Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NBC Mid-Season Pilot Review: The Paul Reiser Show - Premieres April 14; FX Acquires How I Met Your Mother

The Paul Reiser Show

The Paul Reiser Show - Thursdays 8:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Premieres Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 8:30PM ET/PT

NBC's The Paul Reiser Show is a new single-camera comedy from Emmy and Golden Globe Award-nominated actor/writer/producer Paul Reiser (Mad About You) and writer/producer Jonathan Shapiro (Life).

The show stars Reiser as... Paul Reiser. It's been a few years since Paul's hit TV series went off the air. Since then, he's been enjoying the quiet life at home with his lovely wife, Claire (Amy Landecker, A Serious Man) and kids, and generally minding his own business. Lately, however, Paul has been thinking that it's time he did something new, something meaningful. But what that next thing might be, he has no idea.

In his quest to figure it out, Paul is both helped and hindered by his new "friends." Like most men his age, Paul didn't choose them. They're the husbands of his wife's friends, the dads of his kids' schoolmates. Thrown together by circumstance, Paul and his cohorts, including Jonathan (Ben Shenkman, Angels in America), Habib (Omid Djalili, The Infidel), Fernando (Duane Martin, All of Us) and Brad (Andrew Daly, MADtv) form an unlikely comradeship - and a horrible basketball team.

Cast Details:

* Paul Reiser as Paul
* Amy Landecker as Claire
* Andrew Daly as Brad
* Ben Shankman as Jonathan
* Duane Martin as Fernando
* Omid Djalili as Habib

As creator and executive producer, Paul Reiser stars in his self-titled NBC comedy The Paul Reiser Show as himself. It's been a few years since Paul's hit TV series, Mad About You, went off the air. Since then, he's been enjoying the quiet life at home with his lovely wife and kids, and generally minding his own business, writing and producing television while enjoying life out of the spotlight. Lately, Paul has been thinking that it's time he did something new, but he doesn't know exactly what that should be. For better or worse, he has his friends to help him find the answer.

As a seasoned actor, writer, and stand-up comedian, Reiser continues to add to his list of accomplishments. In addition to co-creating and starring in the critically acclaimed NBC series Mad About You, which garnered him Emmy, Golden Globe, American Comedy Award, and Screen Actors Guild nominations for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, his talents extend into publishing as a best-selling author. His book Couplehood sold over two million copies and reached the number one spot on The New York Times Best-seller List. The follow-up book Babyhood features his humorous trademark take on the adventures of being a first-time father, and also made The New York Times Best-seller List. Reiser's latest work is titled Familyhood, and is scheduled for publication in May, 2011.

Remembered for notable performances in films such as Diner, Bye, Bye Love, The Marrying Man, Aliens, One Night at McCool's and Beverly Hills Cop (I and II), Reiser more recently starred in two original movies for Showtime, Strange Relations, opposite Julie Walters, and Chazz Palminteri's Men vs. Women, which also featured Joe Mantegna and Christine Lahti.

Amy Landecker stars in Paul Reiser's new NBC comedy The Paul Reiser Show as Claire, Paul's loving and endlessly supportive wife, who juggles her professional career as a psychologist and her personal life as a wife and mother of two.

Her memorable guest-starring television roles include the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning series Mad Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie, Medium, Conviction, Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Her feature film work includes last year's Academy Award nominated film A Serious Man, from Oscar-winning writers/directors Joel and Ethan Coen, Dan in Real Life, Temporary Girl and Light It Up.

Andrew Daly stars in Paul Reiser's new NBC comedy The Paul Reiser Show as Brad, Paul's extravagant friend who comes from old family money and wants for nothing.

Born in New York and raised in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Daly recently starred in HBO's Eastbound and Down opposite Danny McBride. He also starred in MADtv, The Showbiz Show with David Spade, and Crossballs. Daly's other television credits include The Office, Reno 911! and The Closer.

Daly has appeared in a number of films including She's Out of My League, The Informant Semi-Pro, What Happens in Vegas and School for Scoundrels. He can next be seen in Yogi Bear, Everybody Loves Whales, and Transformers 3.

Ben Shenkman stars in Paul Reiser's new NBC comedy The Paul Reiser Show as Jonathan, a tightly wound prosecutor, and one of Paul's good friends.

New York-born, Washington, D.C.-bred Shenkman first came to wide industry and audience attention in the Broadway hit Proof, opposite Mary-Louise Parker. Already a New York theater and indie film veteran with credits including Pi, Jesus' Son, and Requiem For a Dream, he was nominated for a Tony Award. His performance ultimately led to a successful audition for Mike Nichols' HBO miniseries Angels in America. This acclaimed production went on to win record numbers of Emmy and Golden Globe awards, and garnered Shenkman nominations for both. Since then, he has moved easily between Broadway, opposite Laura Linney in Sight Unseen; studio movies including Must Love Dogs and Just Like Heaven; series television as a regular on Canterbury's Law with Julianna Margulies, and in memorable arcs on Grey's Anatomy and Burn Notice; and successful independent movies such as Helen Hunt's Then She Found Me, Breakfast with Scot, with Tom Cavanagh, and John Krasinski's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

2010 saw him as Glenn Close's rival and foil ADA Curtis Gates on Damages, and in the indie standouts Solitary Man with Michael Douglas, and Blue Valentine with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

Duane Martin stars in Paul Reiser's new NBC comedy The Paul Reiser Show as Fernando, Paul's charismatic friend who is a successful entrepreneur and restaurateur.

New York native Martin has had a successful career as an actor, writer and producer in Hollywood. He wrote, produced and starred in The Seat Filler with Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child, and Ride or Die opposite Vivica A. Fox. The Seat Filler was chosen to close the eighth annual Urbanworld Film Festival in August 2004. He also starred opposite LL Cool J and Gabrielle Union in Deliver Us From Eva for USA Films/Focus Films.

Martin's upcoming producing credits include the comedy Mother's Day with Will Smith's company, Overbrook Entertainment, and the golf comedy Inglewoods, in which he will star opposite Jamie Foxx. Martin's other film credits include The Groomsmen, Any Given Sunday, Scream 2, Down Periscope, White Men Can't Jump, Woo, The Faculty and Above the Rim.

For four seasons, Martin starred on the hit comedy series All of Us as Robert James. The show, which was produced by and loosely based on the lives of Martin's longtime friends, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, received rave reviews for its innovative and comical look at the ever-typical version of today's modern family. He was nominated for the 38th NAACP Image Awards for "Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series" in recognition of his work on the series. Martin's other television credits include guest star appearances in Rita Rocks, Abby, Yes Dear, One on One, Girlfriends, Between Brothers, Living Single and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He produced and starred in the acclaimed series Getting Personal and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his role in the telefilm Different Worlds: An Interracial Love Story. Martin also starred opposite Patti LaBelle in Out All Night and hosted 20 episodes of NBC's late night talk show Later.

Omid Djalili stars in Paul Reiser's new NBC comedy The Paul Reiser Show as Habib, a sweet-natured friend of Paul, who runs a business selling "slightly-damaged" goods.

Djalili has become one of the funniest, freshest and most original comedians in Britain. Born to Iranian parents and raised in Kensington, London, he started his career in 1990 in the former Czechoslovakia doing experimental theatre before embarking on a stand-up comedy career in London.

Djalili's appearances at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival attracted huge critical acclaim, and in 2002, he signed a talent holding deal with NBC, which led to him co-starring opposite Whoopi Goldberg in the 2003 sitcom Whoopi. Additional credits include a performance in the half-hour special Jackie Dee Live at the Apollo for BBC1, and starring in an HBO special in New York in 2005, making him the first British comic since Eddie Izzard to do so.

