Third-episode verdict: The Great Indoors (US: CBS; UK: ITV2)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Thursdays, 8.30/7.30c, CBS
In the UK: Acquired by ITV2

The worst that can truly be said about The Great Indoors – in which rugged manly outdoor activities journalist Joel McHale (Community) is summoned back to an office job by boss Stephen Fry when his magazine goes online-only, forcing him to have to work with a bunch of digital-literate millennials – is that it’s a CBS multi-camera sitcom. And not in a bad way.

When I saw the trailer and before I watched the first episode, I assumed I was going to have to condemn the show in the strongest possible terms for all the usual reasons reserved for CBS multi-camera sitcoms.

But, actually, it’s all right. Not totally hysterical, not having the cutting edge insight into its subject matter of Veep, not possessed of well drawn out characters, for sure. But it’s still more like a lighter, nicer version of The Big Bang Theory than a nastier, more predictable version of Mike and Molly. It’s a studio comedy with an audience that’s designed to make you laugh.

Three episodes into the show and although it’s clear that its heart is really with McHale and his desperate attempt to de-nerd an entire generation, it’s also clear that times have changed and there ain’t no going back – McHale has to learn from his juniors, too.

Episode two focused on the Brave New World of dating apps, and while McHale’s ability to randomly speak with strangers in real-life is something of an asset that he can teach the youngsters, it’s also clear it’s now perceived as also a bit creepy. Most of the episode therefore dedicated to teaching him how to navigate this new, more formal aspect of dating life. 

Meanwhile, episode three is a lecture in urban apartment-hunting, with McHale discovering that for millennials, there’s a clear choice between having money to live off and having a decent place to live in – you can’t have both.

The show also manages to avoid turning everyone’s favourite uncle, Stephen Fry, into yet another quaint Englishman. Here, he’s erudite, funny, travelled and a man’s man, happier drinking whisky with McHale and trading war stories, than bedding down with the millennials in their indoor tents. 

Where the show doesn’t quite gel – at least, not yet – is Susannah Fielding, who plays Fry’s daughter/McHale’s one-time girlfriend. While she’s clearly supposed to be something of a translator, able to speak both millennial and middle-aged, she’s not well served by the scripts and her delivery is reminiscent of ‘Pantomime Dame 3’ from last year’s Jack and the Beanstalk. 

Similarly, the millennials themselves are more ideas of millennials than developed characters in their own rights – this one’s sexually fluid, this one’s deadpan and inexpressive, this one’s computer-literate and so on. While each of those traits is more nuanced than you’d expect, there’s still no real background for any of them, no stories that are really about them rather than McHale.

But we’re at episode three of a multi-camera sitcom that could be on for the next decade, given it’s CBS. There will be time for The Great Indoors. Thankfully, it does at least have a good foundation to start with.

Rating: 3
Would it be better with a female lead? Different, not better
TMINE’s prediction: Could last a good few seasons, given 2 Broke Girls is still on

Author

  • 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.