It’s November. It’s November and I’ve now seen four whole episodes of “Mulaney.” I love it. I love it so much I’ve watched each episode at least three times on my fancy FOX app (that I downloaded just for the purpose of watching “Mulaney”). The rest of the world, however, has other feelings about John Mulaney’s sitcom.
It makes me sad that people have written off “Mulaney” already. It’s episode order was cut back from 16 episodes to 13. I think I read that it’s the lowest rated new sitcom of the fall season. People aren’t watching it. And when people don’t watch network shows they disappear (I don’t have the heart to say canceled).
Critics are now contemplating the big question: Why is America’s most-loved stand-up struggling to get his sitcom to work? At first, I didn’t have a real answer to this question. I just assumed that people didn’t appreciate John. I assumed people said they didn’t like the show because it was a “Seinfeld” copycat, but in reality they had never even tuned in to give it a shot.
Even though I love John Mulaney to the point of feeling pain while writing this, I know why “Mulaney” is failing. One, it shouldn’t be on FOX. FOX is a really weird network. They’ve got everything from “Gotham” to “Family Guy.” John just doesn’t fit in there. He’s too nice and FOX doesn’t deal with multi-cam sitcoms. It’s not their thing. “Mulaney” belongs on NBC. But that network is so confused about their comedy shows right now that they accidentally let “Mulaney” go and ordered “Bad Judge.”
Secondly, FOX has done a shit job in marketing “Mulaney.” Even if you’re not a comedy fanatic like me, if I were to conduct a pole of prime time TV viewers (like my parents) I’m sure the results would tell me that no one knows “Mulaney” is even a show. There was hardly any advertisement. They’ve just now started to use the show’s social media accounts and put John on every radio show and TV appearance an actor can do to drive attention to their project. Where was all of this a month ago?!
And then there’s the structure of the show itself. The cast is good. There needs to be story lines where they all interact with each other. Make the viewers care about these characters because I do think individually they’re great. And ultimately, John has to decide if this show is about his character and Martin Short or his character and Nasim Pedrad. The show can have both elements, but one has to be more important than the other. I think all of this is coming but with only 13 episodes to prove it, it might already be too late.
Writing all of this out is hard for me. I want to believe that good old-fashioned sitcoms like the one John set out to make can still make an audience happy. I know I’m a fan of this show. To me, it’s no different than something like “Friends” or “Cheers.” There’s a lot of dark humor in the show that I love. There’s no reason this show can’t work. But it’s hiding in the butt crack between “Family Guy” and every other Sunday night drama show like “The Good Wife” and “The Walking Dead.”
And I know people don’t think John can act. He knows it too. But Jerry Seinfeld couldn’t act either. Not that I want to keep coming back to that comparison. A lot of beloved actors can’t actually act. Silvester Stallone. Scarlett Johansson.
I believe that “Mulaney” is a good show. I think it’s funny. I think FOX needs to let John do more of his own thing. I think the show should be pared with “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project” on Tuesday nights. It doesn’t belong on Sundays, but it definitely doesn’t belong in the canceled list on Entertainment Weekly’s website just yet. There needs to be more time to grow. And yeah, I know, there’s not enough time for any of this.
But let me make one final point to make myself believe that I did all that’s in my power as a fan and a critic (because that’s ultimately what I am anyway) to help save “Mulaney.” And that point is this:
The show “How I Met Your Mother” is a very stupid show, yet it lasted nine seasons. It had it’s moments and I loved the way it was intricately written in flashbacks, but if we are looking at the pure surface of the show, it’s pretty damn idiotic. Come on, Splapsgiving? Think I’m being too cruel? What about some issues with “Cheers?” I mean, Sam and Diane physically hit each other and wrestled. What was that?! Look at “Two and a Half Men.” It cast Charlie Sheen and then when that didn’t work out replaced him with Ashton Kutcher. Stupid. Yet, here we are a million seasons later. “The Office” should have ended the minute Michael Scott walked out the door. Yet we had to suffer through two more seasons of crap. And to be fair, I’ll go for the example that hits way to close to home, “Friends.” It’s unrealistic. Ross would have never got Rachel and Rachel would have never worked at Ralph Lauren.
All of these shows have their moments of stupidity and their moments of genius. That’s what comedy is. It’s full of high highs and stupid lows. They were all given a chance to grow, though. To say “Mulaney” doesn’t have it’s high points is uneducated. To say you don’t like it when you’ve never given it a chance is just insulting. If I only get 13 episodes of “Mulaney” at least I’ll know that there were some good jokes and efforts along the way. If the show survives I know John will work hard to polish things and make people laugh. If the show disappears? I’ll think of the things John would have done to fix it had he been given a chance.