Television

CBS Limps to the Finish Line with Three Lackluster New Shows

The Tiffany Network is now actively attempting to alienate young viewers.

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'The Great Indoors'
'The Great Indoors,' CBS

Man with a Plan. CBS. Monday, October 24, 8:30 p.m.

The Great Indoors. CBS. Thursday, October 27, 8:30 p.m.

Pure Genius. CBS. Thursday, October 27, 10 p.m.

My chum and former editor Virginia Postrel once wrote a book called The Future and Its Enemies. If she watches TV this week, she'll undoubtedly add a new chapter on CBS. Its three new sitcoms all cling ferociously (if, in one case, hilariously) to the past. If this keeps up, CBS—where the age of the average viewer is already 59, by far the eldest of any broadcast net—will have to change its boastful slogan from The Tiffany Network to The Methuselah Network.

Before we get into a detailed necropsy, it's worth noting that this is the final week of the fall TV season's rollout, delayed a bit at CBS until its Thursday-night football schedule wrapped up. There's no sign of a breakout hit among the new shows, and this final group of CBS stragglers is unlikely to change that.

If anything, the madly contemptuous tone toward millennials that drips from every scathing frame of the sitcom The Great Indoors is liable to actually raise the average age of the CBS audience not just to Social Security-benefit age but to the point where undertakers are setting up tents on the front lawn.

Joel McHale (Community) plays Jack, a ballsy and distinctly middle-aged adventure reporter who's surprised when his outdoors magazine calls him home from an assignment living among bears. If you work in the journalism biz these days, the conversation with his publisher that follows needs no spoiler alert: Outdoor Limits, his magazine, is teetering on bankruptcy. The print edition is folding, there's no money left for tramping around wolverine lairs, and Jack is being brought home to supervise a team of young Web rats—"the digital day-care division," as he labels it—who know lots about the click-bait potential of frolicking-kitten videos and hipster listicles on surviving a zombie apocalypse, nothing about journalism or living outdoors. On the other side of the divide, Jack's experience with the interwebs is limited to posting a dancing-baby video on his MySpace page two decades ago.

What follows is predictably murderous. The easily triggered kids ("I got passed over for a promotion again? What do I have to do? I've been here eight weeks!") regard Jack as a prehistoric artifact—as one says, "a human version of dial-up." Marvels another: "He has no Twitter, no Facebook. It's like he doesn't exist." The head of the magazine's HR department commiserates with Jack—"sometimes I want to beat them senseless with their selfie sticks"—but bluntly warns him there's no escape. "They're the only reason any of us is still employed, so get used to it.

Generational warfare has been a television staple at least since Archie Bunker and the Meathead went at it more than four decades ago in All in the Family. And, misopedist Baby Boomer that I am, I'll admit to laughing gleefully at a lot of the snowflake-kiddie jokes, not to mention the idea of peddling $12 "ironic Spam sandwiches" to hipsters.

But The Great Indoors flouts the fundamental Geneva Convention rule of generation-gap humor—equal hostility towards all—in its relentlessly one-sided assault on millennials; virtually every line that draws blood comes at their expense. It doesn't require an overdeveloped sense of empathy to see that, for anybody under 40, the show is going to feel less like a comedic experience than the receiving end of a gang-bang. When the show was screened for TV critics this summer, a press conference with the cast and producers nearly turned into a fistfight. In the demographic-centric world of television, that's poisonous. The Great Indoors may turn out to be a historic moment, the Custer's Last Stand of Baby Boomer television, but the key word there is "moment."

The week's lone drama debut, Pure Genius, tries to take the opposite track, draping itself in the technotrappings of the digital future, but its heart is pure analog. Augustus Prew (The Borgias) plays a young Silicon Valley zillionaire whose passions have turned to medicine. He's built an ultramodern hospital chock-a-block with neurotransmission hardware and 3-D scanner-printers and other cyber-medical porn stuff.

