Hit or Sh**: FOX’s COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE
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**.
Simply put, there is absolutely no possible realm of existence where COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE is a show that needed to happen. Featuring a template that’s dead past the point of any creative reanimation (four loser guys hanging out and being losers), the pilot is a dreary 21 minutes of “What dark sorcery did the creators perform to get a network to buy this pitch?” Unless you’re up for jokes you’ve heard ad nauseum since you exited the womb, vaguely offensive caricatures, and completely irrelevant and arbitrary plot structure, you can move right along, little doggie.
What a fresh and exciting milieu!!!
Cooper, Neal, and Barry move into a new house, an opportunity Cooper’s socially frustrated older brother Josh takes advantage of in order to continue to live out his college days. At a housewarming party, their new flat screen TV is stolen. Hijinx ensue that involve them stealing the TV back from the supposed thieves (in a big, wacky misunderstanding, it’s not the people they thought it was). This is immediate conflict, but a pilot should do one of two things: either lob a softball of plot up that we can’t wait to swing at in future episodes, or establish fresh and funny characters and setting.
Although COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE resolves the TV conflict in a way that’s mildly entertaining (but more on that later), all that we’re left with in terms of a narrative throughline is Cooper calling someone and telling them that he has an idea for a business, something he mentioned as a throwaway line about ten minutes previously in the episode. Needless to say, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat. Besides, considering the fact that it’s a “comedy” (an ambition more funny than anything in the pilot), the second option is much more important for any chance at longevity. See practically every funny animated show in existence for an example of why this way of structuring things has promise.
But what can we expect from a graduate of “Knowledge” College
COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE has it all, folks: we’ve got jokes at the expense of unattractive, physically intimidating women; we’ve got jokes at the expense of adult virgins; we’ve got jokes at the expense of the wives and children of ungrateful, dissatisfied husbands; we’ve got jokes at the expense of the fat, sassy black friend; we’ve got jokes at the expense of a flamboyant Middle Eastern landlord. It’s a gold mine! Aside from all of the recycled, problematic humor, we’re also treated to the complete and utter lack of on-screen chemistry between Jack Cutmore-Scott (Cooper) and Meaghan Rath (Kelly), Justin Bartha delivering Josh’s lines like a Z-rate Neil Patrick Harris impersonator, and two plot points that are unapologetic examples of deus ex machina (Josh arriving to rescue Cooper during the botched re-thieving, and the fact that the wrongly victimized people happen to be at the same Clippers game as Cooper). Throw in the fact that the pilot is entitled “How to Survive Your Lovable Jackass,” despite the fact that Barry never demonstrates any propensity for being a Jackass (although Cooper keeps insisting that he is), and you have something nearly irredeemable.
I say nearly because the first few seconds of COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE are wonderful. We start off with Cooper setting up a stereotypical “post-graduation” tale, only for us to realize that he’s being held hostage! My interest is piqued! Then, it’s quickly swept away by a completely unnecessary flashback that leads to all of the aforementioned problems (he’s being held hostage by the people they mistakenly assumed stole their TV, if you’re curious). In addition, we have one or two good lines from Barry, but when the best line in the entire pilot is a black character saying, “Look at how black the blacks are” in reference to the resolution of a TV, then we have a problem. You can find better things to do with your life.
COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE airs on Sundays on FOX