Tag: kal penn

Perfect Harmony, Uninsured, The Kenan Show… NBC 2019 comedy pilots ranked from best to worst


After years of disaster in the comedy department, Superstore was considered as a beacon of hope for NBC when it arrived on the air in 2015. Four seasons later, we can’t call it a hit, we can’t even say it helped launch a new brand, but at least it keeps the lights on on an otherwise uneventful night, facing CBS’ sitcoms and ABC’s Shonda-fueled TGIT. Thanks to its Netflix deal, The Good Place showed some promise during its second season but that didn’t last long. Even though the show will be back for a fourth and is creatively still amazing, NBC can’t count on it ratings-wise. And then there’s cult sitcom Will & Grace that came back strong for its ninth season but has lost some steam since then. During its current tenth season, it’s regularly the strongest comedy of the night by a very slim margin but really nothing to rave about. When FOX decided to get rid of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, NBC saved it since it’s an in-house production. Here again, despite the promotion the move gave it, the cop comedy returned at a low level. What to say about fall “sensation” I Feel Bad, that never should have been ordered in the first place? It’s virtually dead. Why did NBC decide to treat exciting outdoor-shot multicam Abby’s like shit? No one knows. It deserved a better chance than a late spring launch. And don’t even get me started on A.P. Bio… To summarize: NBC still has a big comedy problem, with no hits, no brand… and nothing crazy good to offer next season it seems…



  1. PERFECT HARMONY (20th Century FOX Television)

 about a rural church choir that gets the director it never thought it needed when a salty, in mourning Ivy League music professor (Bradley Whitford) stumbles through their door and helps them find their voices…

From the network that brought you The Voice, Smash (and Rise). This musical comedy totally fits with NBC, though it’s not exactly the proof it’s a hit in the making. It could be billed as an adult version of Glee, in a church instead of a high-school. With a music professor a little more interesting and funny than this poor Will Schuester. No offense, gleeks! Was that even a word? Anyway, Perfect Harmony is not surprising, or groundbreaking, or anything else really than a good script introducing a promising group of characters with both funny and sweet moments, and creating its own world with its own rules and gimmicks (one being very similar to The Good Place‘s “safe language”). And somehow that’s enough. Also, the jokes are top-notch, sometimes they go a little too far but they stop at the right moment. Plus Bradley Whitford, y’all! And Anna Camp. Hallelujah! Rooting for this one. Could make sense paired with Will & Grace, ‘cos the gay audience will stan this. Hopefully, it will skew larger than that.


2. UNINSURED (Sony Pictures Television)

 around young parents Dave and Rebecca (Adam Pally & Abby Elliott) who end up having to take care of Dave’s parents (Fran Drescher & Steven Weber) who have mishandled their finances and need help to pay down a sizable debt….

NBC only has two multicam pilots this year and Uninsured is a really good one, despite a pitch that not is exactly earth-shattering. Except it fits the bill, sort of. It’s nice to have a show centered around “normal” people, having to deal with real life issues, with not much money in the bank. A bit like Superstore. Too bad it was not developed for ABC. It would have worked well with The Conners. For those who are nostalgic of The Nanny, it has a very strong argument: it would mark Fran Drescher’s network sitcom return in a role that was clearly written with her in mind. She’s a grandmother in there! Gosh. Fran is now Sylvia, in a way. Same type of character. It should be fun. Those who are familiar with Adam Pally & Abby Elliott know they should mesh well. There’s not much not to like in Uninsured, unless you’re allergic to good ol’ sitcoms.


3. THE KENAN SHOW (Universal Television)

a newly widowed dad (Kenan Thompson) is determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law (Andy Garcia) become more involved in their lives…

This one is a question mark but also the most likely to get ordered to series: NBC seems very high on Kenan Thompson, they managed to convince Andy Garcia to sign up whereas he refused a lot of offers the past few years, and it’s a broad concept. That being said, I didn’t find the pilot script exceptionally good, though it’s okay. The voice-over of the deceased mother is surprising at first, destabilizing but sweet. At some point, it feels like they use it too much. I’m not convinced it can work this way for a long time. But if they dump it after the pilot, they’re loosing what makes it original. Tough call! It has lot of heart and it’s sometimes fun. Maybe that’s enough to get a series order, but to find an audience on NBC? Unlikely.



