[06/20/07 - 03:29 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Giants of Radio" (CBS)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.

And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

(pilot not ordered to series)

The network's description: No official description has been released.

What did they leave out: According to industry lore, creator Jason Winer never actually received a pilot order from CBS. Instead he took the money he was paid for the script, called in favors from his fellow actor friends and proactively shot the pilot on his own. It's a feat that - regardless of your response to the show - should be applauded and encouraged for its cleverness and ambition.

The plot in a nutshell: Radio conglomerate Clear Channel SEI has recently purchased the upstart KOFF and sent Doug (the always great to see Joel McHale) and his two nameless cronies to whip the station into shape. A short bloodbath later only a handful of shows remain: "Left, Rude & Center," featuring real-life radio vet Phil Hendrie as a conservative call-in host whose ratings have fallen to the point that he's not above faking guests; "Lovelife," a "Loveline" knock off featuring washed-up pop artist Jamie (an adorable Jackie Tohn) and her maybe-not-as-straight-laced-as-people-think sister Dr. Amelia (Missi Pyle, once again playing the "Missi Pyle" role); the Sabato Gigante-esque "Noche Loca" ("that's 'Crazy Night' in Mexican," Doug quips); and "The Sports Giant," a (you guessed it) sports show featuring the just-getting-his-big-break Jeremy (creator Jason Winer). The action then is mostly told from the point of view of Jeremy, whose career is fortunately (and unfortunately) the result of him being the son of the Wilt Chamberlain (in terms of sexual conquests) of football. Doug has saddled him with an outlandish new partner, Fletcher (Jordan Black), whom he met at the airport bar the other night. "[He's] much like a child molester [in terms of attracting people's attention], but good," Doug notes. Sure enough the pair don't hit it off thanks to Fletcher's "flow with the go" attitude (yes, you're reading that right) - he uses Jeremy's deodorant without asking and generally doesn't know anything about sports ("I'm a fan of big ideas"). But as luck would have it, he inadvertently makes them a hit, not to mention helps Jeremy with his crush on Jamie, despite her being revealed as the Doug's girlfriend in the end.

What works: It takes a while to get its footing, but once it does there's a genuine charm and humor to the show. Much like "The Office" and "Scrubs," the show throws nearly a dozen characters against the wall and luckily most of them stick, with Hendrie's Rudy and McHale's Doug being among my personal favorites. Also of note is a hilarious cameo by "Mad TV's" Josh Meyers, who plays an exaggerated version of himself during a "Lovelife" segment (among his many quips to the callers: "she's 18 and already has gonorrhea, give me her address!"). A round of kudos also goes out to writer/director Winer, who proves things can look slick even with with a low budget. All in all, much like its behind-the-scenes story, there's an underdog appeal to the show that makes you wonder that should it have been given a chance, it could have turned into something great.

What doesn't: As mentioned above it takes a little bit before all of its wheels start turning as you don't really get a sense of the show's actual tone until the end of the first act. In that same vein, this is about as un-CBS show as you could ask for - no laugh track, handheld camerawork, etc. - as even if it was picked up, it would undoubtedly stick out like a sore thumb amongst its four-camera brethren. (Remember that "The Captain," CBS's midseason pickup, is the network's first for a single-camera half-hour show since "Danny" in 2001. Yes, that's six years ago boys and girls.)

The bottom line: CBS passed on a potential diamond in the rough.

  [june 2007]  


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