Tag Archives: A.V. Club

Underemployed, Pilot Episode: A TV Review

Right after finishing the very first episode and right before reading what the A.V. Club’s TV Club thought about it seemed like the perfect time to write my review of MTV’s Underemployed.

As a recent college graduate, the premise instantly caught my attention. Five young Chicagoans begin their first episode slightly buzzed on the eve of their graduation, dreaming about where they’re going to be in a year. Throwing lofty goals back and forth they’ve already begun planning their 1-year reunion where they’ll celebrate their “world domination.”

From left to right: Miles, Daphne, Sophia, Raviva, and Lou.

The characters are Lou and  Raviva, the couple who broke up so that both parties could go on to pursue their dreams [grad school and music, respectively], Miles, the would-be model, Daphne, the aspiring advertiser, and author-to-be Sophia, who I lovingly dubbed “VA” for “virginal Asian girl” [I thought the full acronym somewhat inappropriate].

Flashforward to the present and, to make things easier myself, the friends find themselves making up the following list:

  • Lou is street-canvassing [fundraising] for an environmental organization.
  • Raviva is working at a bar in which music is played.
  • Miles is a part-time male stripper.
  • Daphne is an unpaid intern at an advertising agency.
  • Sophia is working at a “Donut Girl” and is still a virgin.

Now, before I get any further, I’ll have you know that I am a sucker for ensemble shows. Friends is television gold as far as I’m concerned, and as a result I’m fairly into Community, and, even more recently [and into], Happy Endings. That being said, Wikipedia’s extremely scant article on the show categorizes it as a comedy-drama, or “dramedy.”  The problem is, the show is heavy on the drama, and very light on the humour.

Raviva shows up at Lou and Miles’ apartment pregnant. This, of course, creates the situation of Lou realizing he needs to take care of her. How this is dealt with is almost painful, and awkward in a way that just isn’t funny. His clumsy attempts at trying to find out whether or not he’s the father aren’t even cringe-worthy in a way that’s entertaining [see: The Office].

Elsewhere Daphne lets her super-hunky boss know that she has been an unpaid intern for one year, a premise that made me so livid I thought I was going to spit. He, in turn, asks he out to lunch, where they kiss, and then proceed to have sex in his car [after promising her that he’ll work things out].

On the smaller side of things, a cougary woman gives Miles her card while he works catering at an art gallery, which piques his interests since it reads “GQ.” They later have sex. Sophia meets an old classmate who is, of course, on the pathway to success, and his boss, who is a lawyer.

None of these things in and of themselves are terrible, the problem is pacing. Almost everything that’s introduced is almost instantly resolved, meaning that as viewers we don’t have much to look forward in the next episode, or the season to come in general.

For starters, Raviva wastes absolutely no time in giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. Miles finds a job with his dad [albeit after many, many interviews], and Daphne confronts her boss and demands to be paid [and coming out with a great deal of $750 a week and a parking space]. On the comedic side even the joke of Miles thinking he’s gotten a modelling gig is explained away in seconds. The man he thinks is Calvin Klein straight-up tells him that “You’re here to serve mojitos, and mini tacos, and eye candy.”

As far as events that completely blindside the viewer out of nowhere, Sophia is invited out on the phone. We’re led to believe it’s her former classmate, but it’s his boss, which is surprising. What’s even more surprising is that his boss makes a move on her. And then they are having lesbian sex and I no longer had any idea what was going on.

You can tell that somehow the people at MTV realized how the plot leaves us without much to look forward to [save for Daphne’s continuing tryst with hunky boss] by how the episode ends. With a voiceover and caption saying “this season, on Underemployed” followed by almost two full minutes of what’s to come.

In the end, I found myself interested in watching future episodes, but only because of what the teaser provided. While Sophia hints at her search for sexual identity by telling Daphne that “I might be [different]” it takes the teaser to slap us in the face with her saying “I don’t know what my sexuality is.” In other news, new parents Miles and Raviva will struggle, and cheat on each other [just tongue action, as far as I can tell]! All of these things serve to pull the viewer in, but none of these hooks can be found in the pilot.

