The content ocean is vast and unnavigable. The nature of television comedy is in a state of flux, and a lot of high-profile, high-quality projects keep turning out to be disappointingly mediocre. It’s often more helpful to know what’s a waste of time than what’s actually worth it. The process of elimination is our best friend these days.
While you’re quarantined indoors with nothing but hours of time to fill and a bottomless reserve of streaming content to watch, I thought it might be helpful to draft a list of some of the shows I wouldn’t recommend from the last year. I tried to focus particularly on the films and shows that looked appealing, but ultimately just weren’t worth the effort. We all have a lot of time on our hands, but with so much content both good and bad, there’s no need to waste hours trying shows with little payoff.
Living With Yourself
This show is so boring. From the acting to the directing, the quality is high across the board. Except the writing. The show looks great but drags hard. You grasp the novelty of the plot early, and Paul Rudd’s character just isn’t compelling enough to keep things interesting. (Same for the rest of the cast.) As a dramedy, the show is neither sufficiently funny nor sufficiently dramatic to make for good entertainment. Pick a lane, Paul!
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Jillian Bell is hilarious, but this Amazon film is like a more serious, less clever “Trainwreck,” which is already off-putting enough to some people. It has a few funny moments, but feels like more of a slog than the leading lady’s first jog. The lows are low, and there are plenty of them. Don’t bother.
Nikki Glaser and Michelle Wolf’s new Netflix specials
Glaser is better than her last special. Wolf really is not. Glaser’s set suffers from the common mistake of mistaking vulgarity for cleverness. Wolf’s set suffers mostly from her voice. Kidding… the voice is fine, it’s her grating sense of self-satisfaction that drags the show down. Wolf is capable of incisive political humor now and again, but it’s still not worth sitting through the whole special to experience.
John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch
Mulaney may be the best comedian of his generation. This concept sounded weirdly great. Its execution left much to be desired.
Like “Living With Yourself,” “The Politician” looks great but isn’t all that entertaining. It’s slow. Despite decent acting, the characters feel one-dimensional, more like pawns in a plot than believably human fictional creations. The payoff is ultimately disappointing—and I mean that emotionally, intellectually, and comedically. You don’t get much for all the hours you put in.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie
As much as I love prestige offerings, I’m absolutely desperate for slapstick these days, when every new comedy seems to think humor is necessarily supplemented with subpar emotional storylines. But the “Between Two Ferns” movie turned out to be a classic case of iconic sketches just failing to translate into full-length films. Don’t bother, you won’t laugh, and it’s not even interesting to watch them try.
This movie is such a spectacular waste of talent. Somehow its dream cast and writing team just didn’t manage to pull off a quality comedy. My theory is that it was basically one big inside joke between famous friends, and inside jokes are bad enough when they last 30 seconds, let alone the length of a full movie. “Wine Country” delivers more cringes than laughs.
Even if you can get past the show’s sad, approving depiction of abortion, which is rightfully difficult (and, for some, understandably impossible), it’s not funny. The writing is self-satisfied, yet not nearly as edgy as it wants to be. With its NYC-based, aspiring writer, female millennial protagonist, “Shrill” is firmly in the “Girls” genre, but lacks the humor and intellect of its legitimately great predecessor.