[In case you’ve Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you’ve read me, you’ve read my reviews and you know this isn’t what they look like.]
Show:“The Millers” (CBS)
Airs:Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.
The Pitch: “Farting! So much farting! And family, too!”
Quick Response: I contemplated doing this blurb w/out mentioning farting, specifically the farts emanating from Emmy-winning thespian Margo Martindale. But the farts are a call-back joke within the pilot and they’ve played a noxious role in CBS’ promotion of the show. So just because Greg Garcia may not think of “The Millers” as a farting show, it’s not a non-farting pilot and since pilots are when you throw down the gauntlet for what you believe is the funny essence of your sitcom, it’d be hard to think that the essence of “The Millers” isn’t at least somewhat malodorous. And it’s a small pity, because in addition to being a dramatic powerhouse, Margo Martindale is also comedic commando, an actress fearless enough to dive into anything you give her and, in the case of “The Millers,” that’s jokes about farting, watching Beau Bridges masturbate and, somewhat more admirably, some physical business inspired by “Dirty Dancing.” It happens that I like Greg Garcia. “My Name Is Earl” started strong. “Raising Hope” has evolved into a source of regular amusement and occasionally brilliant inspiration. But old people freak Greg Garcia out. The frequency with which Emmy winner Cloris Leachman is used for lazy “Wacky Old People Are Wacky” punchlines on “Raising Hope” is somewhere close to 85% (and that’s the figure for the most recent season, which was EASILY Leachman’s best). So it’s worrisome that so much of what Martindale and Bridges do in the “Millers” pilot is only ostensibly “funny” because it’s being done by characters so old that not even CBS is targeting them. The “Millers” pilot is a lengthy run of “It’s gross when old people do things that young people do” jokes that just happen to be executed by an amazing cast. Martindale is gung-ho for anything and Bridges matches her, though “matching” in this case too often means watching two expert actors yell at each other. [This has become a hallmark of James Burrows’ pilot work in recent years. It didn’t used to be. Sigh.] Will Arnett, in contrast, continues his “Up All Night” trend of underplaying, which is probably the best possible thing he could do, though he’s getting dangerously close to “straight man” territory here, which would be a waste of Will Arnett. Because original pilot co-stars Mary Elizabeth Ellis and Michael Rapaport have been replaced by Jayma Mays and Nelson Franklin, it’s hard to evaluate the rest of “The Millers.” Since even Garcia has admitted that the problem with Ellis and Rapaport in the pilot was a lack of writing… Well, we’ll see!
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate. I had problems with the “Raising Hope” pilot, but I liked enough of it to stick with it. I’m glad I did. I chuckled a couple times at the pilot for “The Millers” and cringed in embarrassment a few times. But the couple chuckles, the cast and good faith for Greg Garcia will bring me back. Maybe Garcia just wanted to use the agesploitation as a way of introducing the series premise and, having established it, he’ll be able to play to other strengths in future episodes? After all, he’s already promised a string of fart-free episodes. In any case, since “The Big Bang Theory” has a set spot on my DVR — CBS and WBTV make it difficult to catch up in other ways — “The Millers” will get a few episodes at least.
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