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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
OUR SHOW (NBC)
(written & directed by Larry Charles; TRT: 14:44)
The network's description: No official description has been released...
What did they leave out? ...so everything. Also, early loglines suggested the project revolved a group of sci-fi fanboys in a small town who shoot their own version of a canceled TV show. As you'll see, that's not entirely correct.
The plot in a nutshell: It's 3:30 AM and Mike James (Nate Corddry) has had an epiphany: after spending his entire adult life writing movie scripts that will never get made, why not just go ahead and make one himself? After all, everyone and their mother has made a YouTube video (cut to a sequence which showcases everything from "David After Dentist" to the "Star Wars Kid"). What has he done? He's been trapped in the grey cloud of his humdrum life in Oswald, Kansas, teaching visual arts at the same high school he graduated from. And so he brings his friends together and pitches them the idea of being in/making his masterpiece, "Spaceship of Fools," a non-descript science fiction yarn.
They're a slightly hapless, Christopher Guest-esque group: Neal Legros (Dan Bakkedahl), a pharmacist/aspiring actor who was in Mike's student film, "Man in the White Room"; Tammy Tiller (Lauren Weedman), a musician who always manages to perform the most inappropriate song for each of her gigs ("Rape Me" at a wedding; "The End" at a retirement party, etc.); Brad (Tyler James Williams) and Zohra (Mahaley Hessam), two of Mike's filmmaking pupils, the former of which was the "Gary Coleman of Nigeria"; Evan Padula (P.J. Byrne), a documentarian ("S.H.O.K.: The Secret History of Oswald Kansas") who plans to shoot the making of Mike's film; leading man Jack James (Jonathan Sadowski), Mike's brother, a much-ballyhooed football star-turned-pitchman for the family's appliance business; and Ella McDonald (Maria Thayer), Mike's patient and supportive girlfriend. A brief clip reel of their initial filming experiences later, set to "The Flight of the Valkyries," and that's it.
What works: This is probably the most raw presentation I've ever seen - it's literally Mike talking to the camera about the movie, vignettes introducing each member of the crew (complete with title cards) and a montage of them filming in under 15 minutes - but you definitely walk away with a sense of what this is going for.
What doesn't: What it's going for is surprisingly limp: Mike and his friends being self-absorbed and quirky (Neal meditates naked, Tammy is afraid of breathing, Ella is a proud luddite, Evan lives in his van so he commit to his art full time, etc.) under the auspices of actually doing something with their lives. To that end, the film itself is never actually detailed - we just see people in amateurish space costumes running and/or saying silly things - as it could very well be a period piece, a legal drama or a horror film and achieve the same limited effect. This lack of specificity makes the stakes feel very bland - is this supposed to be bad? good but looks bad? so bad it's actually good? - as our characters just flutter like moths around this non-descript light.
Not helping matters is all the characters never feel like real people but rather sketch comedy actors being character-y. That's fine in small doses but even after 15 minutes their shtick becomes transparent. Furthermore its let's-make-things-awkward sensibility never crosses the threshold of uncomfortability to truly be funny, but rather leaves you feeling like, "Okay, that's it?" All in all, I applaud "Our Show's" ambition to take a swing at something different here...
The bottom line: ...but they definitely missed.