Sunday, May 22, 2016

Crowded Reviewed: Pilot and Present Tense (S1E1 [Duh] and S1E2)

For the second time in a row this show sucks too much to deserve a quotation. Nice track record you have going here, NBC.

What is it? multi-cam "adult" "sitcom" (yeah now it's gotten to the point where we have to use quotes around "sitcom"), half-hour (24 minute) length.
Where did it air? It used to be on NBC. Now, absolutely nothing, Thank God.
Who stars in it? Miranda Cosgrove of iCarly fame. Patrick Warburton of...well, he's been in tons of stuff. Probably Newsradio forever being my favorite, but he's also been in Family Guy as a regular in the form of Joe Swanson, and Kim Possible as the principal of the school. A bunch of noname noobs who have probably sadly sunk their careers by being on this show as their first attempt at break-out stardom.
Why are we reviewing this? Because it has Miranda Cosgrove of iCarly fame in it. And again, because I'm stupid.

Part 2 of a "where are they now?" tour, this time looking at iCarly's Miranda Cosgrove who plays Shea, a regular and integral member of the main cast of NBC half-hour multi-cam Crowded. 

So, how 'bout dem Millennials? I can't really pinpoint exactly when Millennials decidedly became the butt of punchlines - I think you can make a valid argument it even started before the actual millennium, when most such Millennials were still solidly in middle school - but Millennials (like redheads - see Part 1 of this series right below) seem to be yet another one of what TVTropes calls "acceptable targets." I can't explain the science behind all forms of discrimination, if there even is a specific science behind it - the discrimination behind various races and gender/sex discrimination is well-documented and perhaps if you want a full answer you should consult your local library - and in other forms it's just vague yet somehow ingrained into our very culture involving factors I can't begin to fathom (see redheads again, although I suspect a lot of it has to just do with "differentness"). 

And then we have Millennials - which, for the purposes of simplification and for my own convenience, I'm just going to call "us." As in, yes, you and me, as I myself am a Millennial, Mike here would more or less fall into the Millennial category and strictly speaking the vast majority of this blog's readership (so like all five of you) are statistically overwhelmingly likely to be Millennials. I don't think there's so much one reason for anti-Millennial discrimination on TV as so much as several, as each creative (incidentally using "creative" as a noun is soooooo Millennial) pretty much has his or her own reasons or intent. For the most part I think it's legitimately intended to be affectionate humor and an attempt to be "relatable" in accordance to what just happens to be the "new economic reality" - unfortunately just handled in an extremely inept way almost universally. In other words, I think the old geezers (relatively speaking, although many of them are actually Millennials themselves - legitimately privileged Millennials, I should point out) calling the shots are legitimately and simply out of touch with the younger generations (and perhaps the entire concept of humor in general). 

Now, I do genuinely believe that there's an element of the population calling the shots on these shows out there who just simple, plain-old hate Millennials - you know, the get off my lawn! crowd. I honestly can't explain their rationale beyond simply feeling threatened by younger people ala The Devil Wears Prada (a surprisingly excellent movie and if you haven't guessed by the simple fact that I run a Nickelodeon and Disney Channel review blog I tend to have an unusual affinity for chick flicks for allegedly being a guy). Yes, this thing happens all the time and yes it does get expressed through creative and/or mass-consumption artwork like television, whether exploring it as an issue or as some person's way of saying get off my lawn! through the use of a mass media platform. 

So which is Crowded? A legitimate attempt at topical humor of the new nuclear family or thinly veiled rantings of an old codger? Let's find out! 

Anyway, in case yet more of my barely-tangential ranting didn't clue you in (and oh yeah expect some more of that later on) the premise of Crowded follows a pair of empty-nester parents who are suddenly not-so-empty-nesting anymore when their children come back after they've all been laid off from their jobs, or something. One of them is Shea played by Miranda Cosgrove - again, the whole reason why we even care about what is now a half-season wonder. You know, because that's always an encouraging sign towards quality.

