NBC renews 'Undateable' for an all-live season
Normally I get annoyed by these piecemeal renewals that force an endless string of tiny stories, but this is a good one.
NBC has renewed "Undateable" for a third season, successfully avoiding the ignominy of clearing out its entire comedy slate. But much more interesting than the mere renewal for the comedy is the confirmation that "Undateable" will go live for all episodes next season.
Unless somebody wants to remind me of an alternative, "Undateable" will be the first scripted show to go live on a regular basis for a full season since "Roc" did it back in 1992.
Much of the appeal of "Undateable" was always based on liveness. Before the first season premiered, executive producer Bill Lawrence and much of his stand-up-heavy cast went on the road for a live promotional tour. That tour was at least somewhat responsible for a solid debut last summer and a strong enough performance to earn a Season 2 renewal. Since premiering after "The Voice" this spring, ratings for "Undateable" have been steady and they got a little uptick this past week for a stunted hour-long episode that was filmed live for both East and West Coast audiences.
I've only been an on-and-off "Undateable" viewer, but I tuned in for Tuesday's episode and quite enjoyed it. Stars including Chris D'Elia, Brent Morin, Ron Funches and Rick Glassman were all relishing the possibilities of the live format, playing to the audience, but also clearly getting a kick out of cracking each other up. The show has always had a reputation for raucous and long-running tapings and watching this episode, you could see that energy at work and the result was much more infectious than the sum of its written punchlines.
After the episode, I tweeted:
The “Undateable” live episode was worth the effort and I promise to tune in every time they go live in the future.— Daniel Fienberg (@HitFixDaniel) May 6, 2015
And I will.
The big question is how many episodes "Undateable" will do next season and how NBC will approach length. At an hour, this week's episode didn't feel tight, but it felt like the right length for the generous performance style. A 21-minute episode would give the actors less room to play and just because it'd be tighter doesn't mean it would be better. Also, it seems inevitable that "Undateable" would only do one live show per week, right? Rather than going live for each coast? It's also doubtful that folks like Zach Braff, Ed Sheeran and Victoria Justice would willingly drop by every week. Or would they?
Still, this is an intriguing and appealingly out-of-the-box piece of thinking for NBC and for "Undateable" producers Lawrence and creator Adam Sztykiel.
Also, NBC renewed "The Mysteries of Laura."
[UPDATE: After I posted on Friday, Bill Lawrence tweeted me a few thoughts on "Undateable: Live"...]
@HitFixDaniel hers the deal... I don't think we have to do heavy stunts each week, but we can't be a scripted show that just shoots live...— Bill Lawrence (@VDOOZER) May 9, 2015
@HitFixDaniel ...we have to include topical elements, let the cast/comics improv/mess with each other, and use music, etc,to give it a...— Bill Lawrence (@VDOOZER) May 9, 2015
@HitFixDaniel ...of the moment, variety feel. That said, I will stunt the hell out of the first one...— Bill Lawrence (@VDOOZER) May 9, 2015
NBC will announce its full schedule on Sunday, May 10.