Thursday, September 21, 2017

TV REVIEW: CBS' 'Me, Myself and I'

CBS will launch its new original comedy series Me, Myself and I on Monday, September 25 at 9:30/8:30c. following the season premiere of Kevin Can Wait. The comedy stars Bobby Moynihan, John Larroquette, Jack Dylan Grazer, Jaleel White, Brian Unger, Kelen Coleman, Mandell Maughan, Christopher Paul Richards and Sharon Lawrence.

Read on for my thoughts on the new comedy after screening its premiere episode.

Me, Myself and I is the latest attempt by CBS to have an edgy, single-camera comedy in its lineup. The network has been pushing into this format more and more over the past few years. Life in Pieces has turned into a reliable show on the schedule even though it's not really been talked about a whole lot. This show has a lot in common with Life in Pieces in that they are both single-camera family comedies where the twist is within the structure of the show. On Life in Pieces, it's a story told in four vignettes about the same extended family. On Me, Myself and I, it's a story about one man's life in three distinct time periods. So, there's less potential crossover for the various stories. But it's suppose to paint a compelling picture of the highs and lows of this man's life. The structuring conceit is the thing that makes Me, Myself and I unique. But it's also the thing that disrupts it from being a successful show in its premiere. And if the first episode can't justify this twist and the utility of it, then there really is no reason to believe that future episodes will be able to fare much better. There's the potential for it to evolve into something better. But there are too many problems in the foundation of this series for it to be all that effective.

In execution, Me, Myself and I is basically three different shows crammed into one where the three lead characters also happen to share the same name. Jack Dylan Grazer plays the 14-year-old version of Alex Riley in 1991 where the story is basically a charming ABC comedy akin to The Goldbergs or Fresh Off the Boat. Bobby Moynihan from Saturday Night Live plays the 40-year-old version of Alex Riley in the present-day where the story is more like How I Met Your Mother in humor. And finally, Emmy winner John Larroquette plays the 65-year-old version of Alex Riley in 2042 where the story is just a poorly realized exploration of the future. This is a show that basically succeeds or fails based on the casting. This concept doesn't work if there isn't some similarities amongst the three lead actors. Now, each of them work well in their versions of this show. Moynihan and Larroquette are gifted performers who elevate any material they are given while Grazer has breakout star potential. But they don't exactly resemble each other. That gets distracting after awhile.

And yes, it is a significant problem to point out the flaws in the casting of the lead characters. If I was distracted by the lack of physical resemblance, then I wasn't being entertained by the main story. The jump between Grazer and Moynihan isn't that bad. It could be problematic if the show goes on for several years and Grazer starts growing. But for right now, it's perfectly serviceable in this format. The more striking differences come from Moynihan and Larroquette. They each have their own spin on this character and the world he exists within. But they don't feel like the same guy. The creative team is hoping that no one will notice that Larroquette happens to be six inches taller than Moynihan. And yet, that's a significant problem because it alters how they each fill a room. If the show didn't want us to notice, then they would have only shot Larroquette in close ups or sitting down. That would have been a waste though. It's not what they do. He's an active part of the environment he is in. But spacial things don't line up with how Moynihan carries himself in his own story. There's nothing the two of them can do to change things. This extends to the voice of the character as well. Moynihan and Larroquette don't sound alike. Larroquette's voice is much deeper. So, this show seems to be suggesting that men grow late in life while their voices also get deeper in advanced age. It's weird. And again, it's very distracting.

But that's not even the most ridiculous and crazy casting decision that the show makes. It's problematic because the story isn't doing enough to cover up those inconsistencies. With enough practice and awareness of how to shake things up in the format, things could be rectified in the future. Moynihan and Larroquette are performers who can soar with great writing. That should be the focus for them. But again, things are so problematic in the Larroquette corner of this universe. His story is essentially him retiring from his wildly successful company and not knowing what to do with his life next. Then, he randomly reconnects with the girl he had a crush on in middle school, Nori. It's the same girl who is in the 1991 story. In the past, Alex is trying to impress her and fails when the time comes for it. It's a perfectly fine and charming story. It's suppose to be heartwarming that the two reconnect after all of these years away from each other. And yet, it's impossible to get swept up in that grand love story because the version of Nori in 2042 is played by Sharon Lawrence who is 14 years younger than Larroquette! The show is trying to pass them off as contemporaries of each other. But it only continues to highlight Hollywood's bias against casting age-appropriate women. The age difference between Lawrence and Larroquette is apparent immediately. It wouldn't be so bad if the show just had her as the new love interest for the character and not someone he knew previously. But the fact the show is trying to connect it all together is just way too forced and incredibly problematic.

So in the end, there really isn't enough to Me, Myself and I that is worth recommending. Even the humor itself seems to be very male-driven and judgmental of every female character. It's based in stereotypes and nothing more. Alex is always the chief focus who is able to be wacky and make rash decisions. That's fun and appealing. But Alex's mom is a bad chef and that's played as a consistent criticism throughout her life. Alex's ex-wife cheated on him and wants to take their daughter away from him. That's a criticism that suggests Alex doesn't need to do anything to change. And there are all the problems I have with Nori in 2042. Plus, there's Alex's daughter who exists to be critical of his decision to retire. So basically, Alex is the only person allowed to be entertaining. Well, Jaleel White is in this show as well as the best friend in the present day. He has the perception of being the fun and supportive best friend but doesn't really have the time to do anything. That's probably the biggest flaw with the show. The concept is the star. But it's a hindrance to the actual story because it keeps the show from being very cohesive. And if it's not cohesive, then it's just three separate shows mashed together at random.