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Fall TV Preview: Ranking the New Comedies

The good, the bad, and the flat-out terrible from our friends at Hollywood’s finest laugh factories.

Fall Comedy Preview

A wise man once told me that, in a perfect world, all sitcoms would have the chance to write and produce their first 10 episodes in private, throw them out, and then debut with episode 11. That’s how tricky and time-consuming it can be even for trained professionals to tap into the bubbly combination of chemistry, talent, humor, and spark necessary for long-running, funny success.

Nearly every hit sitcom fan regards pilots the way we think about our births: We’re told it happened, but thankfully we can’t remember a thing. (This is not the case for those hardy souls who were around for the labor.) The amount of work required for modern sitcom setup — establishing of a world and a premise; introduction of characters and the intramural relationships between those characters — is simply too much to accomplish in 22 minutes of actual airtime. And that’s without even taking into account the fact that most pilots are written in a vacuum by a harried individual before being shaped and noted (often to death) by eager network executives. Future episodes, should they be ordered, will have the benefit of being crafted by a room full of experienced, artisanal jokesmiths who have been given time to learn both the actors’ strengths and the best options for late-night dinner delivery in Burbank.

That wise man wishing for episode 11 was Michael Schur, veteran of SNL and The Office and cocreator of Parks and Recreation, meaning he knows a thing or two about rocky beginnings leading to smooth sailing. Schur is back this season with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a Fox cop-com he wrote with longtime Parks hand Dan Goor. Brooklyn has all the potential in the world for comic greatness: strong pedigree, excellent cast, promising premise, and a pilot that is … just fine. An out-of-the-gate network blockbuster like Modern Family is rare for any number of reasons — foremost among them is that there are fewer and fewer network blockbusters at all — but one of the least remarked upon is the dazzling precision of its pilot. Modern Family was Modern Family from its opening minutes. Parks and Rec became Parks and Rec sometime in Season 2. What’s often overlooked is how lucky Parks was to even make it that far.

Timing is everything in sitcom scripts, but it’s often the enemy when it comes to network expectations. A majority of the new shows discussed below, all of which will be debuting in the next few weeks, aren’t themselves yet. For many, that’s a good thing. For many more, it’s a death sentence. Investing in a comedy requires a commitment of both hard resources and blind faith — things the broadcast networks have in differing amounts. So it’s probably worth noting, before getting into the specifics of the shows, just what each of the Big Four’s goals are this fall. For perennial winner CBS, its freshmen are about firming up its reliable brand (multi-camera, Chuck Lorre, polite sprinkling of race and fart jokes) while attempting to expand its reach into single-cam star vehicles. Fox, after being burned by its 2012 commitment to female-fronted comedy, is attempting to add some Y chromosomes to its double-X-marked spot on Tuesday nights. ABC is hoping to split the difference between the network it has reliably been (highbrow family laughs) and the network it desperately wants to be (Generation Z loves cocktails and pop culture references! Pass me that Sazerac, Rye-an Gosling!). And NBC — sweet, sweet NBC — wants to forcibly relocate the dream of the ’90s from Portland to Universal City.

How’d they do? If you really want to know, ask me again in 10 episodes. But for an early glimpse of what to expect, read on. (All air times listed are Eastern time zone.)

Trophy Wife

WATCH

Trophy Wife (ABC)

Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. 

Debuts September 24

With her icy, Nordic features and legs that stretch higher than the budget for Watchmen, Malin Akerman is no one’s idea of a pratfalling goofball. And yet that’s exactly what the veteran of ferociously dippy projects like Childrens Hospital and Newsreaders has proven herself to be. It’s fitting, then, that her chosen starring vehicle should be a project that sounds dubious and lightweight on paper — a show about a rich guy’s blonde third wife? — but quickly reveals itself to be warm, sly, and very, very funny.

Trophy Wife is my favorite of the fall’s new comedies, due to the effortless ease of the pilot and the rich potential of its very well-defined world. Created by Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern and shepherded by Office vets Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, Trophy Wife gathers a ridiculous assemblage of talent (not always a reliable recipe for success; just look at Smash or the Cobb salad) that then jells instantly. Akerman shines as a former party girl who, upon her marriage to the genial Bradley Whitford, immediately inherits three kids and two ex-wives, played with pinpoint accuracy by Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (the stern doctor) and SNL alum Michaela Watkins (the dippy hippie). Add the perpetually undervalued Natalie Morales as Akerman’s best friend and the easy — but often forgotten — sitcom rule about better comedy emerging from exasperated affection than affected exasperation and you’ve got something with the potential to be a great deal more than the sum of its impressive parts.