Djalili has had featured roles in an array of big screen projects including The Mummy, Gladiator, Spy Game, Mean Machine, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Alien Autopsy, Grow Your Own, Notting Hill, Pirates of the Caribbean III and Sex and the City 2. His work on Casanova, which also featured Heath Ledger, earned Djalili an International Film Award for Best Supporting Actor. His latest film project was a starring role in The Infidel.

He has completed several series of his own on BBC1, including The Omid Djalili Show, and wowed West End audiences in 2009 by taking on the role of Fagin in the musical Oliver.

Pilot Plot:

We were given the first four episodes for review.

#1 "The Father's Occupation" (series premiere on Thursday, April 14) - Paul (Reiser) stresses about what to put as his occupation on his son's school form and his inconclusive answer motivates him to audition for producer Mark Burnett (NBC's The Voice," Survivor) new game show against Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm). Meanwhile, Jonathan, Fernando and Brad get a little too caught up with their kids' school projects.
Directed by Bryan Gordon (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Guest Stars: Larry David, Mark Burnett, Larry Dorf as Gimple, Nazneen Contractor as Kuma D'Bu, Cat Hammons as Contestant Velma, Ryan Alvarez as Contestant Bill, Shulie Cowen as Contestant Sally

#2 "The Play Date" (airdate: Thursday, April 21) - Paul is left in charge of picking up Jonathan's son for a play date when Claire is stuck at the dentist's office - and complications arise. Meanwhile, Paul is forced to make amends to Terrance (guest star Henry Rollins, Sons of Anarchy), the father of a schoolmate with an intimidating personality, who suspects Paul has done him wrong.
Directed by Daniel Stern (The Next Three Days, City Slickers)
Guest Stars: Henry Rollins, Koby Rouviere as Gabe, Annabel Knight as Brad's Wife, Leon Reiser as Lowery, Mel Brooks as the Angry Cat, Jennifer Change as School Teacher, Katie Enright as Dental Receptionist, Peyton Stinson as Sammy

#3 "The Generator" (airdate: Thursday, April 28) - Paul is persuaded into endorsing a tool company, which leads him to become handy around the house and has Claire questioning his behavior. Meanwhile, Jonathan starts acting differently after a near-death experience and Habib attempts to change his lifestyle to lose some weight.
Directed by Fred Savage (Generator Rex, The Wonder Years)
Guest Stars: Amy Pietz as Jonathan's Wife, Larry Dorf as Gimple, Nazneen Contractor as Kuma D'Bu, Deborah DeOliveira as Yoga Instructor

#4 "The Batting Cage" (airdate: Thursday, May 5) - Paul and his friends -- Jonathan, Habib, Fernando, and Brad go to the batting cages with their respective kids - only to find that sometimes, even the simplest of outings can turn into an adventure. Meanwhile, Paul weights options on a potential movie offer.
Directed by Bryan Gordon
Guest Stars: Larry Dorf as Gimple, Nazneen Contractor as Kuma D'Bu, Cisco Reyes as Batting Cage Attendant, John DiMaggio as Bucktooth's Father, Alex Zubarev as Fatty, Alex Perloff as Bucktooth, Leon Reiser as Brad's Son, Miles Gregly as Skin's Team Player #1, Brett Howell as Skin's Team Player #2,

Analysis:

The Paul Reiser Show is a single-camera comedy production of Bonanza Productions Inc., in association with Nuance Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Reiser and Shapiro co-wrote the pilot as well as each of the episodes that follow, and both serve as executive producers. NBC ordered 6 episodes as a midseason replacement.

In the series premiere, "The Father's Occupation," Paul Reiser talks to the camera and tells a story about a woman who says he's that guy from that show (Mad About You) with the girl and he looks exactly the same - maybe a little fatter. He talks about his family and some pictures are shown of his wife, 2 kids and his friends, who he says he didn't pick. Paul tells Jonathan that he doesn't know what to put down as his occupation on his son's school form and says that he received an offer to host a game show. They meet Habib who runs a business that sells some dented goods. Brad and Fernando are also at Habib's. Habib has some Trevor Hoffman San Diego Padres bobbleheads for sale. Jonathan, Fernando and Brad talk about the states their kids are doing for their school projects. Paul later meets Larry David and tells him that he was approached to do a game show called Start Thinking. Paul auditions for Start Thinking and his agents says he doesn't look comfortable. Mark Burnett walks in and calls him America's favorite new game show host. Habib tries to help with Fernando's state project of Indiana and ends up gluing himself to his car. Paul tells the guys he got the job but turned it down. He says that he will his list his occupation as father, but the guys get offended by his story. In the closing tag, Larry David and Paul have a funny exchange.