And just as I warned you, it's ranting time. Except I've managed to actually blindside myself because I've got three rants in here, six minutes in (although thankfully at least it's only a 22-minute episode OnDemand, minus commercial breaks) and I don't even know where to start.I guess I might as well get the most inflammatory one out of the way.

Yeah, about the whole "lol Millennials can't get jobs" kind of thing (and New Media too, so consider this 3.5 rants). We have seminal multi-cam veteran Patrick Wharburton here who plays...I don't fucking know because this show apparently hasn't even mastered the simple concept of an intro and credits, we have older daughter Stella played by...again, I don't fucking know, but she looks like the actress who played Meadow Soprano on, um, The Sopranos so lemme look it up...nope, not her (Stella is in fact played by Mia Serafino, and according to her IMDb resume this is her first big break, in which case I'd like to offer my apologies Mia) and as previously noted we have Miranda as Shea. Anyway Stella is complaining that she broke up with her boyfriend, can't find any acting jobs, her YouTube channel isn't getting enough hits so she has to move back in, and immediately after that (and I do mean immediately, Stella even partially breaks the fourth wall to complain about Shea interrupting her scene) we have, well, Shea coming in to interrupt the scene. Shea lays it out more bluntly, with nearly 30% of Millennials being unemployed. Now, especially in cheap multi-cam comedies (and especially in actual informative news media, or at least outlets masquerading as such that for some reason seem to have an actual "get off my lawn"-style anti-Millennial agenda *coughFOXNewscough*) this is portrayed as the product of sheer laziness - that somehow the Baby Boomers fucked up raising their own children, yet at the same time the responsibility for the fucked-up-ness for how those children were raised falls squarely at the children themselves. To paraphrase the great Bender Bending Rodriguez, this brings up the classic robot saying does not compute. But that's neither here nor there, I don't want to rant about who's actually responsible for Millennials being fucked up, I want to debate the base fact regarding whether or not Millennials are even fucked up in the first place. For all the ranting and raving about how lazy Millennials are, how irresponsible and clueless we are, how shiftless we are, and how we'll never be like "The Greatest Generation" (and quite frankly "The Greatest Generation" deserves its own rant - one far outside the purview of this blog unless say someone like Debby were to colossally fuck up again and some how make it such - hey, I never thought I'd talk about my ex-girlfriend's alcoholism on this blog, so I pretty much have to keep my options wide open at this point) by media pundits at large and especially FOX News, they seem to convieniently forget that it's Millennials, and for the first time in American history both men and women Millennials, who are boring the brunt of the fighting, the casualties and the dying in what used to be known collectively as The War on Terror but is now increasingly seen as one of the largest and most shameful mistakes ever committed by American foreign policy during the entire history of this nation (which includes not only Vietnam, the CIA-led usurping of the democratically-elected government of Iran which paved the way for the self-proclaimed Ayatollah takeover and the failed invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs but also the questionable and disastrous invasion of Canada during the War of 1812) - a war campaign incessantly pushed not only by members of both the Baby Boomer and "Greatest" Generation, but especially by the Republican right-wing, until pretty much all parties just gave into their demands (but again I'm veering dangerously into ill-advised territory for this blog). I could go on, but really, that right there should be enough proof to simply end the conversation, permanently. Unfortunately, it's an unfair, awful, disgusting and offensive stereotype that continues to persist and is no less perpetuated by other Millennials including the still admittedly gorgeous actress Lulu Antariska (who you'll recognize from around, including the main cast role Stevie from How to Rock) who along with some other right-wing sentiments she's expressed made me decide to simply stop following her on social media - and considering that I follow Dan Schneider, that says something.