Then he hires a brilliant rogue surgeon (Dermot Mulroney, August: Osage County) to run it with him, overseeing the usual team of passionate, intense, hard-bodied geniuses who embark on the usual run of miraculous cures and tragic but photogenic deaths, conducted to a soundtrack of indecipherable medical jargon to lend intellectual credentials and an occasional doomed romance as a reward for listening to all those multisyllabic words. In other words, all the same stuff you've seen on every TV medical drama back to the days of Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare, from which Pure Genius is indistinguishable except for the color photography.

If anything at all about Pure Genius is modern, it's the Trumpian subtext that megalomaniacal rich guys can reorder the universe. Prew's character believes that medical knowledge and training are credentialist pettifoggery and that a cure for anything at all can be effected through application of pure Nietzschean will, perhaps slightly augmented with cash. The only thing holding medicine back, in his opinion, is all this consultative twaddle between doctors. His prescription: "No hierarchy, no offices, best idea wins." Perhaps in the series finale, somebody will tell him about the FDA, the FTC and state medical boards.

The other new CBS sitcom, Man with a Plan, is also a throwback to the halcyon days of television: specifically, 2004, when Friends left the air and the entire television industry was atingle with the idea of six major stars suddenly unleashed and available to alchemize TV schlock into gold. The resulting carnage did not quite equal the Seinfeld Curse, but reparations for Cougar Town and Mr. Sunshine are definitely due.

In Man with a Plan, the Friends alumnus supposedly providing the tentpole support is Matt LeBlanc, playing a blue-collar dad forced to take on a bigger role in raising three kids when his wife decides to go back to work.

LeBlanc is a talented comedian—his Episodes, which will wind up a five-season run on Showtime early next year, is the most scabrously funny Hollywood self-examination ever—but there's no way he could have saved this generic, mailed-in show, in which the tepidity of the jokes is exceeded only by the depth to which they're driven into the ground. Man with a Plan will sink quickly, but I can't quite add the phrase "without a trace." As the first broadcast television show ever to employ a running joke about pre-adolescent masturbation, its historical asterisk is secure.

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  1. for anybody under 40, the show is going to feel less like a comedic experience than the receiving end of a gang-bang

    Good. They have the other 90% of television to turn to.

    1. Now get off Rhywun’s lawn.

      1. My Co-Worker’s step-sister made $14500 the previous week. She gets paid on the laptop and moved in a $557000 condo. All she did was get blessed and apply the guide leaked on this web site. Go to this web site and click tech tab to start your work.. Go now… http://www.ImdbCash.TK

      2. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 6-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $90 per hour.
        I work through this web site.. Go to tech tab start your work… http://www.Trends88.Com

    2. “They have the other 90% of television to turn to.”

      old farts have social security, medicaire & all three branches of government. the agonizingly slow death of television at the hamds of the internet is a pretty shitty consolation prize for youngsters, so unclog your colostomy bag & quit yer bitchin old man.

  2. It started when EP Mike Gibbons, who noted that 40 is the new 80, mentioned that CBS focus-grouped the pilot, and the millennial in the group said he did not like it because of the jokes about millennials being coddled, too sensitive and thin-skinned. The woman running the focus group, Gibbons said, clarified: “So, you were offended by millennials being portrayed as too sensitive.”

    Ouch.

      1. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,

        go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,, http://www.highpay90.com

    1. Awesome.

  3. “It doesn’t require an overdeveloped sense of empathy to see that, for anybody under 40, the show is going to feel less like a comedic experience than the receiving end of a gang-bang.”

    Err, I hear a lot of millenials will pay extra for that

    1. I’m not clear on whether that is good or bad. I mean, it’s “gang bang” not “gang rape”. Presumably everyone’s into it.

      1. They don’t know if they’re in to it for at least a week afterwards – gotta see what the social implications are before you can fully have said you’ve given consent, right?

  4. I prefer to think of CBS as a propaganda machine. Have you seen the cops shows on that network? It’s so rife with “this dirty cop is a good guy because feelings” it’s disgusting.

    1. Or they are giving the AARP set what they want, heroic cops beating up darkies and young punks with their skateboards.

