Wednesday, October 26, 2016

CBS Fall Pilot Review: The Great Indoors - Premieres Thursday (Oct. 27); TBS's Conan in NYC Week

The Great Indoors

The Great Indoors - Thursdays at 8:30PM ET/PT on CBS
Premieres Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 8:30PM ET/PT


by Skees

Joel McHale makes his return to the sitcom world in The Great Indoors, the newest sitcom on CBS. McHale stars as Jack Gordon, an adventurer who does his work out in the wilderness as a magazine reporter. But the world of magazine publishing is changing, and with those changes, Jack's desk is about to become an actual desk in an actual office in Chicago, not the great outdoors. And that isn't all: even though he feels young at heart (and actually is relatively young), he is being quickly thrust into a workplace where he is now the technologically unsavvy "grandpa" working with the tech savvy millennials who know absolutely nothing about outdoor life. How will he (and everybody else, for that matter) cope with these changes? That's what this series explores.

Cast Details:

Joel McHale as Jack Gordon
Stephen Fry as Roland
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Clark
Christine Ko as Emma
Shaun Brown as Mason
Susannah Fielding as Brooke
Chris Williams as Eddie

Joel McHale (Jack Gordon) is the star of the series, and he got his start with a few small acting roles before he took the hosting role of the E! series The Soup, which replaced the long-running series Talk Soup in 2004. He remained on that series up until December 2015, but while hosting that series, he entered the sitcom world by starring as Jeff Winger on the NBC (and later Yahoo! Screen) sitcom Community for six seasons.

Stephen Fry (Roland) is an accomplished actor who has had a long and award winning career in his home country in London, England, but is likely less familiar to American audiences. He starred as the title character in the 1997 biographical film Wilde, and also had a brief appearance in A Fish Called Wanda.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Clark) has appeared in movies such as Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, and currently has a voice role in DreamWorks Dragons (which airs on Cartoon Network), but perhaps his most recognizable role is that of McLovin in the 2007 film Superbad. He can also be found in roles in music videos from artists such as Kid Cudi, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Kodaline.

Christine Ko (Emma) is a relative newcomer to the small screen, but she has had a guest role in the series Ballers.

Shaun Brown (Mason) has had guest roles in several appearances in cable series spanning a variety of genres, such as Rizzoli & Isles, The Newsroom, The First Family, True Blood, and even some Nickelodeon series.

Susannah Fielding (Brooke) is a British actress who has also had an award winning career on the other side of the Atlantic, particularly in theater, but is mostly unknown to American audiences. She has also appeared in guest roles in several British series, including Doctor Who.

Chris Williams (Eddie) has made guest appearances on countless TV series, beginning with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1992, and with more recent appearances in 2 Broke Girls and Silicon Valley. He is the younger brother of actress and singer Vanessa Williams.


Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" (Airs October 27 at 8:30PM ET)

Jack Gordon (Joel McHale) is an adventure reporter for an outdoor magazine, and he loves his job... but things are about to change. Magazine readership is on a steep decline these days, and everybody is turning to digital content. Specifically, they are turning to digital content that can go viral, much like what Buzzfeed does. The news is even worse for Jack: his outdoor adventures don't exactly fit into the new digital media mode, so the magazine founder, Roland (Stephen Fry) is taking him out of the field and bringing into the office where he is now the boss of the digital content staff, a group of young millennials who wear their Patagonia clothing for style and fashion, not for function, and know absolutely nothing about the "outdoors." Even more awkward for Jack is that his new boss, Brooke (Susannah Fielding), also happens to be an ex-girlfriend. His challenge now is to survive this new position, without constantly being summoned to meetings with human resources.

"Dating Apps" (Airs November 3 at 8:30PM ET)

Jack's co-workers are all in the dating world, but it should come as no surprise that as millennials, dating comes in the form of swiping left or swiping right on your smartphone. Initially, Jack mocks this new style of dating, but secretly decides to try to get in on it himself. It doesn't take long for the crew at work to find his profile, and of course to make fun of his it, but they're willing to help him make some improvements and he finds the perfect match... and in the end, she may be matching his identity as well.


