In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm, TV Land. Starts tonight
Friends are the worst, aren’t they? They say they want the best for you, but when you get the best, they’re jealous – and usually think they either deserve it more or that they can use you to become successful, too. Well did they ever think there was a reason it was you, not they who made it to the top? Do they?
So, I do wonder if Nobodies, the new Melissa McCarthy-produced comedy for TV Land, is really her way of getting her own back on her less successful friends. It’s created, written by and stars a whole bunch of people whose names are all in quote marks: “Hugh Davidson”, “Larry Dorf” and “Rachel Ramras”. They all used to be in an improv troup, “The Groundlings“, along with Oscar winners “Jim Rash” (Community) and “Nat Faxon” (Ben and Kate, Married, Happy Hour), “Maya Rudolph” (Up All Night) and “Melissa McCarthy” (you know who she is). Except all of the latter group are doing just fine, while “Davidson”, “Dorf” and “Ramras” are, well, nobodies. Unless you count writing for an animated Nickelodeon series about a farting boy as a proper job.
After a Groundlings reunion where they’re billed as “The Others”, they decide it’s time to aim for the top and they have a script for a TV show, Mr First Lady, that they’re going to farm around town to do it. Trouble is, they need a star name attached to it. Hmm. Whom will they try to get on board?
Nobodies is intended to work at many levels. On one level, it’s a satire of Hollywood and the TV business, with unsuccessful writers forced to go through all manner of indignities and meetings to try to get their projects made. Their ideas will get rejected and mocked, their lives sneered, right up until the point they could become useful, after which it’s all smiles.
On another level, it’s a satire of friendships, celebrity or otherwise, the tensions between people who aren’t quite best friends but who also aren’t distant, and the indignaties of being unsuccessful.
And on another level, it’s about various celebs putting their names in quote marks to play hil-ar-ious versions of themselves. This episode we got guest “Jason Bateman”, while still to come are “Allison Janney”, “Kristen Wiig” and “Kristen Bell”. You think I’m joking about this bit, but that’s how they’re all identified in the end credits.
The trouble is that Nobodies is funny at none of these levels. Not one. Not until a guest star turns up. “Jason Bateman” was actually very funny, playing basketball and getting a crippling knee injury; “Rudolph”, “Faxon” and “Rash” – you can see why they’ve done well for themselves.
Then it’s Davidson, Dorf and Ramras again and you can tell instantly why they are the Paul Shearers of this world, while Faxon, Rash and Rudolph are the Fry, Laurie, Slattery and Thompsons. Is Melissa McCarthy making this series just so everyone knows by reflection why she’s doing so well right now? Maybe not, but it certainly feels like it by the end.
There’s a certain accuracy to the friendships in Nobodies, at least, so it’s not a complete loss, if you do accidentally watch it. But, honestly, if you do watch, you’ll just be encouraging Davidson, Dorg and Ramras to try to do more, when they could be getting on with life, doing good as accountants, doctors or dog walkers or something.