      1. Fair point.

    2. Don’t forget the NCIS episode where they put the wrong guy away for a decade and when he was eventually vindicated, he was all like “Totes cool, guys, you were just doing your job to the best of your ability. Hakuna matada.”

    3. I’m completely embarrassed at how much I used to like shows like NCIS and Law & Order.

      1. They are fine fantasy shows.

      2. The original Law & Order was quite good.

      3. They are mindless and end in an hour, which I assume adds to their appeal.

      4. NCIS was good when it was focused on, you know *NCIS*. It was basically ‘House’ with cops – moderately interesting technical (police stuff) balanced with a relationship drama.

        Then they decided they were going to become a premier ‘anti-terrorism at any cost’ group and turned into a (even) less interesting ’24’.

        1. In the first season of CSI they acknowledged that CSIs aren’t police officers, don’t carry guns, and have to follow strict rules. By the end of the show the CSIs were busting down doors in SWAT style raids and shooting people.

    4. TV Cop1:”Don’t we need a warrant to bust in there?”
      TV Cop 2: “Do you smell something?”
      TV Cop1: “Nope.”
      TV Cop2: “Yeah, you do. Not having a warrant stinks.” (Breaks down door, gun drawn.)

  5. If anything at all about Pure Genius is modern, it’s the Trumpian subtext that megalomaniacal rich guys can reorder the universe.

    Oh FFS…

    *sticks head in gas oven*

    1. Has Garvin twigged on to the fact that his articles are appearing in a libertarian oriented publication?

      1. Yeah, they love to suck top-men cock, afterall.

      2. Libertarianism shouldn’t favor rich guys anymore than it favors government.

        1. Not supposed to like Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart?

          Not supposed to be sceptical of credentialism?

    2. I’m just curious how they’re going to make Bunker Hill Hospital (the setting) realistically _allowed to exist_.

      IRL, such a thing would be stuck in FDA quicksand before they had seen one patient.

      _megalomaniacal rich guys can reorder the universe_

      Usually the reordering-the-universe part _causes_ the rich-guy part. Or did the author sleep through the 90s?

    3. it’s the Trumpian subtext that megalomaniacal rich guys can reorder the universe.

      Zuckerburg. Musk. Gates. Sean Parker. These are the names you’re looking for.

      1. Forgot Howard Starbucks and the Google Guys.

        Not that Trump isn’t a megalomaniacal rich guy, but he’s not the archetype for this show’s character.

  6. Black Mirror Season 3 just dropped, so who cares?

      1. Wasn’t he just so absolutely perfect in the Xmas episode?

        1. That was disturbing on several levels. So yes.

  7. …the show is going to feel less like a comedic experience than the receiving end of a gang-bang.

    Yes, please!

  8. So basically CBS which has dominated nighttime tv ratings for 2 decades is pulling the same schtick NBC did when it was in the same position 20 years ago. You’ve got a cadre of aging but still popular shows that only remain popular due to a very loyal fanbase that is aging right along with the show and rather than coming up with something actually new to take it’s place every year you roll out another remake of the same basic premise with a different name and different actors in the hopes one of them becomes a hit. Meanwhile the tv watching audience is leaving you behind so thoroughly that you are looking at at least a decade of cellar dweller ratings once these long running shows finally end.

  9. “anybody under 40, the show is going to feel less like a comedic experience than the receiving end of a gang-bang. ”

    Whoah, can a brother get a trigger warning?

  10. “cure for anything at all can be effected through application of pure Nietzschean will, perhaps slightly augmented with cash. ”

    So it’s a show about obamacare.

    1. Sure, if you replace “Nietzschean will” with “intentions” and “cash” with “?\_(?)_/?”.

  11. for anybody under 40, the show is going to feel less like a comedic experience than the receiving end of a gang-bang

    What if those folks like being on the receiving end of a gang-bang?

  12. Joel McHale’s character represents Boomers, not exasperated Gen Xer’s?

    1. My thoughts as well.

      It’s like Xers don’t even exist.