Analysis:

Like many series before it (and certainly many more after it), we have another workplace comedy. These tend to be hit or miss, and while it's really too early to tell which one this will be, the first two episodes hold up well enough to give it a shot to see how the series develops. The series does deal with one thing that is a somewhat new dynamic in sitcoms, though, and that is how it deals with the much younger millennials who were born in the 90s. Thinking about other series that focus on "younger generations," their younger people tend to be those born in the 80s or even the 70s. Even though it may seem the same to those who are much older, people who born in the 90s grew up in a much different way, particularly in regards to technology and social media. For example, many of those born in the 70s and 80s perhaps didn't own or use any technology devices until the late 90s or early 2000s, and were first introduced to social media either in their college years or shortly thereafter. But those born in the 90s were using computers extensively before they even started kindergarten, and were thrown into social media as soon as they were old enough to use it (if not earlier), and as they are becoming adults, they are less familiar with life without technology. This series relies heavily on that dynamic, and what the "modern" workplace is like with those younger people.

One problem, though, is that there isn't really a whole lot of laugh out loud comedy in the series. There is some, but there isn't a lot. That, in and of itself, isn't exactly a problem. A sitcom doesn't have to get big laughs to be a great series if it can compensate with great script writing. Family Ties is a classic that often comes to mind, there were never big laughs but it more than compensated with great script writing. But I'm not really sure that this one compensates well enough, at least not in the first two episodes. However, it does take most sitcoms a little while to find their footing, especially since you can't really do much in earlier episodes as you have to introduce characters and settings, so it remains to be seen how it will all pan out.

There is one somewhat of an oddity that I noticed in the pilot: some of it felt a lot like the pilot episode of the ABC sitcom Last Man Standing, where Tim Allen's character Mike Baxter returned to the office at his employer (oddly enough, a sporting goods store) after being "in the field" and found that the way things worked at his office were much different than what he expected, particularly in dealing with the younger generation. In that series, though, much more of the emphasis is on his family life, whereas The Great Indoors seems to focus on a character who appears to have no evident on-screen family life.


Conclusion:

I don't really know about this series. I actually like it, but it seems to fit that mold of predictable workplace comedies, which to me, doesn't suggest that it'll be any sort of breakout hit. If they've got something unique going on, such comedies can survive and thrive, but this one almost feels too much like a "cookie cutter" type of series. It is definitely a series worth watching, and of course, one thing it has going for (for now, anyway) it is the best possible time slot for a sitcom on CBS: immediately after The Big Bang Theory. But in order for it to last, it's going to have to prove that it can thrive without that lead-in, because there will eventually be another sitcom at some point down the line that will need to use that lead-in, meaning this series has to survive without the lead-in, and for that matter, it also needs to prove that it can hold a substantial audience from the lead-in. Time will tell if it does, but the series is definitely worth giving a shot.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 8:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:


  • CBS.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • The Great Indoors Photo Gallery


  • Preview:




    Conan O'Brien

    TBS's late-night show Conan will be heading back to New York City for the first time since 2011 for a week of shows airing Oct. 31 - Nov. 3. Joining host Conan O'Brien during the week will be special guests Louis C.K., Ryan Reynolds and Tracy Morgan, along with comedian Rory Scovel, the band The Sugar Hill Gang and more. Taped at Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater, the week of episodes will kick off the beginning of Conan's eighth year on TBS, a division of Turner. It will also continue O'Brien's string of innovative road show broadcasts from cities across the United States and around the globe. Additional guests and musical performances to be announced soon. Conanin NYC marks the show's sixth out-of-the-studio trip in the past 18 months and its second excursion to New York. Previous trips have taken O'Brien overseas to North Korea, Armenia and the United States Air Force Base in Doha, Qatar, where he was accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama. In spring 2015, O'Brien made headlines as the first American late-night host to shoot in Cuba in more than 50 years. During its eight seasons on TBS, the Los Angeles-based Conan has also been broadcast from such U.S. cities as Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and, for the past two years, San Diego during Comic-Con(R) International. TBS's late-night series Conan, hosted by Conan O'Brien, airs weeknights at 11 p.m. (ET/PT). The show, which draws the youngest audience of any hour-long late-night program, is produced by Conaco LLC, with Jeff Ross serving as executive producer.


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