Mom (CBS)

Mondays at 9:30 p.m.

Debuts September 23

For the majority of my adult life I have been proudly immune to a number of things, including measles, cronuts, and the allure of Chuck Lorre. Known for his ability to mix old-fashioned sitcom rhythms with even hoarier sex gags, the crown prince of CBS has three hit series on the air: the dominant Big Bang Theory, the acceptable Mike & Mollyand the indefatigable Two and a Half Men. At this point he is a more reliable printer of money than the Treasury Department. But, to date, his shows have been as appealing to me as a stack of counterfeit twenties.

So what then to make of Mom? Because it’s good. Like, really pretty good! Starring Anna Faris — a talented comedienne stuck in the career purgatory between Next Big Thing and Never Quite Wise — Mom is the first multi-cam comedy to crack me up in a decade. (And for those watching at home, that’s the term for a classic sitcom setup in which the proceedings are filmed more like a play than a movie and the audience howling is usually punched up to obnoxious levels in post-production. I’m going to use it a lot in the next couple thousand words.) Faris is perfectly cast here as Christy, a formerly effed-up mother of two who is now approaching sobriety, family, and a renewed relationship with her ex-addict mother (a wonderfully chipper Allison Janney) in high spirits that would be appreciably higher if only she could have a drink.

I’ve mocked Lorre’s factory-model approach to joke construction in the past — though not the lucrative results — but the Mom pilot makes a strong case for it: This thing is a sleek and gleaming sports car right out of the garage. Faris kills from the opening scene (at work as a waitress, she’s weeping while upselling the soufflé), supporting characters (including French Stewart as an exacting chef and Matt Jones — Breaking Bad‘s Badger! — as an amiably stoned baby daddy) are introduced without too much gear-grinding, and backstory is laid out in such a way that it doesn’t trample on what’s still to come. I have to give Lorre credit: The man knows what he’s doing. With Mom I might actually stick around to see what he’ll do next.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)

Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.

Debuts September 17

In addition to its strong cast — Andy Samberg! Andre Braugher! Joe “no evident sense of public shame” Lo Truglio! — one of the most appealing things about Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t even onscreen. It’s that the show, as mentioned above, comes from Michael Schur and Dan Goor, two of the men responsible for making Parks and Recreation one of the very best series on television, comedy or drama, these past few years. That knowledge buys Brooklyn some patience on my end that it might not get from its corporate overlords (Fox’s recent success makes it a heck of a lot less tolerant than NBC). Look, I’m as charmed as the next guy by stories about how Parks built its cast by gathering funny people Schur and Greg Daniels wanted to work with and then slowly assembling characters and tone from there (especially if that next guy is Jim O’Heir). But Parks took its time getting its act together, and there’s a lingering concern that the baggy Brooklyn might not be given the same amount of rope.


Still, it’s worth noting at the outset that tonight’s pilot is loads better than Parks‘s first episode. Samberg is goofy and winning as Jake Peralta, a thick slice of cheese taken from the Bill Murray–in–Stripes deli case: He’s a competent cop who’d rather be organizing fire-extinguisher-fueled chair races in the squad room. Melissa Fumero is a nice surprise as Jake’s more buttoned-up partner, and amusing people Chelsea Peretti and Terry Crews fill out the margins. Police work isn’t necessarily funny — at least ha-ha funny — but the setting does allow for the possibility of the same type of oddball community building that has worked for Parks. As much as I want Brooklyn to succeed, there’s a part of me that hates the idea of Braugher, one of his generation’s best, most versatile actors, getting stuck playing the straight man at Samberg’s weenie roast for the next six years. Oh, he can (and does) have plenty of fun with the role. And Schur has proven his ability to weave emotion and gravitas into otherwise loopy fart attacks. But so far, at least, it feels a little bit like watching Roger Federer play Ping-Pong. Sure, the game is essentially the same. But his court is usually so much bigger.