      1. We’re the truly useless generation.

        1. No, we’re the generation getting screwed by the awful ideas of the generation before us, and getting screwed by the generation after us getting sucked into those same damned awful ideas.

        2. We are the ones who largely missed out on free love and free drugs thanks to AIDS and the Drug War.

          Thanks Obama.

      2. Boomers are not “middle-aged”, they are furmly in the retiree age bracket.

  13. Well, I do want to beat people with selfie sticks senseless with their selfie sticks. So maybe I’m the target audience.

    1. I like that at some point they will be one of those things that no one will admit to owning.

      1. Like hammer pants?

      2. As someone who doesn’t own one but does snowboard, they have their niche applications. Like beating millennials with them.

  14. My biggest gripe about comedies is how literally every fricking thing a character says is followed by the canned laugh machine. Whose family goes through life producing laugh-enducing quips at all times? So, get off my lawn.

    1. Well I like to think mine does but then my kids groan and yell “Stop it with the Dad Jokes”

    2. You can tell a comedy show is complete shit the instant you hear the canned laughter.

      The *good* shows don’t feel the need to tell the audience when they’re supposed to laugh.

      1. There are exceptions. Black Adder and a few other great british comedies used canned laughter because of how they were shot. I saw sequences of these comedies without the laughter and you realized the show literally stopped working.

        1. Huh. Black Adder had a laugh track? They must have done a very tasteful job because I’ve watched it like 10 times over and it never registered.

          1. A well implemented laugh track goes unnoticed because you are laughing along to some extent yourself. And that’s their purpose: if you find something funny and hear laughter it will complement and amplify your own feelings. Unfortunately, laugh tracks are all too often implemented poorly: if you hear laughter and you don’t think it’s funny, there will be negative feedback and you will find it even less funny than you otherwise would have. At least, that’s my opinion informed by nothing more scientific than personal experience.

          2. No one notices when the show is actually good.

            I’ve also wondered (but never researched) if a laugh track can still be ‘legit’, ie, you present the final show to an audience, recording their laughter– then merely sticking that recorded laughter into the final cut of the show. Ie, audience isn’t present for the filming, but the laughs are real and respond directly to what’s going on the screen. Black Adder seemed to have that element– where if someone said something really funny, the laughter went on for an extended time.

        2. I don’t know – I just ran through a couple episodes (of the first season) no laugh track.

          It *might* be something added later for an American release.

          1. It seems to be a thing with the later seasons.

            1. Yes, they removed the track for the later seasons and the show lost something.

          2. The first season was produced differently then the last three. Tbere were more on location scenes.

      2. That’s not the only purpose of canned laughter. It’s also to make people who are watching a show by themselves feel like they’re part of an audience.

        1. No wonder I hate it then.

    3. “Whose family goes through life producing laugh-enducing quips at all times? ”

      Mine does.

    4. Do they still do that? I thought they had mostly gotten rid of laugh tracks and just played the actual laughs from the studio audience (who I’m sure are encouraged to laugh more than they ordinarily would).
      I haven’t seen many recent sitcoms, so I don’t really know.

  15. It doesn’t require an overdeveloped sense of empathy to see that, for anybody under 40, the show is going to feel less like a comedic experience than the receiving end of a gang-bang.

    RAPE KULTUR

  16. a press conference with the cast and producers nearly turned into a fistfight.

    If it did turn into fisticuffs, I’d watch that.

    1. I’d hold out for a donnybrook.

  17. Glenn, no one has used the word ‘chum’ in 40 years, at least no one that wasn’t a fisherman.

    1. What about Chumlee from Pawn Stars?

  18. If anything, the madly contemptuous tone toward millennials that drips from every scathing frame of the sitcom The Great Indoors is liable to actually raise the average age of the CBS audience not just to Social Security-benefit age but to the point where undertakers are setting up tents on the front lawn.

    MIght be worth torrenting then.

  19. I think The Great Indoors will attract a young audience. Most of the younger people I know do feel that many of their peers are entitled d-bags.

