Hit or Sh**: CBS’s ME, MYSELF & I

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**.

me, myself & i

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It’s probably fair to say that the concept of a “CBS sitcom” in 2017 is a fairly homogenous one. Almost always multi-camera, riddled with laugh tracks, more often than not featuring a one-time household name who’s either looking for something to put their career back on the upswing or a cushy TV sitcom gig. ME, MYSELF & I is an attempt to at least appear to push back against this idea, casting mostly folks who wouldn’t be considered household names by many, like series lead and SNL alum Bobby Moynihan, LA improv vet Mandell Maughan, and O.G. DAILY SHOW correspondent Brian Unger. The show is also a bit of an aesthetic branching out for the network comedy, shooting with one camera and trying to capture a bit of SCRUBS-like dramedy and the healthy doses of nostalgia and optimism found in CBS’s own slice-of-life titan HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER.

me, myself & i bar

Actually, maybe I spoke too soon about the whole “not featuring a one-time household name” thing

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The series follows the life of Alex Riley, a Chicago Bulls-obsessed inventor, through three phases of his life: a young teen who’s just moved to a new town following his mother’s remarriage (Jack Dylan Grazer), a recently divorced and generally bummed out middle-aged dad (Moynihan), and a wealthy and recently retired CEO of his own company (played by John Larroquette). ME, MYSELF & I tries to show Alex at important moments of decision, where inaction will cost him a chance at love with a cute girl at a dance, a relationship with his daughter, and, bizarrely, a chance at love with the same girl years later.

Even if the aforementioned aesthetic changes are a departure from CBS’s recent Lorre-land approach to comedy, it’s ultimately hard to say that they’re anything more than superficial. Moynihan is given frustratingly little to do as Alex, and it seems that the show is trying to turn into a vehicle for Moynihan to show us that he can be a “real actor.” There are genuinely funny moments built into the script for Moynihan, and he does shine within them, but beyond that, the script doesn’t even really give him a chance to show off those dramatic chops. He gives a fine performance throughout, and if anything gives this show potential, it’s Moynihan’s work as the lead. His version of Alex is the most compelling, as he feels like the one who truly has the greatest chance at failing. The writers would be wise to heed their own wisdom here—as Unger’s Ron reminds Alex, even someone as great as Michael Jordan misses half of their shots, and ME, MYSELF & I would benefit from focusing on the times that Alex misses more.

me, myself & i car

To be fair, any show that shits on the Los Angeles Lakers as much as this one does is a winner in my book

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That’s a big part of why Larroquette and Grazer’s versions of Alex both feel like a giant swing and a miss. The teenage Alex’s story is boring. It’s been done. So many times. In the exact same way. Alex, at the behest of his stepbrother Justin, tries to use his new-kid-in-town status to make a defining statement and become cool. Then it just so happens that Nori, a girl who LITERALLY walks into frame like Rory freakin Gilmore to The La’s “There She Goes,” shares their bus stop. Alex impresses her by fishing her lipstick out of a sewer with a grabber he invented, and obviously, she’s suddenly SMITTEN with him, though he has no idea what to do about it. And then he blows it when he has to kiss her at the school dance by choking on a breath mint. Who’s to really say what future episodes will bring to young Alex’s character, but for the pilot, he’s treated as no more than a tired storytelling technique, a more egregiously stereotypical version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU that seems to be nestled in for a series of dull, overtly sexist teenage fiction tropes. Showrunner Dan Kopelman wrote for MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, the single best sitcom about pre-adolescence in history, and this showing from someone of his pedigree is extremely disappointing.

me, myself & i girl

THEEEEERE SHEEEEEE GOOOOOOOOOOOES

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Larroquette’s Alex is equally baffling, because at least for now, it feels like he has no real conflicts. He’s wealthy, recently retired, his daughter is the general manager of his favorite basketball team, and save for a health scare and the fact that he’s single, he’s got it pretty good. Like young Alex, old Alex isn’t given nearly enough lip service as a character to be interesting and seems to only be there to set up a conceit that seems doomed in the same way that the ending of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER was. It’s a bit better than the young Alex, to be fair, and Larroquette can probably find a way to sell this thing with the talent he has, but for a show that seems to be setting itself up to be about working through adversity and personal failures, old Alex has a lot going for him. It’s going to be tough to pull that story off without using a cheap writing trick like giving him a disease to make him more sympathetic, but we know so little at this point that the jury’s still out on this one.

me, myself & i gm

An example of the thrilling, no-holds-barred stakes in John Larroquette’s storyline

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It could turn it around still, but given the network it’s on and the tone of the pilot ME, MYSELF & I seems like it’s bound to waste a pretty good cast and premise on an overly optimistic and saccharine product. Its comedy influences are clear, but it comes out more like a THIS IS US wannabe with some jokes thrown in. The show could use some narrative tightening, a bit more comedy, and a lot more sincerity. Perhaps on another network, I would be more optimistic that ME, MYSELF & I would be able to resolve its issues over time, but CBS, more than any network, is all about that cash money profit, and their lack of a “gives-all-the-feels” kind of sitcom makes it likely that this show will either try to change and get cancelled, or stay on the current path it’s on and allow Bobby Moynihan to contentedly dad-grin his way to big bucks for several seasons like a schlubby Jack Pearson.

Verdict: Sh**

ME, MYSELF & I airs on CBS on Mondays

Adam Cash

Adam Cash lives in the woods and grew up playing music in barns with other strange woods children. Fortunately, moving to California showed him that the rest of the world largely ignores Toby Keith, and thus, life is worth living. Adam also writes about video games on Top Shelf Gaming.

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