The Goldbergs (ABC)

Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

Debuts September 24

I generally hate PowerPoint nostalgia, when complicated eras are condensed into 30-second montages of pop videos, leotards, and Rubik’s Cubes. The Goldbergs begins with this exact short-attention-span theater version of the 1980s, and yet by the end of the pilot I was sufficiently charmed. Why is this? Could it be because series creator Adam F. Goldberg is but a year older than me and seems to have lived the exact same Reagan-era, Philadelphia-adjacent, Jewish childhood I did? (Or at least the life I would have had if I hadn’t had the good, lonely fortune of being an only child?) Or is it because the strength of the cast (Jeff Garlin, Bridesmaids‘ Wendi McLendon-Covey, and the still wily George Segal) and the warmth of the writing is enough to reveal the heart beating beneath the Members Only jackets?

I’d like to think it’s the latter. ABC feels strongly that it has a new Wonder Years on its hands: period setting, three kids, with narrator Patton Oswalt in the faceless Daniel Stern role. I’m not so sure, mainly because with the notable exception of the very funny Troy Gentile (as middle child/Garlin clone Barry) the adults are far stronger than the kids. But unlike many of the other throwback sitcoms debuting this month, The Goldbergs‘ humor feels contemporary even if its fashions decidedly do not.

Crazy Ones

WAIT FOR IT

The Crazy Ones (CBS)

Thursdays at 9 p.m.

Debuts September 26

Unlike those who actually paid to see Patch Adams in the theater, I’m more than ready to forgive Robin Williams. He’s an undisputed comic genius and, when he adopts a kosher attitude toward performance, he’s a fine dramatic actor too. I welcome him back to TV — a place he hasn’t been regularly since he wore rainbow suspenders and slept in a giant egg — and the fact that he’s brought a sterling collection of costars (including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Hamish “Jerry Dantana” Linklater, and the excellent James “Bob Benson” Wolk) makes his return all the more appealing. Even the premise of The Crazy Ones sounds promising: It’s set in a Chicago advertising firm, with Williams as the graying Mad Man, Gellar as his golden child, and Linklater and Wolk as the office lunchmeat.

The problem, in this case, might be series creator David E. Kelley. Kelley is an undisputed TV Genius™ of the old school, whose signature dramas (Picket Fences, Ally McBeal) were often funnier than the sitcoms they were aired against. But he hadn’t yet written a comedy-comedy, and it shows. The pilot seems unhealthily pared down from something much larger and then uncomfortably die-cut to fit the rigid tastes and parameters of the CBS sitcom machine. Yes, it’s single-cam, and yes, Kelley and Williams are powerful enough to say no to notes, but it still feels like a not-great version of a good idea winging its way onto our screens through a combination of momentum, optimism, and Williams’s trademark flop sweat. I’m sure there are some who will find the sight of Mork and Wolk improv-ing a sexy song about hamburgers to Kelly Clarkson amusing (the network certainly did; the scene gets a callback not 10 minutes later). I found it cringey. Anytime you cobble together a high-profile IMDb page like this, patience is warranted. But Williams has tried that patience before. Sometimes shiny comeback vehicles turn out to be lemons. Speaking of which!

The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)

Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.

Debuts September 26

OK, let’s be charitable. This isn’t a lemon. It’s not all bad; in fact, it’s so relentlessly sweet that the better metaphor would be lemonade. But when a monumentally talented TV star announces his intention to return to the medium, sparking a Clash of the Titans–style network bidding war that is only resolved when a desperate peacock makes the unprecedented promise to air a full season of a show before a single script has been written … well, the end result ought to be better, sure, but maybe also a smidge more adventurous?

The Michael J. Fox Show, as currently constructed, seems to be striving to be the very best comedy of 1993. It’s not just Fox himself — he’ll still be puckish when he’s 80. Nor is it the content. The tricky balance of work and family, the perpetual annoyingness/cuteness of children, the difficulty of professional spouses having uninterrupted sex: All of these things are still reasonable and reliable sources for laughs. They’ll likely still be that way in 2113. (Though in 2113 it will probably be even more difficult for professional spouses to have uninterrupted sex IN SPACE.) But MJF is so creaky that it seems willfully anachronistic. The pilot makes good, if self-aware, use of its star’s condition: Fox plays Mike Henry, a beloved NYC newsman forced to retire due to Parkinson’s disease but desperate to return once he realizes his family stresses him out even more than man-on-the-street interviews. But the second episode features one story line about a sexy neighbor who tempts Mike with freshly baked cookies and another about how Mike’s daughter (the appealing Juliette Goglia) is nervous about having a lesbian friend. At this rate, we’ll have John Larroquette stopping by for Thanksgiving dinner and a very special episode about homelessness scheduled for February sweeps.

