Splitsider’s Fall Comedy Preview: TV
It’s that time of year again. The new fall TV season! When the networks trot out a shaggy bunch of new shows, and in six months, half of them will be left. Can you guess which shows will make it and which shows will turn into a foggy memory a la last fall’s quickly-cancelled comedies like Man Up, How to Be a Gentleman, and Free Agents?
On the whole, it’s a broader batch of sitcoms than we’ve seen in years past, with NBC, home to critically-acclaimed but underwatched comedies like 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, and Community, making a clear attempt to pursue sillier, more accessible shows in order to reach a larger audience like the other networks do. There’s plenty to look forward to, though, like Mindy Kaling’s new series The Mindy Project, an inventive stand-up show called Mash Up from Comedy Central; the returns of favorites like Happy Endings, Parks and Rec, and (Dan Harmon-less) Community; and the final seasons of The Office and 30 Rock.
What better time for NBC to premiere two new comedies than the least funny day of the year? To be fair, though, this may end up being a savvy move on the network’s part as after seeing the date September 11th on an ad or billboard, it’s pretty hard to forget. Never forget.
At least if NBC is premiering a new comedy on 9/11, it’s gotta be a light-hearted one, right? No, it’s about Matthew Perry grieving over his wife’s death? Okay. The premiere episode of Go On aired in an early sneak preview slot during the Olympics. Created by Scott Silveri, a longtime Friends writer who also created Joey and Perfect Couples two seasons ago, Go On stars Matthew Perry as a sportscaster who joins a support group to deal with his wife’s death. With ringers like Eagleheart’s Brett Gelman in the cast and Seth “Bob Ducca” Morris in a recurring role, along with an ensemble cast that also features John Cho, and Everybody Hates Chris’s Tyler James Williams, Go On has plenty going for it and looks to be one of this fall’s most promising new comedies.
Tuesdays at 9 on NBC (check out the pilot on Hulu here)
The New Normal
This fall, gays are the new vampires, as the broadcast networks are all seeking to capitalize on the success of Glee and Modern Family by turning TV audiences’ newfound acceptance of homosexuality into the next cash-grabbing trend. The New Normal, the first of two gay shows this fall (the other is CBS’s Partners), was created by Ryan Murphy and his fellow Glee writer Ali Adler, and it follows a gay couple (played by Girls’ Andrew Rannells and The Hangover’s Justin Bartha) who hire a woman (Scottish actress Georgia King) to be their surrogate. Ellen Barkin also stars as an over-the-top racist white lady who would make Archie Bunker blush.
Tuesdays at 9:30 on NBC (check out the pilot on Hulu here)
Created by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, writers of the Jonah Hill vehicle The Sitter, Animal Practice stars Weeds’s Justin Kirk as a doctor in a veterinary hospital that’s off the charts on the wackiness scale. Despite being critically-panned thus far, the show has an eclectic supporting cast going for it, including Reaper’s Tyler Labine, MADtv alum Bobby Lee, newcomer Betsy Sodaro, and a monkey that makes more money than you.
Wednesdays at 8 on NBC (check out the pilot on Hulu here)
Guys with Kids
From creators Jimmy Fallon and Charlie Grandy (a longtime Daily Show/SNL/Office writer), Guys with Kids stars Anthony Anderson, Zach Cregger, and Jesse Bradford as three gentlemen raising children. Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Tempestt Bledsoe, and Erinn Hayes also star. In a season that sees NBC opting for much broader sitcoms, Guys with Kids seems to be the furthest down that path, as it’s the only multi-cam/laughtrack show on the Peacock Network’s fall grid. It’s really a missed opportunity that NBC didn’t opt to slot Guys with Kids and The New Normal back-to-back and change The New Normal’s title to Gays with Kids. The marketing writes itself.
Wednesdays at 8:30 on NBC
David Krumholtz and Michael Urie star as two best friends and partners at an architecture firm, one straight and one gay, who see their friendship tested when the straight dude gets engaged and the gay dude starts dating a new guy. Sophia Bush and Brandon “Superman” Routh also star as the pair’s respective love interests. Partners has been under fire already for bearing a striking similarity to a 1995 show of the same name. To be fair, though, CBS is in the business of making sitcoms that feel 20 years old, so it was only a matter of time before the network accidentally remade a 90s sitcom.
Mondays at 8:30 on CBS
Ben and Kate
Oscar-winning writer Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson (21 Jump Street) play the titular roles in this new Fox show about a single mother and her man-child brother. The supporting cast, made up of Hot Fuzz’s Lucy Punch, newcomer Echo Kellum, and adorable kid actor Maggie Jones (We Bought a Zoo). The pilot is one of the better comedies this year, and with Dan Harmon’s old Community co-showrunners Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan signed on as showrunners, this is a show worth checking out.
