TV pilot review: “Alex, Inc.” and “Splitting Up Together”
I’ve been listening to the podcast Startup since it started itself up in 2014. It’s a pretty good podcast. The first season was great. It was about Alex Blumberg (the podcast’s host) starting his then-unnamed podcast network*, and it had me hooked. I got to listen to a podcast company being built in almost real time before my very ears. It explained startup concepts like investors, pitching, and branding, and not in a way that made me want to punch anyone. In later seasons, the podcast later moved on to covering other businesses, which was less exciting. However, the episodes were mostly still worth listening to.**
Thus, when they released an episode about how their podcast was going to be turned into a sitcom on ABC, I was instantly certain that I was going to at least check it out. What sealed the deal was that it would star Zach Braff, who I had a big crush on back in his Garden State and Scrubs days.
Last night, I fired up the Chromecast and watched the pilot of Alex, Inc.
Verdict: It was pretty bad. They made it into a family sitcom. What’s worse, they made it…wacky.
Alex (Zach Braff) has a wacky son who does wacky magic and wants to perform it in the school talent show. Alex tries to tell him it’d be better to just fly under the radar so nobody makes fun of him, which was obviously going to turn out to be the wrong advice, and I knew that because I have watched greater than zero TV shows before.***
Alex also has a wacky business partner who is an older New Yorky kind of guy named Uncle Eddie who is broke. Their office is in a wacky co-working space with other startups working on idiotic, I mean wacky, inventions.
My final gripe with the show was that Alex dips into their 401k to invest in the business, even though he told his wife he wouldn’t touch it. If a man ever even looks up the balance of my retirement savings account without my permission, I will call the police SO fast… but at the end of the episode, she had mostly forgiven him.
There was one part of the show that they did really well. There’s a scene where the family is eating dinner, and their daughter whines that radio is boring because it has no pictures. Alex then improvises an entire radio story right at the dinner table, with narration, interviews, sound effects, and plot twists. It showed passion and respect for podcast making, and if they can build on that throughout the series, it could be the beating heart of the show.
Splitting Up Together
Splitting Up Together is another new ABC show. The commercials for it made it look pretty terrible, but ABC.com played it automatically after Alex, Inc., and turning it off would have required me to move a collection of muscles in my body.
I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would.
It’s another family comedy, this time about a couple whose years of being “camp counselors” to their three kids effectively killed their relationship with each other, and they decide to get divorced but stay in the same house in order to keep the the family’s lives the same as possible.
This show had some wackiness, but it was in a way that felt more real than in Alex, Inc. There was a layer of sadness underneath the jokes, sadness about a relationship that had once been so vital but had gone so off the rails. The kids were a little more awkward and subdued than their usual bubbly TV sitcom moppet counterparts. Mostly, I just really like the actor Jenna Fischer, who played Pam on The Office and who stars as the mom in this show.
Before I started writing about this show here, I realized I had forgotten the name of it****, so I had to look it up online. It turns out this show is based on a Danish sitcom, one of the creators of which is named Hella Joof, as in, “Man, that TV show was hella joof!”
What worries me a little is that it seems like the show is hinting that the couple might get back together. It seems like that would kill the whole plot, though. Wikipedia didn’t mention how long the Danish show ran for, so I can’t predict based on that.
I’ll keep watching both of these shows, at least for a couple more episodes.
*I can’t tell you what it’s called — that would spoil the podcast episode that’s all about them trying to come up with a name for it.
**You can skip the majority of the episodes where they featured a different business every episode. I thought those were boring, and a listener survey that Startup did afterward showed that everyone else totally agreed with me.
***This subplot did lead to one joke that I thought was kind of funny. The son is in bed practicing his magic tricks, including one where he pulls a continuous chain of colored scarves out of his mouth for probably a whole minute. The dad’s gonna leave so the kid can go to sleep, and says “Did you brush your teeth?” The kid says “This is how I brush my teeth.”
****It’s not a very memorable name, is it? They should have listened to the episode of Startup about coming up with names for things.
Television photo from here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dailyinvention/497294952