Categorised | US TV reviews

Preview: Ground Floor 1x1 (TBS)

Posted on November 12, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Ground Floor

In the US: Thursday, 10/9c, TBS

Class-divide comedy isn’t the usual subject of American sitcoms. Indeed, you can probably count the number of properly working class sitcoms on US TV on just two hands, before you even get to class-divide comedy.

So on the one hand, we should be looking at the otherwise unchallenging TBS and marvelling as they prepare to premiere Ground Floor, a sitcom in which a blue collar worker on the ground floor on one business falls for a member of the high-flying elite on the top floor - and vice versa - and the two of them have to deal with all the class differences, expectations, co-worker challenges, et al that brings.

TBS has even got a top-flight team in for the job: Skylar Astin from Pitch Perfect is the somewhat How I Met Your Mother-reminiscent guy in the romantic pairing, Briga Heelan who excelled in the latest series of Cougar Town is the girl, John C McGinley (Dr Cox from Scrubs) is the boss, and it’s written by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs) and Greg Malins from Friends.

Unfortunately, despite its cutting-edge potential and top-tier cast and writers, Ground Floor is just about as conventional as you can get and not terribly funny to boot. Plus, if that's what they think maintenance departments are like, they've all really been on the top floor too long.

About
Set in the modern world of corporate America, Ground Floor centers on Brody (Skylar Astin), a young hot-shot banker who thought he was just having a one-night stand with Jennifer (Briga Heelan), a beautiful woman he met at an office party. He discovers, however, that she works in the maintenance department for the building where his bank - Remington Trust - is located. Suddenly their worlds begin to collide in the most unexpected ways. Facing Brody's critical boss, Mr. Mansfield (John C. McGinley), as well as annoyed colleagues, the pair must find a way to deal with their growing feelings for each other in this modern take on Romeo & Juliet.

Starring as Jennifer's co-workers in the building's maintenance office are Rory Scovel (Zach Stone is Going to be Famous) as Harvard, a know-it-all who's secretly enamored with her; James Earl (Glee) as Derrick, a guy who is tough on the outside, but a pussy cat on the inside and always looks out for his friends; and Alexis Knapp (Pitch Perfect) as Tori, a sexy young woman who loves to hit the clubs every night and catch up on her sleep at work. In addition, Rene Gube (Upright Citizens Brigade) stars as Brody's colleague Threepeat, a competitive go-getter who’s not quite as shallow as he seems.

Created by Emmy® nominees Bill Lawrence (Cougar Town, Scrubs, Clone High) and Greg Malins (2 Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother), Ground Floor stars Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect), Briga Heelan (Cougar Town) and John C. McGinley (Scrubs). Lawrence, Jeff Ingold (Undateable) and Jeff Astrof (The New Adventures of Old Christine) serve as executive producers on Ground Floor, which is being produced for TBS by Lawrence's Doozer, in association with Warner Horizon Television.

Is it any good?
It's by no means a disaster but really it should be a lot better than this.

The biggest flaw in the show by far - apart from just a lack of decent jokes - is the show’s desperate phobia of anything too blue collar. On paper, some of it is fine. The show’s biggest asset, Briga Heelan, plays a character who lives in an RV, doesn’t have much money and runs a maintenance department. So far, so good, even if she dresses a lot better than that would suggest, and she’s essentially the new male fantasy: a woman who acts and talks like ‘one of the guys', but is hot, makes jokes is up for one-night stands.

However, that maintenance department, which is supposed to look after a 34-floor building, apparently consists of four people - her, a depressing nerd/stalker/bearded stereotype who spends all his time sexually harassing Heelan, a stereotypical fat black guy and, seemingly coming from straight out of left field, a woman who always dresses like she’s heading to a club and who spends all her time sleeping right in front of Heelan.

Sound anything like a maintenance department you know? Of course not. And while you could easily argue that The IT Crowd’s Roy, Moss and Jen aren’t exactly like any IT department you’ll ever find, either, at least they’re both orbiting somewhere in the vicinity of reality and yet so surreal no one expects any true correspondence. Here, though, Ground Floor is trying to be real and failing badly.

More to the point, that’s two hot women dressed hotly versus a fat guy and a beardy nerd. Plus marks for actually having some female characters, big minus marks for the dichotomy.

The upper floor team works a lot better, since it’s composed entirely of the kind of go-getting dicks who’ve watched Glengarry Glen Ross that you’ve come to expect in sales department. John C McGinley is basically playing Dr Cox again, except this time he’s in finance instead of a doctor and he actually quite likes his protege. Skylar Astin is a more palatable JD who sings quite well, and both he and Heelan have chemistry and presence.

But the jokes are the kind of things you’d have expected 15 years ago and which in the cold light of modern day, are just inappropriate and inept. A slightly creepy guy who hits on his female boss all the time? How quickly would that harassment suit be hitting him in the face? And why are we supposed to find it funny?

While the class divide between the two star-crossed lovers and both floors is touched upon and is actually quite deftly handled, largely it’s ignored in favour of ‘zingers’, again some of which are inappropriate - okay, so one rich guy went to Harvard and the other poorer guy put himself through the local community college. Is that really something to mock the latter over?

So while this is a class-divide comedy, it very much feels like a bunch of rich guys writing about a poor woman sparkling in what they perceive as the mockable rough rather than a look from both sides of the divide at the other.

And again, it’s just not funny. But try it for the cast perhaps: McGinley is 100% reliable and can deliver the longer, deeper dialogue; Heelan has epic levels of charisma; and Astin is a decent enough clone of Josh Radnor that you’ll feel like you’re getting some bonus How I Met Your Mother material every time you see him.

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