Hit or Sh**: CBS’s THE GREAT INDOORS
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
Everyone who grew up in the late ‘90s/early 2000s has heard all the jokes, like how we enjoy checking Instagram and getting awards for just showing up. Ha ha, we get it. Now, if you want to hear all of those jokes again, then THE GREAT INDOORS is the show for you. It stars COMMUNITY’s Joel McHale as Jack Gordon, an outdoorsy adventure reporter in his 40s. In the pilot, he takes reluctant control of a team of millennials in the online editorial department when the magazine decides to digitize their content. Despite a talented leading man, the pilot gives us a story that is uninteresting, clichéd, and to be honest, not all that funny. I’m not sure if it’s the multi-camera format, the obvious jokes, the dry premise, or an ugly culmination of it all, but this series is headed straight into the ground from day one and I don’t see any stopping it.
A group of diverse individuals led by Joel McHale sitting around a table. Could this show try any harder to be COMMUNITY?
The show seems like it was written about five to ten years ago but took until now to go into production, because this subject matter hasn’t been fresh or relevant for a long time. It’s one thing to have a cool and unique spin on an older issue, but it is another to have characters just spit out common clichés and stereotypes about millennials. Also, who the hell is this show trying to appeal to? For younger audiences, watching THE GREAT INDOORS will feel like listening to a grandparent rant about how much simpler things were in their day, and older audiences might get a similar displeasure, as the show throws in many cheap digs at them as well. If you are going to dedicate a series to making fun of different generations, at least do it in a somewhat clever way. There’s not much in the show for people of any age to sink their teeth into, no matter how many jokes about selfie sticks or dial-up connection they ram in there.
The entire crux of the show in one picture
One of the only redeemable factors of THE GREAT INDOORS is Joel McHale, who is always naturally funny and entertaining to watch. The rare moments of laughter in the pilot are always from his cynically comical performance, and his charm and genuine attitude make him fairly likeable. However, he is pretty much a carbon copy of his ex-lawyer character in COMMUNITY, without the outwardly superficial parts of his personality. Every time his character makes a sarcastic comment or an inspiring speech to his team, I feel like I’m watching Jeff Winger and the study group all over again. It may be what Joel McHale plays best, but those days are sadly over. I bet that Joel McHale can be just as funny in other types of characters, and I wish we could’ve had the chance to see that in this series.
The backbone of supporting characters is rather weak in this first episode of THE GREAT INDOORS. The three millennials that Jack works with are played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse (SUPERBAD), Shaun Brown, and Christine Ko. I get what the show is going for with these characters, but they are very unpleasant to watch, as they are walking stereotypes of modern youth brought to a whole new exaggerated level. I’m sure that Jack’s impact will make them more mature and likeable through their journey in the series, but what we get in the pilot makes me skeptical to even go on that journey at all. Brooke, Jack’s boss and definite future love-interest, is not terrible, but her entire character seems to revolve around her relationship to Jack at this point. Her father and the magazine’s founder, Roland, is played by comedy legend Stephen Fry, and he certainly makes the best out of a poor character, as it is difficult not to chuckle at his witty performance.
You’d think that McLovin would have grown up by now…
It really is too bad that THE GREAT INDOORS didn’t work out, as Joel McHale still demonstrates his innate talent, but just not in the right role. I don’t see this series making it very far, both because of its overall faults and the fact that the premise doesn’t exactly offer many possibilities. There are only so many things that Jack can teach the team about outdoorsmanship, and only so many things that the team can teach Jack about Instagram. The series will be running on fumes by the end of its first season, if it even makes it there.
THE GREAT INDOORS airs on Thursdays on CBS