The Wire‘s Wendell Pierce (as Mike’s BFF) and Breaking Bad‘s Betsy Brandt (as Mrs. Mike) are both reliably excellent here, and Brandt especially seems jazzed about having a chance to lighten things up. (Then again, after this season of Breaking Bad, standing in a dark room with a Scream mask on would qualify as “lightening things up.”) And Fox still exudes charm and charisma as naturally as other people breathe. The chance for improvement here is high, particularly if one is in the mood for sturdy steak and potatoes. But along with Sean Saves the World (see below), NBC’s new vision for Thursday nights seems remarkably backward-looking. These shows feel less “classic” and more “antique,” the broadcasting equivalent of a comb-over. Everyone loves Michael J. Fox. But I’m not sure that means everyone will love his show.

Sean Saves the World (NBC)

Thursdays at 9 p.m.

Debuts October 3

To partner with Michael J. Fox in its radical “Must See (the Past Through Rose-Colored Glasses) TV” Thursday-night lineup, NBC has invested heavily in another dusty star: Will & Grace‘s Sean Hayes. In Sean Saves the World, Hayes plays an out and proud gay professional suddenly forced to parent the teenage daughter he had during his dabbling, stuck-in-a-loveless-straight-marriage days. This is a fine setup for a series, with the exposition handled zippily by creator Victor Fresco (Better Off Ted), the direction under the masterful control of multi-camera sitcom legend James Burrows, and the jokes about bears kept, mercifully, to a minimum. (Think Andrew Sullivan, not Yogi, The.) Hayes could do this sort of thing in his sleep, and it’s a credit to him that he doesn’t. Linda Lavin and Thomas Lennon provide fine supporting work as Sean’s domineering mother and domineering boss, respectively.

The premise is fresh, even if the proceedings often feel familiar. When Burrows focuses his camera on the family, particularly the rich relationship between Hayes and Lavin, it actually soars. But the show’s strange insistence on spending half of its time at the office rankles. Sean’s job — he does online retail? I think? — is set in one of those odd, open-air lofts leftover from the glory days of Caroline in the City, a nothing space dutifully filled with multiracial extras who don’t ever seem to do anything. Seeing Hayes flap around with Megan Hilty (Smash) and faux-spar with Lennon over how to market side tables doesn’t add anything to the comedy; in fact, it actively subtracts from all the potential at home. Does Sean have a sex life? Friends? Hobbies? A last name? I’d have a lot more faith in him saving the world if his show actively nixed one of the ones it tries too hard to inhabit.

Back in the Game (ABC)

Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.

Debuts September 25

Back in the Game is a modest charmer, a series that seeks to marry the motley pleasures of Bad News Bears with the mismatched sporty father-daughter dynamic of, I don’t know, Million Dollar Baby? The Karate Kid 4? (Wait, should Hilary Swank be starring in this show?)

Either way, the premise is decent: Tomboyish Terry (Maggie Lawson) and her precocious poppin Danny are forced to move back in with the Cannon, Terry’s awesomely nicknamed, beer-swilling, ex-jock father. The Cannon is played with actorly aplomb and commitment by James Caan, who skulks and snarls around the edges of Terry’s life like a down-on-his-luck Spuds MacKenzie. The one thing that unites these three is SAG membership baseball, as Terry and Cannon begin coaching a team of little leaguers with a lineup straight out of the Hollywood Rejects Manual: twins, foreigner, fatty, out and proud, etc. This is one of those pilots that could go in a zillion directions from here, not all of them as appealing as where it began. It could retreat into family fuzziness or it could dive deeper into the suburban weirdness suggested by its supporting characters, like Dick Slingbaugh (local jerk) and Gigi Fernandez-Lovette (local English heiress). I’ve got my foam finger out rooting for the latter.

The Millers (CBS)

Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.

