January 1, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life”


COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE:  Sundays 8:30PM on FOX – Change the Channel

The first network TV premiere of 2016 is FOX’s COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE on Sunday (already available on various on-demand and streaming platforms)… and, well, it’s good that there’s still plenty of year yet to come.

Cooper Barrett‘s creator Jay Lacopo, a TV newcomer, has wrapped a whole lot of gimmicks around a bland, familiar center.  That center is the post-bro comedy, in which a bunch of aimless guys in their 20’s drink a lot of beer, talk a lot about women and sex (but don’t have much to do with either), and make their way towards a real life that might begin when they hit 30.  If this were a movie entry in that genre, or a non-broadcast TV series, they’d also smoke a great deal of weed, curse frequently and say many politically inappropriate things, and probably Seth Rogen would be either the star or at least a cameo player, but this is FOX, so there’s not even that.

Instead, we get gimmicks.  The biggest one is indicated by the title:  every week, Cooper Barrett (Jack Cutmore-Scott), from his present-day perspective several years out of college, will teach us a silly life lesson.  In the pilot, written by Lacopo and directed by James Griffiths, it’s “How To Survive Your Lovable Jackass.”  That description is less helpful than you might think, since Cooper himself and all those who surround him are clearly jackasses, if not necessarily lovable.  Cooper’s main bros come as big and black Barry (James Earl) along with small and bespectacled Neal (Charlie Saxton); in addition, Cooper’s older brother Josh (Justin Bartha), settled down with a wife and children, inexplicably thinks Cooper and his pals are cool and constantly hangs out with them.  The only other wrinkle is neighbor Kelly (Meaghan Rath), who shares flirtatiously hostile banter with Cooper while neither of them acknowledge the possibility of sparks between them.

The “Jackass” plot had Barry so enraged with the theft of the gang’s big-screen TV that he plotted revenge for years against the muscle-bound guys he was sure were the culprits, and that takes us to the second gimmick:  the story ranges through the years between college and the present, so for example we have a scene where the guys acquire a piglet, and later we see that they now have a full-grown pig wandering around.  In the right hands, that kind of shifting perspective can be surprising and insightful–here, it’s just an occasion for pig jokes.  (Yet another gimmick is that the story is structured as a lengthy set of flashbacks from what was supposed to be–but isn’t–an enticing point in the tale.)

The pilot is neither imaginative nor very funny, and no one in the cast makes an impact, with Cutmore-Scott the least distinctive of all.  FOX has been chasing after the young men who watch the network’s Family Guy for quite a while now, with recent flops like the Seth MacFarlane-produced Dads, Mulaney and Breaking In among the casualties.  To further that goal, the network has moved the older-skewing Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Last Man On Earth off their Sunday perches in favor of Cooper Barrett and another MacFarlane production, the animated Bordertown.  The lesson FOX needs to learn is that the audience it wants so desperately is unlikely to care about watered-down versions of comedies it can get full-strength somewhere else.

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."