March 29, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Abby’s”


ABBY’S:  Thursday 9:30PM on NBC

Unless the general public cares about a multi-camera sitcom being shot outdoors, NBC’s new ABBY’S may face a tough road.  Aside from that technological distinction (handled with seeming effortlessness by director Pamela Fryman), Abby’s feels like the kind of sitcom that might have tried to coast off the vibe of Cheers when that show was a hit in the 1980s.

Like Cheers, Abby’s is set at a neighborhood bar, this one in San Diego.  The tavern is a homemade operation set up by Abby herself (Natalie Morales), an ex-Marine sergeant, in her backyard.  (Hence the outdoor sets.)  Abby is gruff and apt to throw acerbic one-liners at her patrons, but underneath that crusty exterior, of course, is a heart that beats for her adopted family of barroom buddies.  They include her associate bartender Rosie (Kimia Behpoornia), cowardly bouncer James (Leonard Ouzis), and barflies Beth (Jessica Chaffin) and Fred (sitcom vet Neil Flynn).  Such drama as there is arises when Bill (Nelson Franklin) shows up, and after ridiculing him for a while, the gang discovers that he’s Abby’s new landlord.  Bill threatens to shut down the unlicensed, uninsured bar, but of course if he did there’d be no show, so by the end of the pilot, he’s become Abby’s partner, and shown that he’s in on the goodnatured ribbing of the place by forcing Abby to serve him a hated Mai Tai, which he doesn’t even want.

That’s about all there is to Abby’s, which is amiable enough but has the energy level of Eugene Levy’s old SCTV riffs on Perry Como, where his version of the singer did his concerts while lying in bed.  The show was created by Josh Malmuth, previously a writer on New Girl and Superstore, and its non-writing uber-producer is Michael Schur of Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn NIne-Nine and The Good Place fame.  (After next week’s Will & Grace season finale, Abby’s will have Brooklyn Nine-Nine as its lead-in.)  One can see how Schur’s and Malmuth’s sensibilities would mesh, since all those shows revolve around the bonding of a haphazard group of misfits, but for now, the writing seems soft and predictable.  Even pros like Morales, Flynn and Franklin can’t put much pop into the banter.

Schur’s comedies are well known for needing some time to find themselves creatively, honing their characters and plots until they reach the right tone.  Perhaps that will be true of Abby’s, too, but this time it’s not clear that there’s enough to keep viewers tuned in long enough for everybody to know their names.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."