BIG TALK

NBC's 2019 Comedy Pilots, Ranked From Best to Worst

Is there a hit among this year's comedy contenders?
  • Bradley Whitford  in Perfect Harmony, and Kenan Thompson in Kenan
    Bradley Whitford in Perfect Harmony, and Kenan Thompson in Kenan

    After years of disaster in the comedy department, Superstore was considered a beacon of hope for NBC when it arrived on the air in 2015. Four seasons later, we can’t call it a hit, we can’t even say it helped launch a new brand, but at least it keeps the lights on on an otherwise uneventful Thursday night, facing CBS’ sitcoms and ABC’s Shonda-fueled TGIT. Counting delayed and online viewing, The Good Place ranks as the network's highest rated series, but it's done little to buoy the rest of NBC's line-up. Then there’sWill & Grace, which came back strong for its ninth season but has lost some steam since then. During its current tenth season, it’s often the strongest comedy of the night in live ratings by a very slim margin, but that's nothing to really crow about. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, too, has slipped since its strong NBC debut earlier this year. What to say about fall “sensation” I Feel Bad, that never should have been ordered in the first place? It’s virtually dead. Why did NBC decide to treat exciting outdoor-shot multicam Abby’slike crap? No one knows. It deserved a better chance than a late spring launch. And don’t even get me started on A.P. Bio. To summarize: NBC continues to have a comedy problem: no genuine hits, no cohesive brand… and I'm sorry to say it doesn't seem like next season's contenders can reverse the trend.

    1. PERFECT HARMONY (20th Century FOX Television)

    A rural church choir that gets the director it never thought it needed when a salty, Ivy League music professor (Bradley Whitford) stumbles through their door and helps them find their voices.

    From the network that brought you The VoiceSmash (and Rise), this musical comedy totally fits with NBC. (That's not to say it’s necessarily a hit in the making.) It might be billed as an adult version of Glee, set a church instead of a high-school. A good script introducing a promising group of characters,Perfect Harmony isn't particularly surprising or groundbreaking, but it does boast some funny and sweet moments, creating its own world with its own rules and gimmicks (one being very similar to The Good Place‘s “safe language”). And somehow that’s enough. The jokes are top-notch, plus Bradley Whitford and Anna Camp, y'all. I'm rooting for this one. Could make sense paired with Will & Grace, because the gay audience will stan this. 

    2. UNINSURED (Sony Pictures Television)

    Young parents Dave and Rebecca (Adam Pally & Abby Elliott) are forced to take care of Dave’s parents (Fran Drescher & Steven Weber) who've mishandled their finances and need help paying down a sizable debt.

    Despite a less than stellar pitch, Uninsured is actually quite good. It’s nice to have a show centered around “normal” people, having to deal with real life issues. Had it been developed for ABC, it would work well with The Conners. And for those who are nostalgic for The Nanny, it would mark Fran Drescher’s network sitcom return in a role that was clearly written with her in mind. Those who are familiar with Adam Pally & Abby Elliott know they should mesh well together. Unless you’re allergic to good ol’ multicam sitcoms, there's nothing not to like in this one

    3. THE KENAN SHOW (Universal Television)

    A recently widowed dad (Kenan Thompson) is determined to do the very best for his kids, and that includes begrudgingly allowing his persistent father-in-law (Andy Garcia) to become more involved in their lives.

    This one is probably the most likely to get ordered to series. NBC seems very high on SNL's Kenan Thompson, and they even managed to secure Andy Garcia, who's refused several other high profile offers the past few years. That being said, I wasn't all that wowed by the pilot script. The story itself is told in the voice of the deceased mother, which is sweet at times but also a bit destabilizing. I’m not convinced it can work this way for a long time, but if they dump it after the pilot, they’re losing what makes the show original. Tough call. In any case, the show has lot of heart and it’s sometimes fun. Can it find an audience on NBC? 

    4. SUNNYSIDE (Universal Television)

    Former New York City Councilman Garrett Shah (Kal Penn) finds his calling when faced with six recent immigrants in search of the American Dream.

    Okay. So this one has a concept, a star, a LOT OF diversity, and… a very confusing start. It’ could be the kind of niche comedy that becomes great after a while, like Parks And Recreation or Community, but I’m not sure it fits with today’s NBC or network television in general these days, where you really need to be effective from the get-go if you want people to stick around. The pilot itself is not effective, but it's got some promise. As for the show it might become if it's given more than three episodes, I honestly don't know. Also, the title doesn’t make sense -- if it does get picked up, come back with a better one!

    5. VILLAGE GAZETTE (Universal Television)

    Amber (Amber Ruffin), the editor of the Benson Village Gazette, loves her safe small town life, writing fluff pieces about gardening and nursing baby squirrels back to health. That is, until the newspaper hires disgraced big city reporter Randall (Tommy Dewey), who immediately challenges the happy denial Amber (and the Benson Village town folk) have been living in. Now Amber is forced to recognize that everything isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and that she actually has a lot to say when she gets the courage to push against the rose–colored protective bubble she's created for both herself and the Gazette.

    This one's a nope. And it’s a sad nope, because I like the idea of a workplace comedy set in a small town newspaper, with characters who are journalists. It’s both uncommon and timely. The thing is, the script gave me very few smiles and no laughs. It’s way too cheesy for its own good and far too predictable. The central character comes off as a wannabe Leslie Knope, but it doesn’t work because there’s only one Knope. Meanwhile, the “grumpy” character is way too cliché to be appealing, even as a villain. So for me, it’s nope, nope, nope. To date, NBC has only ordered a pilot presentation so it seems they're not entirely sold, either.

    6. LIKE MAGIC (Universal Television)

    An optimistic young woman (Jee Young Han) pursues her dream to be a headlining magician in the eccentric and ego-driven world of the Magic Palace.

    This is a bit harsh, but I don’t see anything worth saving in this one. Yes, the magic part of the show is unusual and makes it different on the surface. But underneath  it’s just a lazy workplace comedy -- rarely funny, predictable, cringy and well… enough said! Here's hoping it disappears into a magic hat.

     

    The script for the new version of multicam “Friends-in-Law” wasn't available at press time, and no cast has announced. It may be dead. The first version (which was ordered to pilot last development season) was okay and could have been a good companion for Will & Grace.

    Jean-Maxime Renault is a TV addict based in Paris who writes about television and movies on AlloCiné (aka "the French IMDB"). In 2015 he created Season Zero, a website about television development and pilot season, which is now a part of Primetimer. 

    TOPICS: NBC