Reviews of new US TV programmes from 2016
In the US: Thursdays, 10.30/9.30c, Comedy Central. Starts January 14
So here’s something you probably already know: women have friends. Some of them even have best friends. They have great laughs together, nourish each other’s soul, yadda yadda.
However, TV history isn’t exactly replete with female friendships, particularly not ones written by women and especially not as the central relationships of TV shows. You may be able to think of an Ethel and Lucy or two, but until recently, TV hasn’t considered them worth writing about.
Now we have a whole new generation of actresses and comediennes, mostly in the US, creating and starring in TV shows with their female friends. Idiotsitters is just such a show, created by and starring Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse, as two ill-matched soon-to-be best friends.
And just like Doll and Em, Best Friends Forever and Playing House, it’s utterly tedious and unfunny to anyone who isn’t the show’s two leads/creators/writers or who has a similar relationship with her own best friend (“Yes, that’s just like us! Isn’t it? Isn’t it?! I must text her about it… Hey she’s watching it TOO!!! Jinx!”).
The story is that Newhouse is a Harvard-educated academic who desperately needs a job, so goes for an interview as a babysitter. There she discovers that she’ll actually be looking after the grown-up daughter of two very rich, very eccentric people, said daughter (Bell) being that strangely insulated kind of offspring of rich people who’s so cut off from the real world, she comes across as being either a complete idiot or having learning disabilities. She might actually even have learning disabilities, so nuanced is Bell’s performance. All Newhouse has to do is keep her out of trouble.
You can imagine how that goes. Imagine the funny situations. Imagine the laughs as they quote Dirty Dancing and baby-talk to one another. Imagine the belly aching as Bell encourages Newhouse to break her hand for her to explain to the cops why she broke her probation or as Newhouse discovers she was given a date rape drug during a party.
Struggling? Well, maybe you just don’t have that kind of relationship with your best friend. Or perhaps you’ve seen a genuinely funny comedy at some time during your life on this Earth.
There are people who already find this funny. It was, after all, a web series before getting a broadcast commission, so clearly had one or two viewers at least. I can’t imagine they were all Bell and Newhouse’s friends and families either.
But this is not a show with universal appeal, shall we say? It’s clear that Bell and Newhouse are having a whole lot of fun together. Perhaps that’s part of the problem – there’s clearly no genuine tension between the ill-matched couple, no real dislike, no real despair on Newhouse’s part at the situation in which she’s landed up in, no real suggestion of malice by anyone. Instead, it’s like watching two tweens playing dressing up and play-acting.
And maybe that’s the lesson for us all – never make a TV comedy with someone you’re already friends with, since you’re always going to be enjoying it more than the audience will be.