Tonight, NBC continues an honored tradition, if one that seems to defy common sense. That's putting a lame sitcom in the cushy 8:30 p.m. slot after "Friends."
This year’s sucker is "Inside Schwartz," a comedy that revolves around the notion that sports broadcasters are the wittiest people in America.
The lead character, Adam Schwartz (Breckin Meyer), is a wannabe sports broadcaster who tends to think of his life in sports metaphors. All that time spent rehearsing in front of the TV has also affected his fantasy life, so sports heroes and personalities pop up periodically to comment on the action in Schwartz’s real life.
NBC gets credit for showing a little imagination this year, but that’s it. Other than the appearance of Dick Butkus from time to time, this is the same sitcom that NBC has tried time and again and that audiences reject every year.
Once you get past the sports references, this is basically a show about a single, twenty-something urbanite who hangs out with his friends while trying to find love and get ahead in his career.
It should, since that's what all the other comedies on Thursday night are about. And it’s more or less what all the failed sitcoms at 8:30 have been about.
The shows that fail generally appear to be cheap knockoffs of other, more successful shows, and "Inside Schwartz" is no exception.
It puts a male skew on "Ally McBeal’s" fantasy elements. This doesn't work, and the reason why is that most sports icons aren’t actors and usually appear stiff and uncomfortable in guest spots, as well as in commercials.
But no less lame than the fantasy sequences in "Inside Schwartz" are the jokes, which roll out like slow-motion pitches. Compounding the lameness is a hopped-up laugh track that reacts too quickly to the measured set-up-and-punchline jokes.
Case in point is the trotting out of poor Bill Buckner to defend his error in the 1986 World Series. Buckner is only slightly referenced, and poof! he appears, in an unfunny and bland attempt to pander to "Inside Schwartz’s" anticipated sports-obsessed audience.
Then there’s the requisite romantic tension between friends, a ploy that worked incredibly well with "Friends" and surprisingly well with "Will and Grace," the two shows "Inside Schwartz" is sandwiched between.
But the leading man is whiny and obsessive, and Meyer’s portrayal of him is so jittery that it’s hard to watch him without getting a headache. His love-to-be Julie (Miriam Shor) is okay as a minor player, but she's someone without a job or any desires, and there’s not much to her character beyond sardonic quips.
Add it all up, and NBC has yet another unoriginal show on its hands, destined for early cancellation and a mid-season replacement.
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