, you can see it from the set-up, and it’s all about just waiting for the punchline that you’ve already figured out.

The cast is likeable, and Bornheimer in particular has a likeable persona and makes some interesting choices. He seems to be a funny guy, and I would like to see him in something much better. He should be able to do better than what appears to be a sitcom about the inevitable nature of cause-and-effect.

The Prognosis: This is just not good. If it turns out that the series is about something other than Sam’s self-inflicted misfortune, it might have potential. As it stands, it’s just not good. Any humor comes from the cast, but there’s only so much they can do. It’s a long, long half-hour, and we’re done here.

Share Button

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *