[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:"Growing Up Fisher" (NBC)
Airs:Midseason
The Pitch: "It's an odd, quirky, historically non-specific 'Wonder Years' knock-off." "No thanks." "But ABC had a 'Wonder Years' knock-off and FOX has a 'Wonder Years' knock-off." "Does CBS?" "Ummm... Maybe." "Fine. We'll take it."
Quick Response: "Growing Up Fisher" isn't *exactly* a "Wonder Years" knock-off. After all, it's set in the present. However, it's being narrated from sometime in the future by a grownup version of the main character (Jason Bateman for the voiceover and Eli Baker for the story) who reflects on his childhood experiences with a mixture of wry sarcasm, cloying sentimentality and twist-teasing dramatic irony. Between this and "The Goldbergs" and "Surviving Jack," there's a lot of not-quite-getting what what worked on "The Wonder Years" 20+ years ago. So far, none of these shows have had their main character reflect on the first time they watched "The Wonder Years," but it's getting close. Complicating matters is the initial proclamation that "The following is inspired by a true story," which must mean that DJ Nash wrote it from the future and mailed scripts back to 2013? Yeah. I dunno. I am a sucker for JK Simmons. I even found him funny in "Family Tools" and nobody else can say that. But here, he's giving a performance that almost has to work against one of the most self-consciously quirky characters I've ever seen on a TV show. He's playing the main character's father and he's an attorney, but he's blind and basically nobody knows that. How is that possible? How is that sustainable? How is that workable? Well, the "Bernie's" series did two films in which nobody knew the eponymous character was DEAD, so I guess fooling people into thinking a blind guy can see isn't the most absurd thing ever, but it's definitely a thing that requires way more perpetual suspension of disbelief than I was willing to put in. The oddest part is that Simmons, often prone to going big with comedy, is underplaying a character who has been *written* absurdly big. There's a clash of tones. There's also a clash of tones with the mother, who has been written as five or six different things, basically a pipe-smoking teenager in the body of a woman-of-a-certain-age. Parker Posey had no clue what the character was and her performance in the pilot was an incongruous mess of ticks. It wasn't her fault in the slightest. She's subsequently been replaced by Jenna Elfman, but she may just have escaped. The person who probably needed replacing was director David Schwimmer, who has been a solid director in the past, but I tend to blame directors when tone gets as out-of-synch as it is here. The thing "Growing Up Fisher" has working in its favor is that at least for the pilot, I liked leading man Eli Baker, who sometimes makes things funny even if it's not always in the same way as things around him are trying to be funny. "Surviving Jack" is, as I've said, the best of the three "Wonder Years"-style comedies premiering this year, but Eli Baker may be the best of the young central stars. That's a building block and since "Growing Up Fisher" is rebuilding anyway, we'll see how things go.
Desire To Watch Again: Well, it's a guarantee I'm gonna watch again, what with the major recasting. There are so many things happening in the pilot, that I want to see a second episode just to get a feeling for what the weekly series is here. And how Simmons' character can possibly work longterm. But this isn't a very good pilot and it doesn't seem to have much upside for NBC.

 

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