Tuesdays at 8:30 on Fox (check out the pilot on Hulu here)
The Mindy Project
Mindy Kaling stars in this new sitcom, which she also created, in which she plays a single OB/GYN navigating the dating world. Chris Messina, Ed Weeks, Anna Camp, Zoe Jarman, Amanda Setton, and Stephen Tobolowsky make up the regular supporting cast, with Ike Barinholtz in showing up a few episodes in as a recurring character. The first episode featured one-off appearances from super special guest stars Ed Helms and Bill Hader, but it doesn’t look like those two busy guys will be figuring into the rest of the show for now.
Tuesdays at 9 on Fox (check out the pilot on Hulu here)
As you’re probably aware, Daniel Tosh got into some hot water this summer for making some offensive rape jokes, and Brickleberry, the new animated show he’s producing, got dragged into the whole mess when the rape joke-filled pilot was scheduled for a Comic-Con screening just days after the whole Laugh Factory fiasco. Um, despite that whole situation the show looks pretty and features a pretty talented voice cast that includes comedy veterans like Tom Kenny, Jerry Minor, David Herman, and Kaitlin Olson. Will Daniel Tosh fans enjoy cartoon nut shots as much as they’ve enjoyed YouTube nut shots? Only time will tell.
Tuesdays at 10:30 on Comedy Central
Created by Dan Fogelman (writer of Cars and Crazy, Stupid, Love.), The Neighbors is a family sitcom about a family who move into a New Jersey gated community full of aliens. It’s a bit of a high-concept show that harkens back to 3rd Rock from the Sun and Mork & Mindy, but ABC has a lot of faith in it, giving the show a slot in its Wednesday night family sitcom block. The president of ABC entertainment Paul Lee, has publicly shared his admiration for the series, saying, “I love The Neighbors.” If it’s good enough for a network bigwig, then The Neighbors should be good enough for you.
Wednesdays at 8:30 on ABC
T.J. Miller hosts this inventive new stand-up show that began as a pilot Comedy Central aired last year. Produced by Miller and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Funny or Die), Mash Up blends stand-up clips with sketches and visualizations based on said stand-up clips and will feature appearances by a lot of big comedy names, including Chris Hardwick, Reggie Watts, Hannibal Buress, Pete Holmes, and more.
Wednesdays at 12:30am on Comedy Central (check out the pilot on Vimeo here)
Reba McEntire’s grand return to the sitcom is getting a late autumn debut. The show stars McEntire as a former country music star moving from Nashville to L.A. to restart her music career. Lily Tomlin and Sara Rue also star. As if Malibu Country won’t already get enough scorn from comedy snobs, the show is up against Community in the ratings, which will probably result in Community fans staging one of those weird flash mobs on the Malibu Country set.
Fridays at 8:30 on ABC
Saturday Night Live
Comedy dynasty SNL is returning this weekend for its 38th season, and there are plenty of exciting developments with the show. Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, and Abby Elliott have departed, but Second City Chicago and iO alumni Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, and Cecily Strong are joining the show’s cast, along with new writers Josh Patten and Neil Casey (both out of UCB NY). The first round of hosts/musical guests have already been announced: Seth MacFarlane with Frank Ocean on Sept. 15th, Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Mumford and Sons on Sept. 22nd, and Daniel Craig with Muse on Sept. 29th.
Saturdays at–ah, forget it, you should know when this show’s on by now
Up All Night
One of the best new network sitcoms to pop up last fall, Up All Night has a talented cast and creative team who made a fun and funny show. The only real issue the series faced was that it occasionally felt like two different shows, a family sitcom and a workplace sitcom battling for the spotlight. This year, though, the show has been lightly retooled with less of a focus on Ava’s talk show and more emphasis on the family dynamic (but still with plenty of Maya Rudolph). In other promising Up All Night news, Luka Jones (from NBC’s unjustly-canceled Best Friends Forever) is joining the cast as Christina Applegate’s character’s brother, and Sean Hayes will be coming onboard for a short arc as Maya Rudolph’s accompanist. Hopefully, these changes will be enough to turn a good sitcom into a great one.
Thursdays at 8:30 on NBC
After a long run, The Office is finally coming to an end following this upcoming ninth season, but the show’s creative team still has plenty of fun stuff in store for us this year. Despite the departures of B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein, and newcomer James Spader, The Office’s Season 9 looks like it could be a return to form for the show. Lieberstein is stepping aside from his duties as showrunner to focus on the Dwight Schrute-centric spinoff The Farm (which begins midseason and takes Rainn Wilson away from The Office halfway through the show’s farewell season), but Greg Daniels, the show’s original showrunner and one of the best goddamned comedy writers of all-time is returning to take the reins. Daniels has hyped up the new run of episodes in the press, calling it “a real gangbuster season.”
It’s not yet known whether Steve Carell will come back for as a guest star, but Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak will be dropping by for a couple episodes. Season 9 will also feature the debut of two new characters played by Jake Lacy (ABC’s one-season-and-out sitcom Better With You) and Clark Duke (Hot Tub Time Machine, Clark and Michael). We’ll see if the show can recapture that old magic.