    1. I agree. When I saw commercials for the show, I figured they were targeting a young(er) audience. It seems like they’re going for Gen-Xers and Millennials who are irritated by the more annoying aspects of Gen-Xer and Millenial behavior.

      1. Indeed. Both my Millenial niece and her Millenial boyfriend kinda despise the typical Millenials that they meet all the time; they usually regale the collected families with the latest idiocy that they heard/witnessed from their fellow timeliners.

        Then again, those two work their asses off for everything they get, and they’re doing well.

  20. I’m a nerd / dork / whatever, and I work in IT. I need to make a confession.

    The Big Bang Theory is the worst fucking show on television. It is pure garbage; I cannot stand listening to that show for more than 10 seconds. Nothing about it is funny. And the stupid fucking laughtrack after every god damned line in the show is grating to the core.

    Seems like more of a show for non-nerds, because I don’t know a single nerd who watches it, just non-nerds that say “Oh you GOTTA watch the Big Bang Theory”

    1. I watched it one time and found it irritating.

    2. It is pure garbage

      I’ve heard the phrase, “nerd blackface” bandied about.

    3. I see the hipster nerds have never gotten over Big Bang Theory stomping Community into the ratings dirt.

    4. I have a buddy who says she can’t watch it because it reminds her too much of the people she has to work with every day.

    5. I work at NASA, nerd/dork/dress for comicpalooza etc.

      I didn’t mind the early years of BBT. In fact, some of my friends (me too) were like that.
      But as it has gone on Sheldon is just annoying and whine. There isn’t any growth between characters.
      Some of the side characters like Stewart are just sad.

      So I agree, I think it has run it’s time out.

  21. If anything, the madly contemptuous tone toward millennials that drips from every scathing frame of the sitcom The Great Indoors is liable to actually raise the average age of the CBS audience not just to Social Security-benefit age but to the point where undertakers are setting up tents on the front lawn.

    1. Millennials are extremely unlikely to be watching network prime time TV in the first place, so no lost audience there.

    2. The target audience is the middle aged Gen Xers who have to work with millennials, it’s not senior citizens, so that should lower the audience age actually.

    3. Fuck millennials.

    1. Hey I am a millennial.

      Fuck millennials. Half of us are doing what you are supposed to, and the other half are losers with no skills who blame everything else on their problems.

      But really how is that different from any other generation?

      1. In previous generations the losers had the good grace to do drugs and stay at home watching TV and left everyone else alone.

        Currently it seems like the losers of the Millennial Generation don’t *know* that they’re losers. They think *they’re* the winners and not their classmates who went on to go to work and took on the responsibilities of adulthood. They seem to think that activism for activism’s sake is a noble calling.

        1. so much this. My roommate is an example of that — live everything prog, and that’s an end in to itself. Constant outrage machine, but no actual skills and wondering why you can’t get a good job.

      2. But really how is that different from any other generation?

        My generation embraced being losers by working in coffee shops and perpetually being “in a band”.

    2. I’m a Gen Xer – we were told we wouldn’t surpass our parents, and now millennials want everything for few (including a selfie stick of the butt)

      I don’t know who I hate more – Boomers, millennials or my own

  22. Cougar Town was one of the best sitcoms in recent history, and Mr. Sunshine was severely underrated.

  23. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  24. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  25. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  26. Ellie . true that Susan `s blurb is good… I just purchased a gorgeous Fiat Panda sincee geting a check for $8891 this-last/4 weeks and also ten grand last-month . this is actually the most financialy rewarding Ive had . I started this 9-months ago and right away was bringin in at least $87, per-hour .

    see……………. http://www.BuzzNews10.com

  27. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  28. Liliana . if you think Lawrence `s blog is incredible, I just purchased a new Honda after earning $5741 this – 4 weeks past and also 10 grand lass month . it’s by-far the most-comfortable job I have ever done . I started this four months/ago and almost immediately began to make minimum $85… p/h .

    see this……………. http://www.BuzzNews10.com

  29. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  30. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

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