Hit or Sh**: Netflix’s REAL ROB
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**.
Netflix original series REAL ROB is hardly worth the condemnation it deserves, a fact that proves to be one Hell of a letdown for yours truly. In the interest of full disclosure, my decision to cover this pilot was indubitably motivated by the expectation of righteous indictment; that I should dismantle, by virtue of savage appraisal, the next shameless attempt to capitalize on the ever-trendy “glimpse into the life of a comedian” format. Nevertheless, I draft this piece harboring little more than lukewarm resignation.
The very resignation this man seems to have constructed a career around
Conceived, funded, produced, co-written, and directed by star Rob Schneider, REAL ROB is hawked as “an exaggerated yet brutally honest depiction of Schneider’s real life,” a claim made in keeping with the tenants of the sub-genre. Exaggerated? Naturally. But, honest?
Take a guess.
The absence of integrity, however, should not factor into one’s opinion of Deuce Bigalow’s openly derivative, made-to-stream sitcom. REAL ROB’s foremost foibles dwell within the arena of narrative cohesion. In addition to its potpourri of disjointed jokes and redundant, bokeh-laden talking head segments, the show features compulsory excerpts from Schneider’s standup routine, quite clearly performed for nobody in front of a nondescript brick wall.
If the pilot manages to be “about” anything, it’s the replacement of Rob’s negligent assistant with his relentless stalker, who, unlike said assistant, is a capable errand boy. Rob’s wife Patricia (played by actual spouse Patricia Azarcoya Schneider) is allowed an insipid B-story wherein she ventures to stage a male cabaret show. “What’s the big idea?! Throwing a surprise party for Anderson Cooper?!” exclaims Rob, alarmed to find his home swarming with chiseled, half-naked men. And so it goes.
In spite of its mediocrity, the show contains a single, fleeting scene which effectively spoils any fun to be had in ripping it to shreds. Rob attends a meeting with Fox Studios’ television department, to which he previously pitched a show not unlike REAL ROB itself. What begins a hackneyed groping for the meta turns sour as an executive inquires as to why Rob feels he should star in the program. Rob sheepishly fumbles, “You see, I want this to be more real, you know? Like, um… A lot of the shows, you know… I mean, I think the audiences really want to see that these days, you know?”
Perhaps this shouldn’t be interpreted as an acknowledgement of REAL ROB’s banality, but even so it remains the pilot’s only candid moment. Suddenly, Schneider’s cheap, shameless, regularly homophobic act ceased to antagonize, instead revealing a run-of-the-mill comic’s simple longing for an audience to sustain him. In an age when talents such as Marc Maron and Aziz Ansari have also taken to the “candid comedian” bandwagon (as opposed to innovating in their own right), it’s safe to say Schneider and co. have spared a valuable service: to soak up the demand for imitation, encouraging the proficient to try for something greater.
You done good, Robbie
REAL ROB is available to watch in its entirety on Netflix