[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:"Next Caller" (NBC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: "The kids today love Dane Cook and absolutely nobody finds him completely and totally intolerable!"
Quick Response: Imagine being warned that a medical procedure would leave you feeling like you'd been hit in the crotch with a giant steel-driving hammer 75 times and then waking up and only feeling like you'd been hit in the crotch 25 times by a padded Whack-a-Mole mallet. Your first reaction would be, "OH MY GOD, MY GROIN!" Your second reaction would be, "But I guess it wasn't quite as bad as I feared." Ladies and gentlemen, that's my rave review for "Next Caller." NBC is completely welcome to the blurb, "Less excruciatingly painful than you might otherwise have anticipated." Use it in health, NBC! "Next Caller" is misogynistic, homophobic and occasionally terrible, but it's more consistently forgettable than consistently terrible. Once again, that counts as a win for this NPR-flavored rom-com (short on both the "rom" and the "com"). Dane Cook is capable of being less-than-distracting. Remember that Kevin Costner serial killer movie? Dane Cook wasn't bad in that at all. But what he's doing here is playing a character who could have been played by every single obnoxious standup comic of the past 25 years. It's a breeze to imagine this being developed as an Andrew Dice Clay vehicle. I can imagine this being repurposed for Carlos Mencia. So Cook relies heavily on his Dane Cook schtick for at least half of the pilot, before turning on some entirely unearned "I have a heart, too" sincerity. And why is he such a boor? Because some woman broke his heart. Somehow, this is supposed to make us sympathetic towards him. It doesn't work. Because Cook is playing his character so broadly, the mostly lovable Collette Wolfe -- so good in "Young Adult," "Cougar Town" and a slew of supporting roles -- also has to play her character dialed up to 12, getting one or two chuckles in the process. The thing is, that there's a completely reasonable show that could be made about a pair of mismatched radio call-in hosts who are completely recognizable as human beings and not just the embodiments of retro Mars/Venus gender stereotypes. And I'd endeavor to say that that show could still star Dane Cook and Collette Wolfe, though I'd still lobby for a different male lead. And maybe it would actually work. With Jeffrey Tambor and Joy Osmanski, "Next Caller" even has the necessary backbone to become a "WKRP"/"NewsRadio"-style workplace ensemble. The problem is that you can't have one-dimensional main characters and then also have cartoonish supporting characters behind them. Something needs to ground the show. If Cook and Wolfe were playing real people, the randy nun saying stuff like "You hit that yet, or what?" might conceivable be a hoot. In this incarnation, she's not. I believe that "Next Caller" is undergoing an overhaul before it premieres. I think there's potential in Wolfe and Tambor and Osmanski. I think there's an approach to Cook wherein he's not an active detriment. Hopefully the retooling will find the right balance.
Desire To Watch Again: If they're actually doing a top-to-bottom fix on this pilot, my desire to see another episode or two is reasonable. If they're only fixing it piecemeal, I can't imagine an upside that goes beyond, "Not as bad as you're expecting." In that case, maybe I'll only watch the Wolfe scenes and then move on.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Following'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Family Tools'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Infamous'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries