Thursday, November 14, 2013

REVIEW: 'Ground Floor' Is the Strongest and Most Confident Comedy TBS Has Ever Created

TBS' Ground Floor - Episode 1.01 Pilot / 1.02 Off to the Races

When Brody (Skylar Astin) falls for Jenny (Briga Heelan), it brings together two very different groups of friends but raises the ire of disapproving boss, Mr. Mansfield (John C. McGinley); Brody wants to make things more serious with Jenny but she wants to keep things casual; and the downstairs gang has a chair race gone wrong when they destroy Mansfield's irreplaceable office chair.

Ground Floor is created by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) and Greg Malins (Will & Grace, How I Met Your Mother). This show immediately pulls off the conceit that the people creating it know how to write a multi-camera comedy. The characters pop right away and are given lines that are actually funny. But not in a forced way where you hear the studio audience hoot and hollering while you're cringing at home over how anyone could find that funny.

Comedy pilots are hard to nail and yet the opening hour of Ground Floor is the strongest for a comedy this year. It's the most fresh multi-cam comedy I've seen in awhile. And out of this entire year's freshman comedy crop, I would only rank Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife ahead of it creatively. However, that scale is lopsided because there's been eight episodes of those shows already where Ground Floor has only aired two.

The reason why so much of it clicks right away has to be given to the instant connection between Skylar Astin's Brody and Briga Heelan's Jenny. Heelan is a standout from the second she appears on the screen and she maintains that level of hilarity and humanity remarkably well throughout the entire hour. Astin is likable but also fairly confidant as Brody. I'm unsure how their "love story" can sustain this show over a long period of time but right now it's a good and strong building block until everything else builds into something bigger.

The supporting ensemble is definitely cast in more broad strokes. They are given brief traits and all are just given a limited amount of time to make them land. Surprisingly most do very well. I'm interested in seeing those characters grow and the writers figuring out how to best serve each of its casts members.

John C. McGinley and Rory Scovel are comedic standouts as well. McGinley is basically playing the same character he was doing on Scrubs. However, he plays that role well and the creative team knows how to write that character. So, it does feel amusing and funny right now instead of just a retread. Scovel on the other hand is so amusing. I really enjoy his character's thinking that everyone else is envious of his beard.

Some more thoughts:
  • I really hope Ground Floor does well in the ratings because it is the best thing TBS has ever produced and I want it to have a life and help build up that network.
  • The laugh track on this does not sound obnoxious. It doesn't sound like it was been sweetened in editing. And no one in the studio audience is forcefully laughing at jokes that don't work.
  • Another thing that Ground Floor does really well is that it doesn't wait until the final act to have heartfelt moments of sentiment.
  • And with so many Pitch Perfect alums, it shouldn't be that surprisingly that they got Astin to sing at the end of the pilot.