The Winner: Fox places a show about a loser

Fox may have erred in running two episodes of The Winner last night. This new show stars Rob Corddry as a loser man-child still living “at home” in his thirties (has anyone noticed the tendency of The Daily Show alumni to play losers? I think the ability to project confidence in contrast with what one is saying plays to that. I forsee Samantha Bee starring in Bee Minus any day now). Inspired by the return of an adolescent love interest to the neighborhood, he strives to improve his standing in life in the most incompetent of ways (while a purposely Wonder Years-like voiceover tells us that this he becomes a millionaire in the decade-and-change since the show’s 1994 setting.)
When I saw this announced, I didn’t have much hope for it; it was touted as being by Seth McFarland, whose previous efforts (The Family Guy, American Dad) leave me cold. And indeed, the show has a lot of weak points; only two of the characters show any richness, the others are all either defined solely in their terms of impact on the main character (coddling mom, disapproving dad, desirable object of affection) or through some other form of flatness (the video store manager – he’s gay!) They’re willing to throw in humor that doesn’t build or even reflect the character, because they have something that shorn of context might be funny, and that keeps the viewer from getting involved. There are a lot of signs of basic crappy Fox sitcomness (which should not be considered a description of all Fox sitcoms; “low trash” is a subcategory thereof, but that hardly describes The Simpsons or Arrested Development.)
But what works in the pilot is the relationship between our manchild and the geeky adolescent son of the woman he’s chasing after. The two give each other support and life lessons as they try to grow up. It has some charm that forces its way through the crammed attempts at comedy.
Sadly, by airing the second episode as well last night, they quickly demonstrated that they didn’t have a strong handle on what worked and what didn’t in the pilot. The weak points were more in evidence, the strong ones less so. There is some meat to build things on here (and Corddry has some natural charm even though he seems to have problem building an intensity through the show rather than going moment-to-moment), so I’ll be trying at least one more week of the show’s three-weeks-of-two-episodes schedule.

Published in: on March 5, 2007 at 11:52 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. What you said. The only thing I’ll add is that the concept of the show taking place in 1994 seems to be to allow them to tell cheap “topical” jokes like having the parents defending OJ during the Bronco chase. What annoyed me even more about this was the conversation between Corddry and the neighbor woman when he asked her opinion of the new president, well over a year after Clinton had been inaugurated.

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