This past spring UNDATEABLE aired a one hour live episode which was a creative success leading to NBC picking up the show for the 2015 season as television’s only live sitcom. The show used the one hour format for this week’s season premiere, and while it wasn’t at the same level as this past spring’s one hour episode, it still gets major points for daring to be different. One of the reason’s the spring edition of the live episode held up so well creatively is because the hour was jam packed with surprises ranging from guest stars, including SCANDAL’S Scott Foley as himself to musical performances from British pop star Ed Sheeran.
The season premiere was more business as usual, which was fine, because the things I love most about UNDATEABLE are the simplicity of the setup and the amazing chemistry among the cast. I think the overall plot of whether Justin (Brent Morin) and Candace (Bridgit Mendler) dating would eventually impact their relationships within their group of friends was a bit thin for an hourlong episode. There were a couple of funny subplots but, again, I think the hour format with fewer guest stars slowed down the pacing this time around. But, I did laugh at a lot of the jokes and that;s what matters. It’s quite evident that the cast thrives on the energy of the live performance, and given that a number of them are standup comics, it makes since. I think once the show goes back to its half hour format, the pacing will be quicker and sharper.
It seems that having the actors break the fourth wall and watching them break character and laugh at each other will be a part of the DNA of these live episodes and that’s great. However, I do wonder if the directing could be a little tighter when it comes to cutting to commercial breaks and throwing to the musical acts. The show plans on having live musical guests each week and this week it was duo Nico and Vinz who performed as part of the opening credits and again at the end of the show. The live show last spring did such an amazing job of incorporating live music into the plot that my expectation was that it would continue into this season. I know it’s probably difficult to weave musicians into the plots of every episode, but I hope the writers figure out a way to do it more often than not.
But these are minor issues. Overall, kudos goes to everyone involved with UNDATEABLE LIVE for being daring enough to produce a weekly live, multi camera sitcom. They embrace the tightrope that is live television and it’s quite clear that if any cast can succeed at it, it is this one. The universe did something right when leads Chris D’Elia and Brent Morin were cast as the most contemporary and funniest odd couple on television. They play off each other as if they’ve been a comedy duo for a decade. You can see the sparkle in their eyes as they try to take each other down during their bits, often improvising and making each other break character. The rest of the cast is equally gifted and I hope we get to see them showcased more in upcoming episodes.
I haven’t been happy with a number of returning broadcast sitcoms this season. A few episodes in and a number of them have fallen creatively flat. They should look to UNDATEABLE LIVE for inspiration. I’m not suggesting they go live, but they should look for ways to reenergize the characters, stories and execution of their shows. With so many new viewing platforms and options, no show should take their viewers for granted. They should be willing to take some risks and if executed well, the audience will come along for the ride.
UNDATEABLE LIVE is the ONLY returning sitcom I’m excited about this season. Although the setting is familiar, the execution by the writers, producers and actors makes the show exciting and there’s an anticipation not knowing what can possibly happen in each episode. So, other sitcoms, take notice. It’s a new day and it’s time to raise your game because UNDATEABLE has thrown down the gauntlet.
UNDATEABLE LIVE airs Fridays at 8pm EST on NBC.
Here’s a clip from the season premiere of UNDATEABLE LIVE: