Ok, so some of you who have known me for a while know that I run a blog where I review kidcoms on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon (as indicated by that thing about Jennette McCurdy that keeps hovering around here - I’ve posted some stuff on Oppo before too, but trust me I’m not going to make it a regular thing). Recently I did a few “Where Are They Now?” reviews of sitcoms some actors have since moved on to, and well as you can guess from the headline for the most part they end up pretty shitty (it turns out casting directors aren’t impressed with child stars). Included is a review of what turned out to be the series finale of the NBC sitcom Undateable which for what it was/what it’s worth actually has an unusual and ultra-gimmicky history behind it, but it does nothing to save it either from sinking Nielsen ratings or just the fact that the quality of the show itself is extremely low. You can read the review here or just read the text below (since it’s just a Blogspot site I get paid exactly $0.00 either way).
If you guys like it enough I can post another review sometime, say, within the vicinity of next week (or you can just check out the link above and read them on Blogspot where they already exist - oh and if you’re wondering why the text is red on Blogspot it’s to distinguish myself from my co-author, yes I actually duped someone into helping me with this. Oh, and I get very ranty with these reviews).
Oh, and I know there are a ton of weird spelling mistakes. Again I get paid $0.00 and I just ended up writing these really late at night.
Yet again, as with our previous foray into NBC, The Mysteries of Laura, this show sucks too much to deserve a quote pulled from the episode itself so I’m going to instead use this space to point out that Modern Family has just gotten awful the last few years including the entirety of this one. Seriously, not one good episode this season. Anyway, this is Part 1 of a three-part series where we look at where some of our favorite Nickelodeon and Disney Channel stars have gone off to after their shows had ended (or I guess it’s technically Part 2 of a four-part series if you count Mysteries of Laura). So far, it ain’t pretty in the slightest. Debby Ryan’s two-episode stint/aborted semi-regular status on Mysteries of Laura aside, we start with Undateable featuring Bridgit Mendler as Candace, a regular and integral part of the main cast.
I’m trying to think of a good way to open up this review and come up with a good introduction to Undateable and...I just can’t. And to be perhaps both brutally honest and selfish I think it’s more a fault with the actual show than with me. And I think it’s a big part of the reason why the Season 3 finale ended up being the Series Finale well after it had aired and NBC just decided to pull the plug on what had started as yet another mind-numbing mundane experience and turned into a completely batshit insane experiment and yet another desperate grasp by NBC to not only adjust to the new reality of television viewing and demographics but try to stay relevant compared to their slightly better-fairing competition.
For starters I hadn’t even heard of Undateable until it was announced through the grapevines I typically subscribe to that Bridgit Mendler was going to be a part of it, and my first reaction waswhy is Bridgit Mendler showing up on yet another reality dating show show? As it turned out Undateable was yet another 30-minute multi-cam comedy that apparently so thoroughly blended itself into the woodwork the audience it was trying to find apparently also decided to blend itself in from being able to be found by Nielsen Corp. After somehow surviving a whole two seasons on the typical pure banality that inspired pundits to declare the multi-cam dead and buried way back when Y2K was a legitimate fear, NBC decided what the show really needed to survive going the distance was one of the greatest Hail Marys I’ve ever seen in my entire life as far as the television landscape is concerned. In fact not only did they decide such a crazy approached, by they fucking double-downed on that craziness: Undateable would be performed live, as in, the viewer at home was experiencing it at the same time as the “live studio audience” and for that matter the actors themselves. Well that’s technically not true, there’s always tape delay for time zone considerations. Oh, no, see, that’s where the double-down on the craziness comes in - Undateable would be performed live, with a live broadcast for the East Coast feed and a completely separate, equally live broadcast for the West Coast feed. Yes, this means that not only you got technically a slightly different episode depending on where you lived (I’m thoroughly not convinced the novelty is anywhere near worth it but if you want to know what those differences are a few reviewers have managed to bag both feeds back-to-back out there, feel free to Google them yourself) but that the cast and crew were quite literally working double-time to deliver these episodes. I’ve mentioned this in my Mysteries of Laura review already, but needless to say this is a pretty heavy workload, and keep in mind the workload to do a live performance is much greater as it is verses doing a taped performance, where you can go back and redo shoots, or do shoots out of order and other things that make filming an episode much easier and more convenient.
I really cannot explain why NBC would think it’s a good idea to do separate live performances for each feed, other than the sheer novelty of it in order to generate marketing buzz. If you know anything about the current state and history of NBC you know that, yes, NBC can easily become that desperate.
I’ve only ever seen one other episode of Undateabale, and that was the episode that not only featured Bridgit’s inauguration into the cast but Nickelodeon favorite Victoria Justice and Ed Sheeran - one of the biggest acts in the entire world right now, alleged “boring” ex-boyfriend to Ellie Goulding and both soundtrack performer and semi-recurring star of FX’s The Bastard Executioner which is legitimately one of the worst pieces of TV I have ever seen in my life, thank goodness that ended up being a one-season wonder, too bad this show didn’t. Anyway, that episode followed very closely the pattern established for the rest of the show to follow - the cast gathers in this bar, they have excruciating inane conversations about why they suck so bad at romantic pursuits, the audience is instructed to laugh and then the guest musical performer performs (or in this case, both of them). The best and only good things about this episode is that we got a Bridgit Mendler-Victoria Justice duet of the theme song (that as far as I’m aware only ever played on the show during this specific performance, and for all I know was actually written for this specific performance) which was soon topped by Ed joining in. I’ll admit, that’s probably a musical get that will likely never be done again, and I have to give kudos to the people who got that to pull off, but that’s as much a credit to the casting director and agents as it is to any other person responsible for any “quality” in this show.
Musical performances aside, watching Undateable is very much like walking into the wrong classroom without realizing and suddenly being faced with a thirty minute lecture on the importance of artificially made and engineered irrigation and agricultural waterways in ancient Babylonia - with no visual aids, no PowerPoint slides, just the drone of the professor’s voice. It’s impossible to not fidget, or not find a pen to play with, or just not be distracted. Watching Undateable is just boring.
This has been the pattern from the first Bridgit Mendler episode to the last, and the series finale. We have the crowd cheering at a close-up opening shot of a chalkboard that says Hang Tough Flint, MI which might be either well-timed or badly-timed depending on how you look at it. Then we have what can accurately be described as “sex humor.” What do I mean by quote-sex humor-unquote? You can drop in whatever sex joke comes to mind and it’ll be perfectly interchangeable regardless of the actual context of the narrative. That’s, um, what the next 44 minutes is going to be like wait what 44 minutes? Damnit.
Nevermind the extended torture I have to endure through this - again, it’s bad enough that these people have to do two regular 30-minute episodes back-to-back. I can’t imagine the marathon having to do two hours of this would be like, especially given that the second hour is supposed to be exactly the same as the first hour.
Next some random British-sounding jackass walks in, I don’t know who any of these characters are and I don’t care so I’m going to refer to nearly all of them simply as jackass, and since most of them are practically interchangeable it doesn’t matter anyway - he announced that since it’s a new year (the season finale originally aired all the way back in January/February) he was going to dye his hair red but chickened out. To which promptly some other interchangeable jackass walks into the scene and says “Thank God, because red hair is the worst.” Then British-sounding jackass says that he did manage to convince Candace (again, Bridgit Mendler, the whole reason why we even care about this episode here at N&DCReviewed) to dye her hair red (maybe because after all these years she’s envious of Debby). Oh, and British-sounding jackass gives out a weak, very forced yay that the audience cheers to, cuing Bridgit (yeah I’m just gonna keep calling her Bridgit) to walk into the scene with her new red mane. And honestly I think it looks quite nice (then again if you’ve read my many posts about the subject of red hair, including the one just a few down below, you know I’m just a sucker for red hair) and she actually pulls it off very naturally and the banter coming off the reveal isn’t too bad either - maybe a little on the soft side but comedy doesn’t have to be roaringly funny, especially if it feels even halfway genuine (which is likely the most this show’s capable of achieving). And of course random jackass who is apparently romantically involved with Bridgit turns to some other random jackass (and I do mean random, even random jackass is caught by surprise) and not only is it clear that he’s not being sincere but that he threatens to kill this random jackass over something he’s not even involved with. And then random jackass justly asks, “What do you have against red hair?” I mean, it’s a pretty damn valid question. And then other random jackass who’s been just spending the entire show (albeit only a few minutes in) sitting there chimes in with that he looooooooves redheads - because it’s a reminder that even God makes mistakes.
