The Paul Reiser Show: A Review
In this world, there are rich people and there are poor people, and that has always been the case. Even back in the caveman days there was probably some caveman who had, like, a disgustingly big cave with a guest cave and a carriage cave and a pool cave that he always considered renovating into his private screening cave but never seemed to get around to it. All the other cavemen probably hated that fucking caveman! The rich caveman always had a very elaborate explanation for why he got to be rich while all the other cavemen were poor, something about working harder than others and being smart about his bison investments or whatever. The point that I am trying to make is that the world as we know it is defined by this economic stratification, and there isn’t really a way to get rid of any one piece of the puzzle without the whole thing coming down. Someone has to put the hamburgers in the industrial-strength microwaves at McDonald’s or else none of us gets McDonald’s, you know what I mean? Someone has to pick up the trash. Should we pay the people who pick up the trash one million dollars for doing so? MAYBE! I don’t know. I just know that the system is large and it is complicated and there’s not much use complaining about it and the truth of the matter is that almost every single person reading this post has an iPod that required the manual labor of someone earning slave wages, or whatever other example you want to pull that expresses the fact that we are each somewhere along the spectrum and probably benefiting off of the suffering and economic hardship of others. And I will tell you something: I love my iPod. Like, a lot. It’s really neat. Sorry, poor people who made it for me!
But here is the difference between the reality of our grossly unjust economic system and The Paul Reiser Show: one of them is a bloated, morally bankrupt human nightmare that has to exist in some form or another for the continued functioning of modern society. The other is the fucking Paul Reiser Show.
The Paul Reiser Show opens with Paul Reiser giving a direct-to-camera address explaining why this show exists. Sure. Except that after a couple minutes of explanation, I still have no idea. Did NBC lose a bet? Does Paul Reiser, like Jerry Seinfeld and The Marriage Barf, hold some dark secret about the network? I mean, honestly, what is going on here? By the end of the episode, the only thing I could think of was that 30 Rock joke about NBC’s programming guidelines:
According to his explanation, Paul Reiser has a perfect life: a beautiful wife, two children, whom he describes as “delicious,” which is disgusting, and the rare accomplishment of having achieved everything he’s ever dreamed, the only problem, according to Paul Reiser, is that he “isn’t dead yet.” Wait, what? I mean, on a fundamental level I get it. Paul Reiser is basically the high school football star of network sitcoms. He peaked when he was younger and now he’s got to live the rest of his life with a metaphorical bum knee and a mid-level job on the local police force. The only difference, of course, is that his bum knee and crappy job is living in a mansion and never having to work another day in his life if he doesn’t want to. COULD BE WORSE! “Not that I’m complaining,” Paul Reiser keeps saying. OK, good. You SHOULDN’T be complaining. But if you’re not complaining, Paul Reiser, then what are you doing? Because it sure sounds an awful lot like complaining.
AND THUS THE PAUL REISER SHOW WAS BORN!
Still confused? Me too! If the argument is that Paul Reiser was bored, I’m unconvinced. I mean, I’m convinced that he’s bored, but I’m not convinced that this boredom needs to be a whole TV show. Because it doesn’t. There seems to be this trend lately among aging television stars that because you have been wildly successful, you just “deserve” to fart out whatever in front of millions of people because it’s slightly more fun than watching the pool boy fuck your disinterested wife, or whatever. Somehow, Paul Reiser seems to genuinely think that we were actually WORRIED about Paul Reiser. His mid-life crisis is suddenly everyone’s problem. Gross, Paul Reiser. Gross, NBC.
To make matters worse, the pilot episode’s whole plot revolves around Paul Reiser being asked to host a game show, and him finding this soul-killing and insulting. Really? I mean, I understand how Paul Reiser might feel that way in that situation, but he knows that most people don’t get to host game shows, and that hosting game shows pays more than most of the jobs in the entire world, and that the idea that you were toying with the idea of hosting a game show for the simple reason that you didn’t know how to fill out the “occupation” field on your son’s PRIVATE SCHOOL application does not compelling and relatable drama make. There is a whole segment at one point starring Mark Burnett, the creator of Survivor. WOW! I’m not sure that there is anything more symbolic of the out-of-touch, slow-braised-in-showbusiness-until-your-head-falls-off-the-bone-and-disintegrates-into-garbage-sauce, bored millionaire mentality than a sitcom in which Mark FUCKING Burnett is the special guest star. Incredible. NORMAL PEOPLE DO NOT CARE ABOUT TV PRODUCER JOKES, SIR! “Aren’t these guys out of touch and insane with nothing but terrible ideas?!” Look in the mirror, you fucking idiot.
Perhaps the weirdest part of the episode was the Larry David cameo. In all of the press run-up to the premiere, Paul Reiser kept talking about how people were comparing the show to Curb Your Enthusiasm, but how he didn’t think the comparison was particularly apt for some unexplained reason. Right. You LIAR. First of all, no one in the real world had seen the show, so the first time they are hearing of this Curb Your Enthusiasm comparison was FROM PAUL REISER. It’s a clever little two-way-mirror deflection in which he gets to compare the show to Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is critically beloved and widely considered a “good comedy,” but then by disclaiming this comparison, which he himself just created, he also gets to shield himself from the criticism of people who don’t actually like Curb Your Enthusiasm. Clever girl. But then, to actually include Larry David in the premiere? That is just bonkers. Because The Paul Reiser Show IS like Curb Your Enthusiasm, insofar as they are both single-camera sitcoms that deal with former TV industry people playing themselves, both of whom are kajillionaires bopping aimlessly around LA. The difference is that The Paul Reiser Show is tone-deaf and terrible, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, well, that show is getting a little long in the tooth if you want to be honest, but it’s certainly a lot better than this. Why show how far beneath the bar you are falling by inviting the bar to appear on your show?
Historically, Paul Reiser makes kind, gentle, safe, and toothless comedy for a broad audience. That sounds condescending and disparaging but it isn’t. That’s a very particular skill and people rarely give it enough credit. It’s difficult to appeal to as many people as Paul Reiser has, in his career, appealed to! You can’t begrudge him his fame, his success, or the financial results of that. Good for him! We should all be so lucky! You can, however, begrudge him turning those things into the subject of a primetime sitcom. And as weird as it is at any given time for a creatively restless multi-millionaire to believe that everyone relates to and is interested in the plight of creatively restless multi-millionaires, it’s a particularly odd and possibly even despicable choice to make these days. Our economy continues to falter along (the job market is slowly improving, but there are still serious concerns about a “double-dip” recession, not to mention “stagflation,” which I don’t even really know what any of that means, but it sounds bad, right?), we are still engaged in TWO wars (three if you count the Libyan incursion), there’s a fucking NUCLEAR MELTDOWN in Japan, and I’m still personally worried about the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse, regardless of what the scientists say. These catastrophes do not eliminate the need for fictional distractions. If anything, they are more important than ever. Take us away from this terrible place! These catastrophes do, however, make it highly questionable to launch a brand new, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, and worst of all, deeply unfunny show about one famous multi-millionaire’s struggle to impress his delicious children.