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TV Review: Thank God You’re Here

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We're nearing the end of midseason slump time, when all of my favorite shows go off the air until just before May sweeps. There are still a few weeks where I’m left with dusty reruns and lots of commercials for new episodes of old favorites that will return soon, not to mention hit or miss midseason replacement shows that the networks don’t think are strong enough for the regular fall kick-off. Fun times.

When I heard that NBC would be premiering a new improv comedy show called Thank God You’re Here, I thought I finally got a reprieve from slumpy primetime pickings. Well, I was wrong.

The concept is interesting, having already proved its worth in the Australian market: four celebs/actors/comedians each enter a scene through a door, immediately greeted by an ensemble actor saying, “Thank God you’re here!” The comedian is the only one in the scene who hasn’t seen the script and must react on command. The sketches are complete with costumes and wigs, and after all four complete their individual scenes, they go head to head in one final show of extemporaneous humor.

Now, I am a big improv fan. I loved Whose Line is it Anyway (both the American and British versions), even in reruns on ABC Family and Comedy Central. So the prospect of a similar show got me excited to hit the couch on Monday night.

The first episode featured Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie, Best of Show), Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle), Joel McHale (E!’s The Soup), and Wayne Knight (Seinfeld), none of whom elicited more than a passing smirk. Scenes that the actors walked into included: a fake doctor being interviewed on a morning talk show; an aging rocker performing for a music executive; an archeologist on an Egyptian dig; and a beauty pageant contestant in the interview portion of the contest.

I’m not sure if it was the writing of the scenes, where you can tell the ensemble cast’s line were designed to put the guests on the spot, or the poor reaction of the comedians that made the show so disappointing. Either way, it simply wasn’t funny.  

Adding to the awkwardness of the show was starting and stopping between scenes. David Allen Grier (In Living Color) hosts, directing the audience and guests through the show’s structure. His personality is light as always, and he looks great with very short grey hair. But having a host for this show explaining what is going on between scenes really disrupts the flow. He does, however join the cast from time to time, which livens things up considerably.

Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall, News Radio) sits in judgment of it all, and comments on each sketch.  He also declares a winner, who gets a lovely polymer trophy at the end of the program. His role doesn’t really add anything to the show though.

The night’s second episode faced the exact same issues.

My husband, the TV junkie, concluded that Thank God You’re Here is “something to watch” until the regular shows come back. I’ll pass all together.

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About Robin Kavanagh

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  • Thank you! I agree 100%!

  • Disappointed Australian

    I have to agree with the criticism of the first episodes of the American series of Thank God You’re Here. I was looking forward to seeing what changes would be made and how the show would be put together for a different audience. I was very disappointed to see the wooden improvising and the poorly scripted sketches. If you want to get an idea of how good the show could be if they iron out all the little problems, track down the Australian series. I recommend any of the sketches with Frank Woodley, Matthew Newton, Josh Lawson or Alan Brough.

  • braddo

    Ah, jeez – how did NBC manage to screw this up? As mentioned above, the Australian original is a show worth watching – it was funny, and popular (ratings-wise) from the word go. The US version must mimic the original to quite a large extent (it even sounds like some of the skits/scripts are identical – the beauty pageant and the Egyptian dig were highlights of Season One in Australia), so why didn’t they bother to copy what was funny along with everything else?

  • Josh Tanner

    I thought the show was hilarious, and it was even better this week. You have to watch!!!

  • Josh Tanner

    I like the show as well and thought it was interesting to watch. It’s not so predictable, like some of the other comedies. NBC does comedy right!!!

  • Robin Kavanagh

    I have to disagree. I watched last night as well and did not laugh once. Brian Posehn was really bad. Though I know he specializes in awkward, dorky characters, if he was playing one last night (which I suspect he was not), it made him look like he has no idea what to do. And I still can’t get over how the ensemble delivers such obvious lines for the celebs to respond to.

  • Carl Thompson

    I disagree with you IT WAS HILARIOUS… It was really good to me