First Watch: Mulaney: "Pilot" (Season 1, Episode 1)

I’m not really sure how to begin this review.

This show is terrible. Don’t get me wrong, John Mulaney’s New in Town is easily one of my favorite stand-up specials and he did excellent work behind-the-scenes as a writer for Saturday Night Live—especially with Bill Hader’s character, Stefon. When Seth Meyers announced his departure from SNL, I had kind of hoped they would bring Mulaney out from the writer’s room and onto the Weekend Update chair, but that didn’t happen. I was pretty ecstatic when I heard that Mulaney was getting picked up by FOX after NBC passed on his pilot. All of that excitement turned to dread when I saw the first trailer, and all of that dread turned to deep sorrow when I trudged through every minute of the show’s first half hour.

While many (including Mulaney himself) will be quick to compare Mulaney to Seinfeld, I think the series is more akin to Louis C.K.’s original venture, Lucky Louie. Like Lucky Louie, Mulaney is a very bare bones comedy with a very funny cast that just simply doesn’t work when everything is put together. Fortunately for fans of heartfelt comedy (and just good television), Louis C.K. was given another chance on a different network with Louie—a much, much, much better comedy(?)—but, I think Mulaney already expended his extra life when NBC passed and FOX picked his show up. You would think that with a cast toting John Mulaney, Nasim Pedrad, Martin Short and Elliott Gould, you would atleast have a brief respite of funny in the comedy desert that is Mulaney, but you would be very, very wrong.

If you have seen New in Town, you have seen all of the funny bits of this show. Like Louie or Seinfeld, Mulaney has bits where he is doing stand-up mixed into the show and those bits are good, but they are all jokes that you’ve heard before. Folks who have never seen Mulaney’s stand-up might be able to enjoy these parts, but I don’t think that they will get further than the first commercial break anyways, so it doesn’t really work for anyone in the end.

The pilot’s storyline has Mulaney going in for an interview with Martin Short’s Lou Cannon, a self-absorbed game show host that everyone adores (except the real audience), and managing to get the job—even if it doesn’t end up being what it seems. The way Lou Cannon drags Mulaney through the dirt throughout the episode manage to be the funniest parts (if you can call them that) of the show, but all of that is easily forgotten when Mulaney makes his way back to his apartment to talk to his roommates. The dialogue between John Mulaney, Nasim Pedrad and Seaton Smith is completely inorganic, Mulaney’s roommates call him “Mulaney” constantly, despite the fact that there are no other “John”s in the main cast, any talent that Nasim Pedrad has is completely wasted by the fact that she is nothing more than a crazy ex-girlfriend and Seaton Smith’s Motif is just not funny.

While it is completely possible that the show could get better after the pilot, I really don’t think it is going to happen here. My only hope is that Mulaney doesn’t take his failed sitcom too hard and he makes another comedy special soon, because that is where John Mulaney shines.

It hurts my heart to write so many negative things about one of my favorite comedians, so I think I’ll just go ahead and skip the usual First Watch ending blurb.

  • Rating: I’m not going to do this.
  • Comment: No, I already said I am not doing this for this show!
  • You might like Mulaney if you like: You won’t.

Mulaney airs Sunday nights at 9:30 PM PST on FOX until they decide to pull it from the line-up and burn off the rest of the episodes.


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