It's been nearly a week since I last posted and that's because Something Has Happened last week and I'll post about this Big News tomorrow but for right now I just watched the series premiere of Mulaney and I had to write about it.
Guys, I want Mulaney to do well. I want it to do well really badly. John Mulaney is my favorite stand up comedian, and I want to see his TV show succeed! Plus, I love a sitcom where the premise isn't all about ~married life~ or ~life with kids~; a kind of premise which almost universally pigeonholes women into roles where they're ridiculous and their husbands are the calm, correct, straight men that always save the day at the end of the episode. Instead, it's about the life of a comedian - a premise with which I can highly identify! So I am super behind Mulaney and I so want it to do well.
And I think that it can! I think that it has the seeds of something really fantastic, and if it expands on those, then it can be wonderful. Elliott Gould's character is so vibrant, I want to learn more of his back story! Martin Short has excellent on screen energy. Nasim Pedrad is the perfect choice to play Jane in this particular show - she really knows how to bring nuance to comedic characters in a very short period of time, and she can make even the absurd things that a comedic character does feel natural and believable. And, of course, John Mulaney's writing is hilarious.
My biggest problem was that I had seen a lot of it before, and this was the pilot. So many of the scenes in this show came straight from stories in Mulaney's stand up, almost word for word. They also felt forced - I don't know if it's because I'm already so familiar with his stand up work that seeing these scenes acted out seemed strange to me. Perhaps, if someone had never heard those bits, those scenes wouldn't be weird at all.
But I'm already nervous for him, wondering what he's going to do when he runs out of those stories. And the thing is, I know that he can do better than that; it was even shown in this episode! Every scene and story line that were original and separate from his stand up totally worked on their own. Some more than others - I can't go into detail without spoiling things - but he can absolutely write for TV. I just wish he'd trust that ability.
Speaking of ability, where was his acting? He seemed so wooden throughout the episode, and I've seen his stand up specials. Obviously. You know, in case you hadn't surmised that by now. I've watched them. And he's far more expressive and animated in those! You can even see that in the parts where he is deliberately doing stand up - he feels far more comfortable holding the mic in front of a crowd than he feels acting in front of a camera. But I really hope he gets used to it soon... the lead not shifting expression is a very difficult thing to recover from.
I only had two other problems with the episode. One was the lack of acknowledgement of just how much this is derived from Seinfeld. Not only is it clearly in the same vein, it's almost exactly the same show, just more modern and with different personalities in the same roles. If it came from a more obscure show, then it wouldn't be such a big deal, but Seinfeld is literally one of the best and most well known television programs (not just comedies - television programs overall) of all time. That seriously has to be at least played with. They can tease at it, they can make it a running joke of some kind, but they can't just ignore it. It's so abundantly obvious that it's distracting.
Finally, it could've done better by it's women. By which I mean, it's woman. There's only one (on screen, anyway) and she is literally deliberately portrayed as "crazy". And I'm really not sure what the joke was with Motif's "problem bitch" but there is not always a "problem bitch" and I don't understand how it could've gotten so popular without the joke actually existing. Especially when it doesn't exist, AND it's insulting to women. And there were so many opportunities for women in this show. I love Elliott Gould, and I'm so happy to see him in something again, but there's no reason his character couldn't have been a woman. Or the drug dealer. Or Donna could've done more... although, in all fairness, they may bring her in more later. But for this episode at least, they could've done better, and I really don't understand why they didn't.
I feel like I've been dumping on the show a lot already. And do understand, I really did enjoy it! I love pretty much anything John Mulaney will come out with, and I'm still happy to support this show all the way through to the bitter end. It's not exactly perfect just yet. But I also get the feeling that once the show settles in, finds its voice, and gets way more confident, Mulaney could be really, really excellent television. And I am so excited for that to happen. I just hope it gets that chance.
Although, with Lorne Michaels behind it, I think it will. 30 Rock wasn't exactly gold when it first started, either, and then it became... I'm hesitant to call anything "perfect," but it was basically perfect. I have every faith that Mulaney can be, too.