4. SUNNYSIDE (Universal Television)

Former New York City Councilman Garrett Shah (Kal Penn) finds his calling when faced with six recent immigrants in need of his help and in search of the American Dream…

Okay. So this one has a concept, and a star, and a LOT OF diversity, and… a confusing start. It’s typically the kind of niche comedy that could become great after a while, like Parks And Recreation or Community, but I’m not sure it fits with today’s NBC and more importantly with today’s network television. You need to be effective from the get-go if you want people to stick around. And this pilot is not effective. It certainly shows some promise, the show it could become if they’re lucky enough to get the chance to last more than three episodes, but we’re not there yet. Too much exposure, too many characters. Tough sell. Also, this title doesn’t make much sense. Come back with a better one if it’s picked-up!


5. VILLAGE GAZETTE (Universal Television)

Amber (Amber Ruffin), the editor of the Benson Village Gazette, loves her safe small town life writing fluff pieces about gardening and nursing baby squirrels back to health. That is until the newspaper owners hire a disgraced big city reporter, Randall (Tommy Dewey), who immediately challenges the happy denial Amber (and the Benson Village town folk) have been living in. Now, Amber is forced to recognize that everything isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and that she has a lot to say if she could get the courage to push against the rose–colored protective bubble she has created for both herself and the Gazette…

It’s a nope. And it’s a sad nope because on paper I liked the idea of a workplace comedy set in a small town inside a newspaper, with characters who are journalists. It’s uncommon and timely. The thing is the script gave me very few smiles and no laughs. It made me roll my eyes too many times, it’s way too cheesy for its own good and it’s so damn predictable all the time. The central character tries too hard to be the new Leslie Knope. And it doesn’t work ‘cos there’s only one Knope. While the “grumpy” character is way too cliché to be appealing, even as a villain. So for me, it’s nope, nope, nope. NBC only ordered a pilot presentation so they don’t seem to be totally sold either.


6. LIKE MAGIC (Universal Television)

an optimistic young woman (Jee Young Han) is pursuing her dream to be a headlining magician in the eccentric and ego-driven world of the Magic Palace…

I may be too harsh with this one, but I can’t see something that can be saved in there. Yes, the magic part of the show is unusual and makes it different on the surface. But on the inside… it’s just a lazy workplace comedy, already seen too many times, rarely funny, predictable, cringy and well… ’nuff said! Want it to disappear in a magic hat.


The script for the new version of multicam “Friends-in-Law” is not available. And no one has been cast in it yet. It may be dead. The first version was okay and would have been a good companion for Will & Grace.

Designated Survivor (ABC) preview: Kiefer Sutherland is the new US president in a brainier 24


Created by David Guggenheim (Safe House, Stolen, Bad Boys 3). Produced by Mark Gordon (Quantico, Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds), Simon Kinberg (X-Men, Deadpool, The Martian), David Guggenheim, Kiefer Sutherland & Suzan Bymel (Touch). For The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios, Entertainment One, Entertainment 360 & Genre Films. 60 pages.

Description: Tom Kirkman, a family man and lower level United States Cabinet member, is suddenly appointed President after a catastrophic terrorist attack during the State of the Union kills everyone above him in the Presidential line of succession. Unprepared, over one night, he moves in the White House with his wife and kids and starts his new job, the most important and scrutinized in the free world…

With Kiefer Sutherland (24, Touch), Kal Penn (Dr House, 24), Nathasha McElhone (Californication), Maggie Q (Nikita, Stalker), Italia Ricci (Supergirl, Chasing Life), Adan Canto (The Following)…

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Protecting the US presidents, fighting against terrorism and saving the country, as well as the whole world, was not enough for Kiefer Sutherland anymore. He doesn’t want to be a part of 24: Legacy -except by keeping his executive producing credit to get some more money out of the lucrative franchise, fair enough- but he surely wants to be on television again. And this time, HE will be the president. And he will fight against terrorism and save the country and the whole world again. Designated Survivor was designed for the actor, or so it seems, and could be a new game-changer in his career. It’s better than Touch, the last series he did for FOX with Heroes‘ creator Tim Kring, which was a trainwreck after a promising start. The show could also be better than The Blacklist, where he was asked to play the lead but turned it down ultimately (then it was given to James Spader), which would be a way better show if it was less of a procedural and more serialized. But is it such a good idea for Kiefer Sutherland to come back in a conspiracy thriller drama? Can we forget Jack Bauer while watching him as Tom Kirkman? That’s definitely a challenge. One he’s up for.

The Designated Survivor project sparked a bidding war among the networks, before landing at ABC. Which is unexpected. FOX, NBC or even CBS looked like safer homes. But it’s an interesting twist and we can already envision it as a companion series for Quantico on sundays, if it’s renewed for a second season. They tackle the same current issues, but one through the FBI lens, the other through the White House. They could even make a crossover. Especially since both are produced by Mark Gordon. And if Quantico is cancelled, just make Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) Tom Kirkman’s personal bodyguard! They’re not written the same way though, Designated Survivor being a more traditional drama with less jumps back and forth in time and no multiple twists, and it suits it well. But don’t expect as much action as in 24.

As you can imagine, the US president does not carry a gun and doesn’t run everywhere everytime. There are people who do that for him and we don’t meet them, at least for now. Even the explosion that kills everyone is not directly shown. Good for the budget. A bit disappointing for the audience. There’s smoke afar. Images of chaos on television. But since our hero is not in the heart of the attack -that’s the whole idea, that’s why he’s the only government member who survives- the writer does his best to make us feel the urgency of the situation from a distant point of view. And everything goes really fast. It only takes 9 pages before Kirkman realizes he might become the new president and the point of view suddenly changes. It works, it’s exciting. You don’t necessarily need huge explosions to satisfy an audience. And then, it’s a “15 hours earlier” act. Time to breathe a little. And we’re right in the middle of a family drama. In fact, it works the same way as Madam Secretary‘s pilot two years ago, but with higher stakes. We meet Jessica, his wife; his two kids, Leo and Penny; his chief of staff and longtime friend Emily; and we discover Tom was about to be fired from his job as the head of the housing and urban development department. Little by little, step by step, the thrilling family drama gets more and more intense and… political. And that’s where it really differs from 24 and Quantico.

Of course, there will be an investigation on the Capitol bombing, lead by Hannah Watts, the FBI agent in charge. And we can imagine it won’t be the last terrostist attack in the country. That’s for the thrill and the action. But the real story here, the one that’s the most interesting in my opinion, is about what’s happening inside the White House in the midst of this never seen before crisis; the political game between the new appointed president -Kirkman was supposed to be neutral, neither a Republican or a Democrat, but he will have to choose a side now- and the opposition, but also between the people who worked with Tom before and the new ones he has no choice but to work with now. There’s a diverse and eclectic team around him: Aaron Shore, the former White House Deputy Chief; Harry Cochrane, a five star general in his sixties; Seth Wheeler, a genius speechwriter in his twenties; and of course Emily. Their interactions with Tom are energetic, sometimes funny, especially with Seth -they meet in the bathroom and there’s vomite involved- and makes the show entertaining as well as riveting. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Is Kiefer able to do that?

The whole concept of Designated Survivor is so strong it could only turn into an exciting first hour of television (with the right persons involved). The real challenge now is to maintain this level of ambition and efficiency moving forward, while giving to the secondary characters the space they need and deserve to grow. It can’t be “the Kiefer Sutherland as president of the United States show”. It has to be an ensemble show with Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman at the center. Not the same thing. It has to be more The West Wing than 24, to be clearer. Not that it could ever compare to The West Wing though. A brainier 24