Monday, April 9, 2007

REVIEW Tossed In The Deep End

Thank God You're Here
Premieres tonight @ 9 on NBC

Normally, I'd try and spread out my posts a little more, but this is a special case. My usual television reviews won't get posted until the day after a show airs. But on the contrary, thanks to the internet and NBC, I got an early look at Thank God You're Here.

The new series premieres tonight on NBC and is all about improv. Each week, the show gathers together some of the funniest folks in comedy, dresses them up, and tosses them into the deep end. The actor has absolutely no preparation and not a clue as to what is behind the door to the scene he's about to enter. All he knows is that somebody on the other side will say "Thank god you're here!"

David Alan Grier hosts the show and Dave Foley is the judge. The judge of what, I'm still not sure, but he's there to award a trophy to basically whoever he likes best at the end. If you're trying to figure out what the trophy is for, compare it to the points Drew Carey used to give out is Whose Line Is It Anyway?

The first episode features Wayne Knight, Bryan Cranston, Joel McHale and Jennifer Coolidge.

Knight is wearing a lab coat, and when he walks through the door, he is greeted by a television producer who puts him on set with an anchor to talk about his new line of products. Rather than an alternative medicine, he calls them an alternative to medicine. He borrows that joke a couple of other times during the sketch to get out of some jams.

Cranston is dressed as an '80s rocker complete with the crazy long hair and tight jeans. On the other side of his door is his agent, a recod label executive and a hot girl. He smooches with all of them. Seriously. Hilarious. He's then forced to break into song. Can you say power ballad?

McHale is donning 1800s-era archaeologist duds and before he goes in, jokes that he wishes he lived in the 1860s so he'd get to wear the cool clothes. Grier remarked that he was relieved he didn't as it was a "bad time" for his people. But Joel doesn't get to walk through the door. He has to crawl in through the back because his scene is set in an ancient Egyptian tomb complete with a sarcophagus and mysterious hieroglyphics. He utters the words of a curse that kills a possessed mummy.

Coolidge, dressed to the nines in her cocktail gown and labeled Miss Caicos, walked into the middle of a pageant of some sort. She was a riot if not a little slow to respond (but if she was doing that for comic effect, it worked). She was asked about what she'd rid the world of and her response of "dry ice" sent me as well as Foley into hysterics.

The show culminated with a sketch in which all four actors were involved. Dressed as ridiculous looking superheroes, they were called upon to save the world. McHale, fitted with giant prop ears, played his character as half deaf. Hilarious. Knight sported a green leotard with a purple speedo he couldn't keep up. He also had a pair of antennae that kept falling off causing him to wail with the loss of his vision. Coolidge didn't leave a big impression on me in that sketch but Cranston played a gay superhero called Lightning Rod. Pun very much intended. He might have been a tad over the top though.

It's worth noting that inasmuch as they weren't the stars, the background actors have a pretty tough gig. They have to keep up with these tried and true comedians. And they did so very well. They hardly ever broke character. Even when Cranston went around kissing everyone. And when all was said and done, despite my feeling of him being over the top, he walked away with the first ever Thank God You're Here Award. Woo. Hoo.

Ironically, the segments I laughed at the hardest were the ones pre-recorded the day before which featured each individual in a pair of scenes. One is at an airport where they've been pulled off to have their luggage searched. In the other, they're dressed as police officers, being asked questions from a reporter about an event that has just taken place.

It was a funny hour of television, if I do say so. And even though I love to laugh, I'm by and large not the biggest fan of television comedy as a lot of it has been done badly before. Enjoy the show tonight, if you decide to watch.

Grade: B

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