Review: The Paul Reiser Show 1×1-1×2 (US: NBC)

No need to Curb Your Enthusiasm here

In the US: Thursdays, 8.30/7.30c, NBC

Okay, I have to ask: is there some massive build-up of a slight irritation in all the middle-aged, middle class white guys around the world? I’m not talking about some Susan Faludi style-Backlash (that’s a different question). I’m talking about mild irritation which some mildly irritating aspects of their not exactly universal lifestyles. Because around the world, we’re getting some very meta shows in which grumpy, middle class, middle-aged white guys, playing thinly veiled versions of themselves, meander around while their wives look on as patiently as they can, having to deal with things that clearly irk them. A little bit anyway.

First we had Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which Larry goes around as himself, being narked by having to tip waiters, that kind of thing, while his wife looks on as patiently as she can. Obviously a funny show with a funny guy and funny writers. Not quite as universal as Seinfeld‘s comedy of modern manners, but still worth watching.

Then we got Lead Balloon in the UK, in which Jack Dee became very irritated and long suffering in response to a terrible life in which he has a big house, an East European housekeeper and a slightly sarcastic coffee bar owner to deal with, while his wife looks on as patiently as she can.

Then Canada got in on the act with Good Dog, in which Ken Finkleman somehow has to cope with the problems of having a reality TV show made about him and his much younger, model girlfriend, who’s being as patient as she can with him.

By this point, it was clear everyone was doing Curb Your Enthusiasm, so the first episode of Good Dog makes frequent references to Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm, going to see Larry David to get his approval to make an obvious rip-off of Curb Your Enthusiasm and more highly meta fun.

But now we’ve gone completely meta full circle. We’re back in the US. We have Paul Reiser, friend of Larry David, former star of Mad About You, creating and starring in a show called The Paul Reiser Show, which is all about the mild problems faced by a rich guy called Paul Reiser who hasn’t done much since he appeared in Mad About You. It’s directed by one of the directors of Curb Your Enthusiasm. And in it, Larry David turns up as Larry David, doing his Curb Your Enthusiasm version of himself, to talk about the game show that Paul Reiser is going to host that’s a lot like his. All while Reiser’s wife looks on as patiently as she can.

My brain hurts. Shame my funny bone doesn’t.

Here’s a couple of trailers. You will not laugh:

NBC’s “The Paul Reiser Show” is a new single-camera comedy from Emmy and Golden Globe Award-nominated actor/writer/producer Paul Reiser (“Mad About You”) and writer/producer Jonathan Shapiro (“Life”).

The show stars Reiser as… Paul Reiser. It’s been a few years since Paul’s hit TV series went off the air. Since then, he’s been enjoying the quiet life at home with his lovely wife, Claire (Amy Landecker, “A Serious Man”) and kids, and generally minding his own business. Lately, however, Paul has been thinking that it’s time he did something new, something meaningful. But what that next thing might be, he has no idea.

In his quest to figure it out, Paul is both helped and hindered by his new “friends.” Like most men his age, Paul didn’t choose them. They’re the husbands of his wife’s friends, the dads of his kids’ schoolmates. Thrown together by circumstance, Paul and his cohorts, including Jonathan (Ben Shenkman, “Angels in America”), Habib (Omid Djalili, “The Infidel”), Fernando (Duane Martin, “All of Us”) and Brad (Andrew Daly, “MADtv”) form an unlikely comradeship – and a horrible basketball team.

“The Paul Reiser Show” is a production of Bonanza Productions Inc., in association with Nuance Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Reiser and Shapiro co-wrote the pilot as well as each of the episodes that follow, and both serve as executive producers. Bryan Gordon (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) directed the pilot.

Is it any good?
No. I’ve just spent an hour of my time being bored nearly to tears. Well, apart from when Larry David turned up. That was funny.

Paul Reiser’s fake life is not hard. It’s not funny. It’s not even interesting. His fake friends aren’t interesting. His fake TV show, run by the real Mark Burnett but pretending to be another Mark Burnett, is at best marginally funny. The problem of a noisy cat (guest voiced by Mel Brooks) is not really enough to support the entire second episode.

You can’t identify with Reiser. You can’t sympathise with him. You can’t feel his pain, because he doesn’t really have any. “Oh no, all my friends are the husbands of my wife’s friends” is about as close to rapier-sharp spearing of the plight of modern man that The Paul Reiser Show gets. All it really has going for it are cameos by people most people haven’t heard of or don’t care about (Burnett, Henry Rollins) and Larry David was only in the first episode for a few minutes. Oh yes, and “metaness” and references to Curb Your Enthusiasm.

It’s not just that it’s a complete waste of time that staggers the mind. It’s that

  1. It’s so completely unoriginal in concept
  2. It has nothing to add beyond the Curb Your Enthusiasm template
  3. The cast is so unfunny, even Omid Djalili
  4. The scripts are so weak
  5. There’s only one female character in the whole thing and she gets nothing good to do
  6. NBC commissioned it
  7. They took off the still-not-great but slightly better Perfect Couples to air it

I’m heartily predicting, in part emboldened by the terrible ratings it’s getting, that this is going to be dead very soon. But I’m not going to hang around to find out.



  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.