During the past few years, we’ve seen comedy evolve and redefine itself over and over again. Mocumentaries, single-camera, dramedies have all successfully reinvented the genre. But just as comedy became more high-brow in its approach, the “hangout” show too had to evolve to regain its footing. It’s easy to dismiss “hangout” shows as having nothing substantial to offer, but the truth is creating characters with whom the audience will consider spending time with and investing their energies in are at times harder to create and maintain than high-concept shows, where the premise alone carries a show through.
Keep a show loose around its edges and its writers have a better chance of populating its universe with quirks, tweaking the premise, and fix what isn’t working. Men at Work either fails to realise its shortcomings or is happy ignoring them. Danny Masterson (That 70s Show) is a bad fit as lead and the ensemble lacks crucial chemistry. The acting and the comedic timing is sub-par, which may be fixable through better editing and direction. But it may not be worth it.
The jokes run stale and the characters are truly two-dimensional in all episodes previewed so far, with no concern being shown for their development. There was a point in the pilot where I foolishly believed that there may be a gay-reveal, which would afford Tyler’s character and that of his friends some growth, but no dice. Instead, storylines like “Tyler is possessive of his toilet” get the spotlight. MP: Point proven. Summer comedies are unwatchable.
The guests have mostly outshined the ensemble, which is sad because all of these actors have decent work to their credit. But just as the writing does not inspire, the actors’ commitment to the work too doesn’t leave a mark. Better actors have sold mediocre lines with the their brilliant deliveries, and good writing has often forced actors to up their game. MP: What do you do with a show like MaW (think Sound of Music). Nothing’s worse than an unfunny comedy; the jokes fall flat and the production team try resuscitating a horse they beat dead with their insufferable unoriginality. But what do I know…
Maybe at the end of the season I may check in again with the show to see if anything has improved but for now, this is not a group of people I want to hang out with. MP: Neither would I, and I haven’t even seen this yet!
Shazia is part bionic, part crazy (parts not mutually exclusive), and would be happy conversing solely in TV quotes, forever hopeful she’ll be one-upped in her obscure TV references. She blogs here and microblogs here.
“MP” is Maryam Piracha, TMS’s Editor-in-Chief who, as a fellow couch potato, will make an appearance on TDitR from time to time, mostly in italics.