Column: Single in the city and how ‘Grand Crew’ and ‘How I Met Your Father’ are hoping to inject new energy in a tried-and-true sitcom format

1/23/2022 4:00:00 PM

Sometimes a comedy just needs time to find its footing. With stronger, funnier writing, both shows have real potential.

HowIMetYourFather on Hulu and GrandCrew on NBC both center around young(ish) single pals in the city who hang out together at their regular bar. For her column, Nina_Metz looks at how each is attempting to revive this sitcom genre.

Sometimes a comedy just needs time to find its footing. With stronger, funnier writing, both shows have real potential.

at 5:05 AM From “Living Single” to “Friends,” the ‘90s ushered in a distinct genre of sitcom centering on the misadventures of youngish, mostly single pals in the big city.Copied! Print Mother Nature, as the adage goes, must really abhor a vacuum.Share this article on Tumblr My wife and I stepped out of the limo, returning home from the Kodak Theatre, back in the days when people actually attended awards shows in real life.Right now, the only concrete information we have is that the existing single player campaign of Infinite will get co-op some time after this current six month season ends.

A pair of new shows, Hulu’s “How I Met Your Father” and NBC’s “Grand Crew,” are looking to revive the format for the 2020s with middling success, but there’s real potential here for each.Sometimes a comedy just needs time to find its footing; I hope both get the opportunity.The newest example comes to us from Chevron Corp.Let’s start with “How I Met Your Father,” which has a higher profile if only because it’s a spinoff of “How I Met Your Mother,” which ran for nine seasons on CBS.My son looked at me with a wry smile and said, “It’s no Oscar, Dad.Instead of each episode beginning with a disembodied future voice (Bob Saget in the original) regaling his preteens about his younger days in New York City, now we actually see the main character in the future (Kim Cattrall) talking with her son via video call.Through the headhunting firm Cella, Chevron lately has been posting a recruiting ad for a business writer to become “an integral member of the ‘newsroom’ team.I’m not sure flipping the perspective is entirely successful — this time it’s the kid who’s the disembodied voice — but I’m happy to see Cattrall show up in anything that isn’t the dreadful “Sex and the City” sequel The cast of"How I Met Your Father," from left: Chris Lowell, Hilary Duff, Francia Raisa, Tom Ainsley, Suraj Sharma and Tien Tran.My gut says that we may get some bit of story content attached to themed multiplayer seasons, but that’s not confirmed, certainly.

(Patrick Wymore/Hulu) Hilary Duff plays the character in her younger incarnation — aka in the present — and I think she has a terrific presence here.) An essay’s fundamental obligations are supposed to be to the reader.He is the biggest football fan in America, yet I couldn’t bribe him to watch Friday Night Lights.She’s fun screen company, which is key, and when called on to dig for a deeper emotion, Duff lets all those feelings wash across her face in a way that never feels at odds with the bouncy demands of the sitcom format.The pilot episode is clumsy with exposition as it introduces the group..Duff’s character has a roommate (Francia Raisa) who has just asked her new guy (Tom Ainsley as a cartoonish British aristo) to move in with them: “I know this is fast,” she explains and half-apologizes, “but when he told his crazy-fancy high society family that he was heading to New York to be with a Mexican assistant stylist, they made some very outdated ‘Ugly Betty’ jabs and then they cut off his trust fund.This made his eyes glaze over, so I pivoted and started talking about the football parties and drinking.” That’s … a mouthful..

And it’s emblematic of the show’s self-conscious efforts (in the first episode, at least) to make it clear “this is a multicultural group here!” rather than letting those details emerge more organically.From left: Chris Lowell and Hilary Duff are the will they/won't they couple of"How I Met Your Father.." (Patrick Wymore/Hulu) The cast is rounded out by Chris Lowell (as schoolteacher who moonlights for Uber; he and Duff are the will-they-or-won’t-they couple), Tien Tran (as Lowell’s estranged sister who has just divorced her wife and is trying to date again) and Suraj Sharma (who is in an long-distance relationship and owns the bar where everyone gathers).There’s a blandness to the show and its self-conscious attempts at now-ness (Tinder! Uber! Viral videos!) but the talent in front of the camera is strong enough to generate some chemistry if show creators Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (who cowrote the movie “Love, Simon”) get a better handle on the writing itself and what makes these characters click.is to serve the financial interests of its sponsor.The same holds true for “Grand Crew,” which premiered earlier this month, but the show has a much stronger sense of its actors’ strengths.

