Imagine a sitcom about a standup comedian who lives in the New York apartment. His two best friends are guy and a girl (he doesn’t date the girl). He has a next-door neighbor was a crazy character very tall and another friend who is a chubby guy. The show is named after him. It features clips from his standup routines. What an innovative concept? I wonder why no one has ever done that? Oh wait… They did. I guy named Jerry Seinfeld 25 years ago. But this isn’t a review of his sitcom Seinfeld. It’s a review of Mulaney starring standup comedian John Mulaney and the description that I’ve given is 100% accurate. John Mulaney was a bit player on Saturday Night Live in the 2010-2011 season and was a writer from 2008-2013 on SNL. He also does standup comedy.
It would take lots of guts to try to re-create the success of one of the most successful sitcoms ever created. But apparently that’s what they’ve tried to do. After all it’s been 25 years and even though Seinfeld is shown in reruns, perhaps a new younger generation would like their own version. There was a half hour special on NBC before the show premiered that featured some of his standup routines and introduce you to the cast of characters. After seeing some of his standup in this special and on various talk shows where he has promoted the show, I was thinking perhaps it might indeed be a worthy successor of Seinfeld although nothing will ever take its place.
This show might have the potential to be a hit sitcom because it has all of the right elements. This one has a couple of big points in its favor mostly in its cast. In the show, Mulaney’s character is a writer for a game show host played by Martin Short and if you like Short’s style of comedy (and I do) then that’s a big plus. Also the goofy next-door neighbor is played by Elliott Gould. He plays a flamboyant gay man named Oscar. The female friend Jane is played SNL veteran Nasima Pedrad. His sidekick Motif is also a standup comedian played by Seaton Smith who is new to TV but has done standup. The chubby friend I referred to is Andre the drug dealer played by Zach Perlman who looks like he’s trying to be a Zach Galifianakis clone.
I really liked standup routines from the special. Some of them were also featured in the opening episode. The supporting cast is reasonably good. But there’s a big problem. Mulaney can’t act. Even though he’s written every word of the episode himself, his delivery comes across like a fourth grader reading aloud out of their history textbook. He seems to be able to deliver his material in his standup routines adequately well but somehow when trying to play his character you keep wondering if he’s reading it off of cue cards or something.
My hope is that in future episodes Mulaney is able to relax into the part more and not come across as so stiff. For the time being I’m going to watch just to see Martin Short and Elliott Gould either one of which can crack me up. So for now my rating is “I’m Watching It” but I’m afraid it’s going to fall pretty far short of Seinfeld’s legacy.