As we saw yesterday with The Brave, normally it’s NBC that tries to emulate CBS. However, if there’s one thing that NBC has excelled at for years, it’s schmalzy drama, and with This Is Us riding so high in the ratings and critics’ heart (would there it weren’t so schmalzy, because then I’d be able to tune in for Alex Breckenridge), let’s not be too surprised that CBS has decided to copy NBC this time by producing Me, Myself and I, featuring a cast mostly nicked from NBC shows.
It’s CBS, of course, so there are a few changes.
Firstly, it’s all centred on one white male. Again no surprise.
Secondly, it’s billed as a comedy. Except it’s actually not that funny. Again – CBS, so no surprise there either.
Lastly, and what is genuinely surprising, is that it’s really not half bad as a piece of schmalzy drama. I even felt a little emotional at times.
As the show’s title vaguely alludes, My, Myself and I is set in three times in one man’s life. We get to meet ‘Alex Riley’ as a teenager (Jack Dylan Grazer) in 1994, just as he’s moved to Los Angeles with his mum (Mandell Maughan), her new husband (Brian Unger) and his step-brother (Christopher Paul Richards). He’s worried at going to a new school, but he’s an optimistic kid who loves science – and a girl he meets at the bus stop actually seems to be into him (Reylynn Caster).
We also meet him now in 2017 (played by Bobby Moynihan now) as a struggling inventor, shortly after he’s split from his cheating wife (Alison Tolman) and raising his eight-year-old daughter from inside his friend/business partner’s (Jaleel White) garage. He obviously has a few more regrets and seems to have lost that inventing mojo he had as a kid. But he’s still got the future ahead of him.
Finally, we meet Riley in a futuristic 2042 (now played by John Larroquette) as he’s about to retire, having become a hugely successful industrialist, but unsure what to do with his life. He’s full of regrets, although his grown up daughter (Kelen Coleman) ain’t one. But then he bumps into a friend from long ago (spoiler: that girl at the bus stop, now played by Sharon Lawrence) and begins to imagine new possibilities.
As you might expect from such a situation, all three narratives interlink as he we learn what happened to the kid to make the man, both positively and negatively; what helps the older man to get his mojo back; and what the old man who seemingly has everything would really rather have. Characters who are important later on pass through the backgrounds of scenes from earlier in Riley’s life without getting mentioned, but of course we realise their importance all the same.
Nice. It’s just nice
And for a CBS comedy, it’s surprisingly nice. Yes, it’s actually nice. Characters aren’t constantly hating and mocking one another. Cringe comedy is kept to a minimum. People you expect to be douches aren’t. There’s kindness and love. Work goes into giving supporting characters their own lives and cares. And dare I say it – you actually like the people involved.
The fact Me Myself and I is billed as a comedy is problematic. The fact it naturally revolves around one man is a little tedious. But if you found This Is Us unbearable or too 70s but liked the idea of a temporally riven drama that’s full of humanity and charm and that’s partially set in the 90s and the future – or even if you fancy a 90s-set Wonder Years – then Me Myself and I could be right up your street.