Yeah, it’s time for one of my famous barely-tangential rants now.
Now, again, I may be a bit biased in regards to my feelings about redheads, something that I just spent extensive time explaining over (if you need a recap and can’t be bothered to scroll down a teesney bit, here you go). But beyond that, redheads don’t really seem to get a fair shake on TV for some reason. They seem to still be one of the types of people that’s still considered fair game when it comes to being a punchline punching-bag - and to have to resort to insulting a broad category of people based on racial or physical traits for a punch-line isn’t just poor comedy, it’s fucking offensive. I mean, that’s a big part of the protests over the previous Oscars were concerned with. It’s a big part of what makes ABC’s Black’ish a smashing success out of the gate, or for that matter Fresh Off the Boat and to a lesser extent Dr. Ken - confronting those stereotypes head on, and especially for Black’ish making you laugh and then explaining, quite bluntly, why you’re a horrible person for laughing at that. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a comedy that’s actually tried to put effort into confronting racism and actually raising social awareness about racial issues into its very premise like Black’ish, but that’s not quite here for this review. We as the American society have decided that making fun of African-Americans, Latinos/Hispanics/Chicanos, Jews, and so on for racial stereotypes and especially for ones based on physical appearance is decidedly not acceptable, and if you’re going to do that you either have to do a very good job justifying that in the narrative of your show or your show is gonna get yanked off the air and you’re going to find it extremely difficult to keep working in Hollywood (or you somehow have some sort of impenetrable protective status like Seth MacFarlane). For a long time Asians of all types (usually just lumped into a massive super-group known as “Asian” or even “Oriental”) were and to a very large degree still are fair game, but that’s slowly changing (even if it’s in the context of Asians still being lumped into a homogenous super-group ala Latinos/Hispanics/Chicanos - and notice that I use no less than three separate terms there, that should be a hint for you). Still, there seems to be quite a few racial or physically-defined “fair game” targets out there when there clearly should simply be none. Arabs/Middle-Asians/Persians and even along religious lines being thoroughly blurred into racial lines (hey did you know that Lebanon is almost predominantly Christian with a very significant Jewish population?) and, as Undateable is demonstrating, redheads. Jessie was pretty much one of the very, very few shows that actually featured a redhead as a main character in a positive light, and even there they had to fake it (Brinn, played by actual born-as-a-redhead [and graduating from an Ivy League college at age 17 - true story, look it up] Katherine McNamara was also one of Emma’s evil foils, although granted that seems to be a role Kat reallly loves to play anyway). Shake it Up was another one, pairing Bella Thorne with Zendaya - and even there, yes, Bella is actually naturally blonde in real life (although it’s close enough to strawberry blonde she barely needs any help pulling it off convincingly). The Haunted Hathaways at least had Taylor’s best friend Meadow. Other than that I’m stretching to include Dez’s sister in Austin & Ally (when strictly considering female redheads) and I guess Axl’s love interest from the 2012-13 season of The Middle, played by the same exact actress incidentally (and I’ll just add, yeah, that storyline was a little hard to personally watch, see linkback to previous blog post above as to why). In a recent episode of Bella and the Bulldogs, the one with Bella trying to get into the beauty pageant, they had a redhead girl representing the “traditional” pageantry contestant and when everyone else was impressed with Bella’s liberating spiel and act the show just had the redhead shoved into the background. And in the very next episode they had another redhead (and just to be clear, we’re still just talking strictly redheaded women) just randomly be a jerk to Newt in a science fair (yeah since it was obviously lame I just fast forwarded through that part anyway). Maybe it’s a minor issue for you, but yeah, I’m taking the stand right now for actual fair representation of redheads on television and other forms of entertainment media (and everyone else, although I’m still a little miffed by how Asians and Arabs/Persians/Muslims/”Muslims” are portrayed too).
Yes, I did just send this tweet now, yes I did just make this tweet for the benefit of this review post. Also please excuse my Twitter speak it is 140 characters after all
In fact it’s incredibly difficult for me to get past this last line and we’re only two minutes into the episode. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve had to delay this project for so long, or at least consider doing Crowded and Grandfathered first and even skipping this one altogether with little more than “Undateable sucks, it got canceled for a very good reason, it’s so bad Bridgit should be thankful it got canceled, end of review.” And yes, I know South Park had an entire episode literally making fun of the entirety of gingerism - well, two things on that. One, as far as I’m concerned South Park has pretty much earned the right to do whatever the fuck it wants to do. Undateable hasn’t. And two, as part of earning that right...well, just go back and actually watch that episode again (you can do that here). The episode was entirely about exactly what I’m talking about here. In fact it was made in response to Kick a Ginger Day, which is exactly what it sounds like, and received so much negative feedback that the creators of that “holiday” pretty much got shut down and their asses proverbially beat down on the ultimate court of public opinion, the Internet, and got Kiss a Ginger Day recognized in its stead.
Debby Ryan and August Mateo demonstrating that day I was just talking about, from dis411.net
Anyway back to...ugh, this fucking episode. Yeah the whole offensive to gingers thing is still far from its worst problem.Only two minutes in, goddamnit....
....aaaaand the very next joke is random jackass explaining that he doesn’t like redheads is because when he caught his dad cheating he was dressed as Ronald McDonald.
It’s impossible for me to fathom how that can be considered “funny” in a multi-cam comedy primarily aimed at basically the hipster crowd. We’re literally talking ANT Farm-ish humor here. And, oh yeah, still kind of offensive in context.
Anyway random jackass who likes Candace is freaking out, people point it out to him, and he says he wants to surprise her, so naturally Bridgit sneaks up behind him right at that point. And so he starts talking about the first time they met and the Backstreet Boys suddenly show up and sing (this is not only something that happens every episode - with different musical guests, not the Backstreet Boys specifically - but it’s pretty much the fulcrum upon which the entirety of each episode’s narrative rests upon). And a joke about how it’s been about a decade since the Backstreet Boys were actually relevant, followed by incessant fawning which ultimately serves as a reminder hey guess what kids! It’s the Backstreet Boys! Remember them?
Anyway, the Backstreet Boys exist stage through what would be the bar’s bathroom, a meta-joke is made about it and jackass proposes to Bridgit causing her to scream holy crapballs! Yeah I’m going to point out every time one of these former Disney and Nick starlets say something evenly remotely “not allowable on their former home networks” just because it still sounds weird, and it’s not helped that these “adult” shows just be even more weird about it. In fact on a basic acting level none of this is convincing, no matter how many cracks about redheads they continue to insert in here. Then we finally cut to the intro credits, which features a sheet out of a typewriter that says featuring the Backstreet Boys! from episode writer Matt Hausfater who gives such a smug kiss at the camera, and such a smug look, that I feel even more justified in wanting to put my size 12 motorcycle boot so far up his smug hipster ass he’ll be tasting Kiwi shoe polish for the rest of his awful, cliche-riding career. We’re finally five minutes in and Undateable has actually managed to unseat fellow NBC show Mysteries of Laura as the worst overall show we’ve yet reviewed on this blog. No amount of live gimmickry and Backstreet Boys Reunion-belting will make this better.
Past that it’s just more inane domestic blithering from newly engaged Bridgit and mildly-racist jackass and again the writing and dialogue construction effort here is exceedingly low. Another jackass walks in with a kid who he’s babysitting for his girlfriend and the kid not only talks but acts “weird” and by “weird” I mean he just sits on jackass’ shoulders. Jackass tells other jackass about being upset he didn’t know about the proposal ahead of time, the entire exchange is incredibly stupid and I hate how NBC has disabled fast forward on this OnDemand recording, damnit.