I’ll probably be tuning in next week to watch at least the second episode, but it’s not very likely. While Underemployed scratches the surface of what it means to find purpose in life after dreams crash and burn, its pacing and distinct lack of laughs also means that it offers a look at life after college that moves both quickly and joylessly.

Stray Observations [something the TV Club does and that I’ve always wanted to do]:

  • None of these characters have average, run-of-the-mill names. To be fair, neither did most of the cast of Friends.
  • For kids who’ve just gone through four years of college, those are some pretty unrealistic goals. Touring as a musician? Writing [let along publishing] a novel?
  • It is oddly refreshing, however, to see an Asian character who majored in English and is big into writing.
  • While I have complained about a dearth of humour, there was a line, said by Raviva’s mother, that I thought was funny: “She is like a set of Russian dolls right now, and every one of them is a total b-tch.”
  • Finding out that Miles became a male stripper was also pretty funny.
  • The episode ends with the five friends having dinner in the biggest apartment I have ever seen. I’m talking bigger than the apartment in New Girl, and a little bigger even than Dave and Max’s in Happy Endings.

There is absolutely no way they could afford this apartment. No. Way.

  • Finally, the show made the decision of actually saying the title of the show in the following line by Sophia: “If life is just about working and earning money we’re all screwed. But if life is about living, none of my friends are underemployed.” I hope they’re proud of themselves for that.

Underemployed
Tuesdays, 10 p.m. EST
MTV

An Observation, Not Defence, of Community

If you consider yourself someone who is quite partial to NBC’s Community, then the following is probably not news to you. Earlier this week the network released their midseason schedule, revealing that the sitcom had been pulled.

For all of the Community-enthusiasts that hadn’t heard, this does not mean that the show is cancelled. thefutoncritic, on Twitter, reported that all 22 episodes of the 3rd season will still be shot and aired. What it does mean, however, is that the returning 30 Rock will own the 8:00 Thursday timeslot at the beginning of next year, with no indication of when Community will be shown.

The question I pose to you, then, is why? Community is one of the hottest new sitcoms out there, with a following that I can only describe as borderline fanatical, so why is it being taken off the air?

I mean, just look at these good lookin’ kids!

There are a variety of reasons, each of which raise its own sets of questions.

The most important, from what I could tell, was ratings. Community‘s first season was ranked #97 in the ’09-’10 Broadcast Primetime Show Average Viewership with 5 million viewers. It dropped 18 places its second season, down to #115, losing half a million views in the process. Suffice to say, the show is not doing well.

The A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWerff shines some light on the issue by explaining that:

“Community, unlike, say, Parks And Recreation, is in a format that seems to be deliberately polarizing. If you can’t get on its particular wavelength, it’s going to seem a little cold and clinical to you, and the fact that its fanbase can be a little … relentless certainly doesn’t help matters.”

Basically, it’s a show that not everyone can get into. I’ve certainly talked to a fair amount of people who have tried to get into it and reported back that they just couldn’t. This is a phenomenon I can only explain by comparing the show to the study group itself. Being a part of it is fantastic, something that every member can attest to. Trying to become a part of it, however, is a truly daunting challenge [one that character Ben Chang has not yet completed].

Another comparison [apparently the last one wasn’t the only one] can be made between Community and the film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Both are loved and have large fanbases, yet one is floundering in rating and the other made only a little over half its budget. These are both works that clearly have a set audience, so maybe therein lies the problem.

Their audiences are too small. Yes, there are thousands of TV watchers who adore [worship] Dan Harmon and his show. A quick perusal of any episode’s review on The A.V. Club’s TV Club is evidence of this. These are fans who are so ardently loyal that they harangue the comments section of The Big Bang Theory (though to be fair, TBBT is not a good show). There are people who are all about this show but maybe there are not enough of them.

Perhaps in this case what Community really needs is a shift from quality to quantity in regards to its fans. If the show drops any lower in ratings you can be sure we won’t be watching the study group graduate from Greendale.