Debuts October 3

It’d be very easy to hate The Millers. Not only does it again saddle the larcenous Will Arnett — in the right supporting role he’s able to steal entire scenes just by cocking an eyebrow — with a relatively straight leading-man part, this is the unexciting multi-cam sitcom that stole Margo Martindale away from her work spying on the spies of The Americans. (Adding insult to injury, she spends much of the first episode either retching or farting.)

But having watched the pilot, hate is far too strong an emotion for this very professional throwback. As scripted by Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl, Raising Hope), The Millers concerns Arnett as a happily single newsman whose moderately swinging lifestyle — a lifestyle that would swing considerably more if he would only listen to the advice of his cameraman, the always-welcome J.B. Smoove — is disrupted when his parents arrive for a visit and then suddenly divorce. Mom (Martindale), a controlling Dirty Dancing fan who pops Ambien and eats ice cream with a spatula, moves in with Arnett. Dad (Beau Bridges) shacks up with Arnett’s sister and brother-in-law, played quite well by lovely deer in headlights Jayma Mays (Glee) and Nelson Franklin, that gently hulking nerd bro from New Girl. Like playing chess with an 8-year-old, it’s easy to see all of the show’s moves well in advance. (A “hitting the redial button with your chin” gag is the Chekhov’s gun of old-fashioned sitcommery.) But Martindale and Bridges take to their hectoring with such gusto that it’s hard not to be entertained. (Bridges, especially. He brings — dare I say it? — a little Lebowski to his character’s perpetually bathrobed befuddlement.) I won’t go out of my way to watch The Millers. But I also won’t be surprised when there are suddenly a hundred episodes lingering out there for me to catch up on.

Dads

WTF?

Dads (Fox)

Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

Debuts September 17

What I found most shocking about Dads wasn’t its deplorable racism. (It’s plenty racist! Like Brenda Song, a Hmong-Thai actress, being forced by her bosses to dress up as a sexy Sailor Moon character in order to seduce a gaggle of leering Chinese businessmen because ha-ha Asians.) It wasn’t its general, lazy air of misogyny or its casual debasement of fine, should-know-better-but-maybe-the-grandkids-want-private-school actors Martin Mull and Peter Riegert. The surprising thing about Dads is how borderline incompetent it is. I mean, this is the first live-action sitcom from Seth MacFarlane, America’s most industrious creepbag. I find his output to be reliably abhorrent, but at this point the man should know what he’s doing: Family Guy is on its 83rd season and last summer’s Ted is officially the highest-grossing talking-bear comedy in Hollywood history. (Take that, Softener: The Snuggle Story!)

So why does Dads feel like it was dreamed up during one long, hateful weekend at someone’s Orange County beach house, scribbled down on the back of a Hooters receipt, and then messengered over to the network on the back of a Red Bull truck? Giovanni Ribisi (who deserves better) and Seth Green (who gleefully doesn’t and knows it) star as two fratty stereotypes who make video games for a living while their cheapskate, prejudiced fathers make trouble for them. There are gags about penises, both elderly (unattractive) and Chinese (small). Grown-ups feel sorry for themselves while acting like children. Women do nothing at all, but wear even less. “You can’t make a joke out of everything” is an actual line from the pilot script, right around the time it makes its cheap and unearned detour into sentiment. I’d settle for them making a worthwhile joke full stop.

Welcome to the Family (NBC)

Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.

Debuts October 3

One has to feel sympathy for NBC. The whole “stunt-driven network with surprising patches of little-watched quality” thing wasn’t working for their shareholders in the glorious tire fire of the Silverman/Zucker years and neither was the more recent “musical theater will save us all!” approach. I almost admire NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt’s extremely public surrender in 2013 from any attempt to guess what viewers might want to watch. Instead he seems committed to a new strategy based primarily around seeking comfort, succor, and a few extra months in his job by turning back the clock as fast as he can to an era when family comedies ruled the roost and NBC executives signed their own bonus checks with quills fashioned from gold-plated peacock feathers.

But Welcome to the Family is one particularly fraudulent spoonful of treacle too far. Unlike The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World, its fellow newcomers on the once-proud Thursday night, Welcome to the Family has no particular nostalgia attached to it and no evident purpose, either. It’s the sort of soft-centered mush — at once back-pattingly liberal and inoffensively conservative — that seems like a Hollywood focus group’s idea of what a potato-fed yokel in, I don’t know, Chicago might want to watch after a hard day banging hammers in the steel mill. The show is about a white middle-class family (led by Mike O’Malley) with an unambitious daughter who, on her high school graduation day, discovers she has become pregnant at the hands (and other parts) of her boyfriend, the blandly perfect, Stanford-bound scion of a middle-class Mexican American family. (The twist, you see, is that it’s the Latino who’s the smart one! Someone alert The Nation!) Misunderstandings are had, true love is affirmed, wackiness sputters around and then collapses on the carpet. It’s not that I don’t see what the show is going for, it’s that for the life of me I can’t see why. In reality, there are any number of safe, legal, and effective ways to avoid situations like the one around which Welcome to the Family builds its tepid comedy. The method I’d recommend to you is changing the channel.

We Are Men (CBS)

Mondays at 8:30 p.m.

Debuts September 30

CBS has been so dominant for so long that it often doesn’t seem like it’s even playing in the same league as its scrambling, scrabbling competitors. It has long been clear that network CEO Les Moonves looks down on the other three broadcasters. Now we have definitive proof that he may not even look at them at all. The rancid We Are Men — that title! — feels like a warmed-over straggler from 2011, that unmemorable year of manxiety when the network comedy departments decided that the biggest (and funniest!) issue facing America was how tough a time dudes have it in the 21st century. (Say it with me now: Thanks, Obama!) 


Even worse, the show hinges on the very same plot — hero gets The Graduate-d at his own wedding — that launched the infinitely superior Happy Endings. Anyway, newcomer Christopher Nicholas Smith plays the poor sap still in love with the fiancée who jilted him, even though she made him do gross, unmanly things like have ambition and go to farmers’ markets. Post-altar, he takes up residence at a transient hotel in Tarzana that, instead of being portrayed as one step above “bathroom in 24-hour bus station” in its seediness and sadness, seems like an endless pool party from Entourage. Swimming amid the bikinis are Jerry O’Connell, Kal Penn, and the too-good-for-this Tony Shalhoub. Together, these dopes ogle and belch gamely, but all the high-fives in the world can’t wallpaper over the weirdly defensive resentment at the heart of shows like this. Then again, I suppose a more honest title like We Are Sad Little Boys wouldn’t be so easily green-lit.

Super Fun Night (ABC)

Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.

Debuts October 2

What a strange mess. Super Fun Night was created by its star, the appealing Aussie Rebel Wilson, as the perfect vehicle for her relentless personality. It seems that being a good judge of character, particularly her own, will not join singing, awkward cringing, and cool first names on her résumé-worthy list of talents. Ostensibly about a twentysomething woman navigating old friends and new career ambition, Super Fun Night instead plays like a cautionary documentary about the perils of arrested development, not to mention the problem inherent with a network falling in love with a star without caring too much about the questionable galaxy surrounding her.

Wilson plays Kimmie, a lawyer by day and potentially intervention-worthy shut-in by night. Her life is defined by lusting after her hottie English colleague and playing dress-up and eating cake with her ill-defined best friends, Helen-Alice (anxious) and Marika (gay, I guess?). The pilot tracks these nominal adults as they venture out in the terrifying “city they live in” as if they were astronauts venturing onto the unforgiving surface of Mars. I’d ask how the show plans to sustain this oddly cartoony concept for more than a week or two, but that would involve committing to checking back in to find out.

With its zantic tone (that’s zany + antic; I made it up), Katy Perry soundtrack, and dedication to visual gags like electric bras festooned with light-up hearts, Super Fun Night is so eager to please it practically humps your leg. The result is about as appealing. This is frustrating for any number of reasons (one of which being something you’ll be hearing a lot from me this year: ABC canceled Happy Endings for this?), but the largest of them has to be the weird wasting of Rebel Wilson, for which she seems to share a great deal of the blame. As I said at the top, TV comedy requires a level of chemical expertise that would make Walter White blanch and an amount of luck that could get you banned from Vegas. If the writing doesn’t click or if the stars don’t align, the laughs are likely to end before they’ve even begun. I don’t know what the cautionary tale to be gleaned from any of this is — good sitcoms fail and bad sitcoms are ordered every year. But maybe putting adjectives like “super” and “fun” in the title of a show that debuts as neither is adding a level of pressure no series could possibly survive.

Come back tomorrow for your full preview of the new network dramas!