Created by Phil Augusta Jackson (whose credits include HBO’s “Insecure”), the friends are as follows: The terrific Nicole Byer as the supremely self-confident glue that holds the group together, Chicago native Echo Kellum as her brother (a hopeless romantic), Justin Cunningham as the married househusband who spends an inordinate amount of time with his friends in the evenings while his wife apparently does other things, Aaron Jennings as the yuppie go-getter, Carl Tart as Anthony’s roommate (a charmer who has yet to find his professional way in the world) and Grasie Mercedes as their pal who works at the wine bar where they all converge.” The Cella posting didn’t identify Chevron as the client, mentioning only that the job would be in the “oil and energy” field.This might be NBC’s first comedy in recent memory to actually center the social lives of a group of Black friends.The cast of"Grand Crew" at their regular wine bar spot, from left: Justin Cunningham, Carl Tart, Echo Kellum, Aaron Jennings and Nicole Byer.It could hardly do otherwise, because the headhunters reached out proactively, as it were, to a reporter for the energy and environment news site E&E News , who blew the whistle.(Justin Lubin/NBC) The standouts are Byer, who is very funny (which will come as no surprise for anyone familiar with Netflix’s “Nailed It!”), and Tart as a guy whose identity isn’t tied to his job (I’m not even sure he has a job).Refreshingly, he’s a character without many neuroses who proudly announces he gets all the therapy he needs from YouTube compilations of Will Smith interviews.“These are stories that can be leveraged across our digital ecosystem: chevron.

The show often explores the notions and tensions around modern Black masculinity that demands a strong exterior while also having a genuine desire to grapple with vulnerabilities (there’s a running joke about them crumbling into emotional puddles when watching “Paddington 2″).I like all of this.” Put that way, it sounds like just another version of corporate public relations.A lot.If we’re comparing, I would say the comedy feels less labored than it does on “How I Met Your Father,” but it’s a show that relies heavily on the charisma and comedic instincts of its performers.” Fewer, however, describe their leaders as managing editors or their products as “news articles,” adopting more of the nomenclature of mainstream journalism.That’s what good shows do.

But the cast is carrying a disproportionate amount of the load.Chevron’s effort, like those of other big enterprises, is designed to preempt reporting it can’t fully control, because the latter is produced by independent and objective news organizations.For now, this isn’t a show I see being quoted or gifed and I’d love to see the writers elevate what is already a pretty good sitcom, because it has the potential to be great.Also, Kellum has one of the best speaking voices on television.What’s insidious about this is the blurring of the line between news and propaganda, vastly in favor of propaganda.Carl Tart in"Grand Crew." (Elizabeth Morris/NBC) The “young friends gathering at their regular watering hole” genre is one I’ll always get behind.A Chevron PR website pretends to be an objective news source If you happened to click Monday on the Richmond Standard, a community news site for that Bay Area locality, you would have come upon a fairly snarky piece about 170 activists (“some from Richmond”) who took a train cross-country to participate in the People’s Climate March in New York on Sunday.

There’s something aspirational about the way they always make time, as a group, to just hang out together.Their lives are mostly unencumbered and full of potential, romantic or otherwise.The media industry, in a way, has been a willing participant in this trend.And overall everyone’s mostly unbothered about making rent or paying that bar bill.There’s a lot of appeal in sinking into that fantasy for 30 minutes at a time.News organizations take care to clearly label that material as advertising, communicating the distinction between what they publish as news and what only superficially appears to be news.I’ve never thought of “Cheers” as fitting into this particular category, but I don’t know why not — George Wendt, Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Rhea Perlman and John Ratzenberger were all in their early 30s when the show premiered in 1982.

Before that, “Three’s Company” had the Regal Beagle, my favorite bar name in TV history.As.But if we go back even further, there’s David Mamet’s rarely produced 1974 play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” with its short, punchy, acerbic snapshots of dating in early adulthood.Hollywood would eventually option the rights, turning it into the much more optimistic 1986 film “About Last Night …” In her 1974 review of the play, Tribune theater critic Linda Winer wasn’t impressed, calling it a “traditional, uneven, extraordinarily normal and abnormally ordinary play” about four Chicago singles.The title, of course, is deeply ironic — the perversity is in their inability to connect.“How I Met Your Father” and “Grand Crew” are far more hopeful.

With stronger, funnier writing, they very well might justify that optimism.Nicole Byer in"Grand Crew.".

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Nina_Metz maybe...nevrlosehope .com... Nina_Metz Does the father stick around?

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