Thursdays at 9 on NBC
Parks and Recreation
As if you’re not completely tired of politics this deep into election season, amazing sitcom Parks and Recreation will be back next week with the start of Leslie Knope’s City Council reign, as well as the kickoff of several other new storylines. As the season finale teased, Ben will be heading to Washington, D.C., to work on a Congressional campaign (with fun cameos by real politicians!), Jon Glaser is coming aboard for a recurring role, and Andy will be pursuing a career in law enforcement, which should strike fear into the hearts of all Pawnee residents.
Thursdays at 9:30 on NBC
How I Met Your Mother
Somewhere in an American living room during this season of How I Met Your Mother, the one-millionth joke about how these kids are never gonna hear about how their dad met their mother will be made. Will you be the one to make it?
Season 8 of the long-running sitcom kicks off with a big wedding, and the writers have suggested that this will be the show’s last or penultimate year. Fresh off her SNL exit, Abby Elliott is onboard for a story arc in which she plays a crazy lady who becomes romantically involved with one of the main characters.
Mondays at 8 on CBS
Key & Peele
Comedy Central’s finally found a great new sketch show this winter after years of searching for a replacement for Chappelle’s Show. Obama and his anger translator Luther will figure into the new season (see the below promo). The real Barack Obama turned out to be a fan of the show, but I doubt he’ll be watching this fall because he’s busy with something.
Wednesdays at 10:30 on Comedy Central
Fox might be ordering up a whopping 32 episodes of Bob’s Burgers this year, which is great news for fans of this excellent animated show and fans of burger puns alike.
Sundays at 8:30 on Fox
The truncated final season of 30 Rock kicks off a few weeks after the rest of the fall shows. NBC ordered just 13 episodes for Season 7, and many of the show’s writer/producers have already jumped ship and signed lucrative development deals elsewhere. The show’s going out in style, though, as Tina Fey has big plans for the new season, and the show is continuing to pull in top-notch guest stars like Catherine O’Hara and Bryan Cranston. Also, Maulik Pancholy (who plays Jonathan) is returning to 30 Rock after a season on Whitney.
Thursdays at 8 on NBC
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League
FX’s long-running sitcom pair, Always Sunny and The League, will be back next month for their eighth and fourth seasons, respectively. None of the Always Sunny stars are making elaborate lifestyle changes like last year when Rob McElhenney gained 50 pounds so he could play a chubbier version of his character. McElhenney’s back to his usual weight, which is a shame but probably safe for the actor. The new season will feature guest star Kerri Kenney and an episode involving Charlie meeting his biological father. As far as The League goes, few details about the new season have surfaced, as the cast and crew seem to be keeping a tight lid on that stuff like they’re making a Batman movie or something.
Thursdays at 10 and 10:30 on FX
There’s been a lot of hoopla surrounding Dan Harmon’s Community departure, but there’s still a lot to look forward to with the fourth season of the show, despite NBC burying it on Friday night after Whitney. At least DVRs and Hulu are things so timeslots don’t really matter as much as they once did. Dan Harmon’s co-showrunners Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan also left this year along with longtime writer Chris McKenna and producer/directors Joe and Anthony Russo, but it looks like everything’s gonna be fine as the new showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port’s last gig was on Happy Endings, which I think is the best network sitcom to debut since Community, and super talented writers and key parts of the Harmon regime like Megan Ganz, Andy Bobrow, Annie Mebane, and Steve Basilone are all sticking around. It’s a bit of a wait before the show’s late October premiere (a Hunger Games-themed episode), but you’ll make it, I swear.
Fridays at 8:30 on NBC
Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23
Tuesday nights this fall are jam-packed with sitcoms as three of the four big networks (everyone but CBS) are airing comedy blocks that night. That’s not great news for Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—-, two shows that are well-regarded by critics but have yet to become massive ratings successes. Still, it should be a fun year for both shows as DTTB brings on James Van Der Beek’s Dawson’s Creek co-star Busy Phillips to do a guest spot alongside him, and Happy Endings continues to be one of the funniest shows on TV. With so many comedies ending (The Office, 30 Rock) or possibly winding down (How I Met Your Mother, Community), this year should see Happy Endings continue to grow in popularity for being a great, young show in its prime.
Tuesdays at 9 and 9:30 on ABC
PREMIERE DATES FOR OTHER COMEDIES:
9/24 – 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly – CBS
9/25 – New Girl – Fox, Tosh.0 – Comedy Central
9/26 – The Middle, Modern Family – ABC
9/26 – South Park – Comedy Central
9/27 – The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men – CBS
9/30 – The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad! – Fox
10/1 – Superjail! – Adult Swim
10/2 – Raising Hope – Fox
10/4 – Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution – Comedy Central
10/7 – The Cleveland Show – Fox
10/11 – Brand X with Russell Brand – FX
10/17 – Suburgatory – ABC
10/19 – Whitney – NBC
10/26 – The Venture Bros. – Adult Swim
11/2 – Last Man Standing – ABC
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.