At this point it’s just as worthwhile to just continue to emphasize how banal and insipid the dialogue and jokes are as it is to actually suffer through the episode to deconstruct them, as there’s just little to deconstruct. And given the limited practicality the multi-cam live format affords the dialogue is absolutely how all the jokes and narrative are going to be delivered. It just goes on and on like this, just building on the stock character tropes the random jackasses in this show already pre-formed fall into (and nine times out of ten these stock character tropes happen to be mildly offensive racial/ethnic/sex stereotypes). It’s very much indistinguishable to any other short-lived half-hour multi-cam on the broadcast networks, and again, it’s because they all pretty much evenly conform to the same style of no-effort crap.
There is a flashback that Bridgit narrates, which by necessity of the “wavy” scene transition they use almost invariably has to be filmed ahead of time (or they employ some sort of concession to the “everything live on TV” format). And then black-yet-still-racist-against-redheads jackass (Ron Fuches, who I’m pretty sure thinks is a bigger deal than he actually is) has his own flashback he narrates to for about 5 seconds before it just transitions to the players themselves just acting it out in their own voices. Oh and he even makes a meta-joke about it because if nothing else rip off Family Guy. And he kisses the jackass Candace is now engaged to, for some reason. I don’t really care anymore.
And there’s a bachelorette party which means not only more banal dialogue but more offensive stereotypes and jokes! But at least its “progressive” in that it’s sexually demeaning to men this time! And (quite disgustingly) Bridgit’s grandmother’s wedding ring has been turned into a tongue piercing.
...you know, at this point I’m reflecting back on the massive amounts of time I wasted on reviewing Mysteries of Laura and I still fast forwarded through massive portions of that. It’s been 18 minutes in (out of 43 minutes total without commercial interruption, meaning that we’ve already gone through most of a regular episode) and at best it’s not even enough to keep your attention away from whatever other distractions happen to be in the room, and at worst outright offensive and disgusting. Needless to say it should almost be effortless to find almost literally anything as a superior entertainment option - following your Twitter and Snapchat feeds, reading news blogs, hell reading this blog. Let alone to just simply change the channel, or catch up on Game of Thrones OnDemand, or just read a friggin’ book (apparently Undateable actually is based on one, somehow). So far Undateable is giving me many, many more reasons to just not watch than to actually let it play through, and as much as I loved Good Luck Charlie and as much as that show actually helped pull me out of a really dark time, I’m not nearly enough of a Bridgit Mendler superfan to keep watching just for her (and besides, as Undateable itself points out Amy and Bob were the real stars). I’m not even enough of a Debby Ryan superfan to tolerate something this awful, as aptly demonstrated by Mysteries of Laura. I would say in comparison at least Undateable has jokes going for it, but really, Undateable and Mysteries of Laura perform exactly equally well as comedies.
21 minutes in and jackass that lives with the jackass that’s engaged to Candace is imitating using a Nordictrak and apparently it’s supposed to be comedy. Yeah. I think I’ve reached my tolerance on this one.
Undateable sucks, it got canceled for a very good reason, it’s so bad Bridgit should be thankful it got canceled, end of review. In fact I’m going to add it’s so bad the fact that it even survived to three seasons is not only an anti-miracle but perhaps proof that yes, Satan does indeed exist.
Episode Grade: What did I give Mysteries of Laura? Just an F-? I have no choice but to give Undateable an F Minus Minus. Again, it’s officially overall the worst show this blog has ever reviewed and questions the wisdom of venturing outside of Nick and Disney Channel. If Crowded manages to be even worse I’m just going to have to move down the alphabet
(fortunately I’ve already seen the episode of Grandfathered I’ve got cued up to review and it’s much better than this).
Episode MVP: I’m going back and fourth between just saying it’s me again, for having to tolerate this offensive, disgusting and at best banal crap, or if I’m going to practice some reviewer’s honestly just admit that no one wins here. Even the legitimate improv moments (like dorky jackass picking up whoever one of these women happens to be and breaking a plate in the process in halfway good comedic timing) just feel “there,” and those are the best performances this show can squeeze out. I really do mean it when I say that Bridgit Mendler is better off just having this show get canceled out from under her. Perhaps the real MVP is the collective of all of us, the audience, for refusing to watch Season 3 in sufficient number to basically force the issue onto Bridgit and let cold, hard economics make the best choice for her by booting her off the show, by giving the show itself the boot.