The second rant is another rant of age-related demographics, but more directly TV related. Thinking back on it, I can definitely describe Undateable as being an attempt to grab the same sort of demo and even feel of Friends back in the day, only that it's an attempt being made by someone recently immigrated from Tallinn, Estonia, and he talks about how they play reruns of Friends all the time in the old country now but he's never actually seen the show. That demo just happens to be the exact type of Millennial Crowded is poking fun at, which back during the turn of the Millennium were considered highly lucrative (or at least the age bracket now represented by Millennials) and despite Shea's rattling off of statistics is still considered a highly lucrative demo (hence NBC's sheer desperation to keep Undateable on life support well after the ghost has given up on the corpse). One of Undateabale's problems wasn't just that it felt like it was trying to grab some of that spirit of Friends (I wouldn't say Undateable is a ripoff of Friends in any form, although perhaps that might actually result in improvement) but in fact stuck in the very same time and place as Friends, as if it was almost a retro-comedy plucked directly from 2003. Crowded feels very much the same, a sitcom stuck in a now far bygone time - and perhaps a time we should be glad is bygone, for multiple reasons but especially because quite frankly it was an extremely lousy time for multi-cam broadcast sitcoms. American historians talk about the 1970s and up to say 1982-82 as the "Malaise Era," a period in American history where the economy got so bad it actually started having effects on the popular and general culture of the time. The early-mid 2000s wasn't quite that bad economically (in fact it wasn't bad at all, that would only come 2005-06 and especially during the '08 crash), but it was a very desolate and desperate landscape as far as multi-cam sitcoms were concerned, and it certainly was looking like a "Malaise Era" for comedy (this is the period where "the death of the sitcom" originated, as mentioned in my Undateabale review). Just as with Undateabale and Crowded, multi-cams would pop up and die an anonymous and unknown death almost just as fast. Yes, that still happens now - this very show and the last one I reviewed are proof of that - but it was particularly noticeable back then, enough to make Variety, Deadline and AV Club headlines. In fact perhaps it's not as noticeable now only because we've just gotten used to it.

Just as Undateable was reaching for the young adult demo, Crowded is reaching for perhaps the one sub-demo actually even more lucrative - the demo old enough to have older children and perhaps be empty nesters themselves, and thus either have already gone through a string of promotions and just starting to enjoy the fruits of their career-long labor or are already retired and on a fixed income, but again thanks to a string of promotions and perhaps even a golden parachute or two, it's a big fixed income and it's at worst only partially supplemented by Uncle Sam. And just as Millennials and young adults are attracted to show starring and about the lives of Millennials and young adults (or at least that's what execs think), wealthier Baby Boomers are attracted to shows about wealthier Baby Boomers (and by wealthier I don't mean as a demo compared to Millennials, I very specifically mean wealthier Baby Boombers, which is why almost all of the shows in this genre appealing to this age demo are about upper-middle class families that you'd realistically expect to have a brand-new Ford Explorer with heated and cooled leather seats and the biggest, thirstiest engine option). In fact Crowded very specifically reminds of an old FOX show called 'Til Death starring Brad Garrett. It was so mediocre it almost looped around to be remarkable in its mediocrity, and it was renewed more out of desperation than anything else (again, a situation NBC is all too familiar with). By the time of its last renewal, however, the writing was on the wall and it was extremely clear that the only reason why it was renewed was because FOX desperately needed to fill time slots, which lead to a very interesting situation where the production crew would intentionally throw together bizarre, nonsensical episodes as a way to let off steam knowing that virtually no one was watching anyway. It was enough to catch the attention of AV Club, far too little, far too late (and you really should read that article, it does become fascinating how this show transformed itself). Anyway, both Crowded and Undateable really remind me of the multi-cams that started flooding the market in the middle 00's - very bland, very by-the-numbers and the characters never budging out of trope archetypes, almost as if the mere fact that it was television was enough to guarantee the viewing numbers. And perhaps that's the actual thought process going on - but these shows started dropping like flies when alternative entertainment options such as online and additional TV outlets through cable started opening up, hence, again, the death of the sitcom. That said, it really boggles my mind that highly experienced and venerated television comedy producers can still try to shovel the same show, rewrapped yet again, over and over and expect different results.*