NBC is airing the episodes out of order from the order in which they were produced. In the second episode airing, "The Play Date," Paul and his wife deal with a cat on their property, the guys drop their kids off at school, Henry (guest star Henry Rollins) intimidates Paul with a look, Claire takes Gabe to the dentist, and Paul picks up Lowery for a play date with Gabe. In "The Generator," there is a carboard cutout of Paul that promotes a tool company, Paul becomes a handyman around the house, the guys meet at Fernando's restaurant, Jonathan has to go the hospital after eating some tuna, Habib does some yoga with Claire and Jonathan's wife, Paul receives a generator from the Karachi Tool Co., and Habib does a commercial for his business. "The Batting Cage" was actually the episode they shot as the pilot last spring, but it's the fourth episode scheduled to air. The guys gather for a pick-up basketball game, Paul's agents talk to him about a potential role that would take him to Iceland, the guys take their kids to the batting cages, Paul gets in a confrontation with some kid's father, and Paul is featured on celebritiesgethumiliated.com .

Of the four episodes sent for review, I think the first one with guest stars Larry David and Mark Burnett is the strongest. Maybe NBC decided to air the episodes with the major guest stars at the start. There are some hilarious exchanges between Paul and Larry. The opening and closing tags are very good. I think the show could have used more of these Paul talking to the camera shots instead of just at the beginning of the episodes. Because the episodes are airing out of order, there are some continuity issues. The introduction of one of Paul's agents, Kuma D'Bu, actually happens in the fourth episode airing. Paul's son in a wheelchair, Zeke, appears in the fourth episode, but he is only mentioned in the first episode. While I like the music, they use some of the same style of cues and over and over, so it becomes a bit repetitive. This is an ensemble show that has a talented and experienced cast. All of the characters have their own uniqueness and form a nice mix. Omid Djalili is particularly funny as Habib with his lines and some physical comedy. Look for a funny video of him at the end of the third episode. Some well known directors are involved, including Daniel Stern and Fred Savage. Helen Hunt will also be directing one of the episodes.

Conclusion:

That guy from Mad About You returns to NBC. Paul Reiser is older, a little fatter and has grayer hair. He still brings the funny. It's hard to believe that Mad About You ended its successful run over 10 years ago. It's great to see him again on TV, but I would have preferred to see him on another traditional multi-camera sitcom. The ensemble cast is experienced, talented and seem to have some good chemistry. There's really nothing wrong with the show, but it's just never consistently funny to become a breakout hit. There will be some comparisons to Curb Your Enthusiasm because the basic premise of the shows are similar. It remains to be seen if a Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque show will work on broadcast TV.

The Paul Reiser Show seems to be a decent fit on NBC with their other comedies. It should definitely have better ratings than the low-rated Perfect Couples, but the competition is tough on Thursday nights, so it could have some trouble finding an audience. It would have received a bigger boost airing after The Office or 30 Rock. Only 6 episodes have been produced, so there won't be a lot of time to invest to it for this season at least. The first couple of episodes feature some funny guest apperances with Larry David and Henry Rollins. If you are a fan of Paul Reiser or any of the other actors or if you enjoy Curb Your Enthusiasm, then you should give this show a chance on Thursday nights. Welcome back, Paul!

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

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

-- Reviewed by Todd on 04/13/11

Discuss the show after you watch it on Monday, February 14 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • NBC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • The Paul Reiser Show Photo Gallery

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