The third rant is really directed at Mia and Miranda especially and specifically - yeah, you. Or rather, why do you (Miranda in particular, since she's been around and Mia's a newcomer) keep falling for these stereotype roles over and over again? I understand you take what you can get, in which case I should be directing my ire at the producers and show developers - but I'm sorry, actors gotta take responsibility too. Like Brenda Song who saddled herself not only with the awful walking stereotype when she was on Seth MacFarlane's Dads, but just the fact that she saddled herself with that obvious sinking-while-still-in-port ship of a show period. And here we have Shea, a stereotype of a nerdy, know-it-all girl who is supposed to also be a liberated working woman (at least in the eyes of the producers) but having some of those expectations of liberation backfire on her (which, on these types of shows, usually works back to being a thinly-disguised screed about how "feminism" and "SJWs" have ruined this generation and turned them into shiftless, unemployable over-educated and over-esteemed hacks). Debby's Lucy Diamond (sorry still can't get over that corny, trying-to-hard-to-reference name) is a little better but I dare say still in the same vein of damnit you should know better, woman. And I'd even go so far as to pin Victoria Justice's character from MTV's Eye Candy in here too. All of these roles have varying degrees of awful, but they're all still awful, and they all reflect that maybe the actress behind the role should've exercised better discretion when signing up for it. Then again there doesn't seem to be a lot of opportunity for ex-Nick and Disney actresses (that's going to be its own dedicated post pretty soon, mainly because I forgot to talk about it when I was ranting about Debby's DUI) and it seems the best escape is to pull a Selena, Demi or Ari and go the music route (and that said, acting talent and singing talent are very much independent of each other). 


The smartest person in the entire history of Nickelodeon. From some website called "ConversationsAboutHer.com", I dunno, sounds creepy mane.

Oh yeah, and it's pretty obvious that Shae is supposed to be a young but shrill feminist/SJW stereotype, in case I haven't made that clear already. Oh, and she literally has no friends. Yeah, this is going to be yet another worthwhile 22 minutes provided by NBC.

Wow, they pull the same "obvious fake censor" schitck that The Goldbergs do, at least for that scene. 

At this point, about 7 minutes in, and still hurting from the memory of Undateable and The Mysteries of Laura I'm feeling like I've seen enough (it takes me long enough to reach the remote and thumb through the DVR list for the next episode that I catch enough to see Patrick Wharburton's character be a helicopter pilot instructor, which is an interesting career choice - again, one I'm actually a little familiar with given my own career history but it just seems like a bizarre choice for someone the focus of a sitcom like this - I for one might expect them to actually have him be a retiree. Also, given Wharburton's association with Family Guy, this also strikes me as a ripoff of Glenn Quagmire). Right into the second episode and it seems like an almost carbon-copy of the pilot, setup included. 

...I have to admit that I really like what's her face, the older redhead wife, in the opening scene of episode two (Good God I am so fucking hopeless when it comes to redheads).

And about thirty seconds later I've already had enough. It's extremely clear that, yet again, NBC, there's nothing of redeeming value here. Offensive stereotypes, yes; bored-looking actors regretting their agents, yes, but actual entertainment, no. There's a very good reason why this show only survived a handful of episodes that should never, ever be viewed again. Do not put this show on your resume, Miranda. Mia, uhh...don't do it either. Trust me on this your career has already suffered enough just being on this show. Again, if you need to kill 30 minutes this badly, hit your Twitter feeds if nothing else. If that's not enough, it only means you haven't subscribed to enough people on Twitter yet and that you fail at social media.

Perhaps you can write for NBC too!

Episode Grade: It's slightly better than Undateable which means it's still getting a big fat F. It's also somehow even more pointless than Undateable. It's just not quite as bad which is what saves it from getting an F-.
Episode MVP: Absolutely everyone comes out of this looking like a loser, Miranda included (if not especially). That said, I'm giving this episode's MVP award in a three-way tie between eight-years-in-the-future Francesca Capaldi of Dog With a Blog fame when she's most likely going to be faced with this very same decision, whether or not the role and/or sitcom she's signing up for is utter crap, and hopefully encouraging her to make good decisions so that she can star in a show that actually has positive messages to say about redheads; to John Oliver and Last Week Tonight for being the first thing that came on as soon as I finished torturing myself with Crowded and for actually being fucking funny; and again to the audience-at-large for being wise enough to wholesale reject this crap.
Episode LVP: Yeah this is getting so bad I feel obligated to start awarding this now, and I'm awarding it to the entirety of NBC, as a network. Simply put NBC, you suck. You're sitting on a landfill's worth of garbage with maybe a few smatterings of watch-ability here and there, and most of that watch-ability is concentrated in James Freakin' Spader.

Anyway, we're going to conclude this tour de shit with FOX's Grandfathered, and since I've actually already seen this episode I already know ahead of time it's going to be actually tolerable. Which means grades higher than an F and actual MVP awards! Whoo!

*BTW the quote "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" is usually miss-attributed to Einstein, he never said it. 


3 comments:

  1. Barely even heard of this one, so i have nothing to say. The girls tend to be fine in these shows for the most part, and honestly I'm just glad they have roles on adult shows in a way, too bad they are now mostly canned. Selena, Demi, and the like were smart to just rely on music, for the most part.

    I'm not aware of NBC's prgramming because I'm a loser who only watches kid channels, but i don't hear anyone say their watching anything on there nowadays so i assume they got nothing.

    (Looking it up, there seems to be a few semi popular ones so...meh). Hopefully, these people can move on to something a bit better, or just rely on music.

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    1. The relative anonymity of Crowded is almost semi-intentional. It premiered sometime in February or even March, which is never a good sign (ideally you want to get as close to the first or second week of September as possible, with best choice of all being, of course, the actual first or second week of September). To kick a show that deep into the year already is to admit you think you've made a mistake but you're airing it to fill time and to at least recover some of the money you've spent on it anyway (some select few shows are considered so bad and such a colossal mistake the network would just rather eat the cost and simply never air it, ever - which is what should've happened to Crowded from a strict quality standpoint, but hey, the exposure for Miranda and especially relative newcomer Mia still does more good than harm). And you do have a point - bad roles, especially when they come in just once in a while, don't exactly hurt - or at least they're less harmful than just simply doing nothing. But it might also be an indication of the type of role Hollywood is actually willing to throw at Miranda - and going from THE principal in a hit TV show (again, Miranda was the highest-paid sitcom actress in all of Hollywood by the end of iCarly - she was pulling in a reported $180,000 per episode, or basically a brand-new Aston Martin or heck even a house every week) to second-tier in a midseason replacement is a marked downgrade.

      Miranda actually tried getting a singing career going, but while she was touring her tour bus was in an accident and she was actually severely injured, which effected her singing so badly, somehow, that she was basically forced to quit.

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    2. Oh, and I don't think watching Nick or Disney Channel makes you a loser - I am, after all, the one who made this blog ;) In fact I think a lot of the shows on Nick and Disney are better than the sitcoms on a lot of actual "adult" networks, especially the broadcast ones. I think most people would agree Liv and Maddie legitimately is better than most of the sitcoms out there, especially since it feels much more cohesive and about an actual family than, well, most things by Chuck Lorrie (and unlike most reviewers who bother to run blogs, I actually think TBBT is pretty ok).

      And yeah, best of luck to Miranda regardless where she goes. And to Mia too. It's really hard to break into the business period and every single role she gets will help her earn a comfortable living as an actress and be able to make an impact on the artform. Next time you see a rerun of Suite Life on Deck or Jessie, keep in mind that behind Debby there's anywhere from hundreds to, depending on how you want to broadly define it, thousands of other young actresses who were passed up for the role (there's actually an interesting story that directly involves both Debby and my ex together that I discovered after the fact, but I think people are already tired of me talking about both of them). Even for lower-tier guest speaking roles there's probably hundreds of candidates that were looked at, and just speaking raw statistics at least some of them will eventually give up without having ever scored a speaking role on a single episode.It's really humbling and it does make me appreciate especially the young actors who go out there and work exhausting schedules just hoping to score a gig and balancing school and sometimes an actual job in the meantime (and in fact I'm going to cover that in greater detail on its own, hopefully soon).

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Yup it's another "the future of this blog" post but this time we're talking about videos, Patreon and Jim Sterling

So, despite the whole "future of this blog" thing being featured first and most prominently in the title and being the most import...