October 27, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Great Indoors”


THE GREAT INDOORS:  Thursday 8:30PM on CBS – Change the Channel

Fall TV has a mystery even greater than exactly what’s going on at Westworld:  Joel McHale’s presence in the cardboard CBS sitcom THE GREAT INDOORS.  It’s one thing when multi-camera veterans from the 1990s like Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and Kevin James come trooping to the CBS money truck for a late-career infusion, but McHale?  He wasn’t just the lead of Community, network television’s last genuinely innovative sitcom, by all accounts he was so committed to the show and its creator Dan Harmon that he spearheaded Harmon’s return after NBC’s banishment, and was then the leading proponent of the show’s (short-lived) move to Yahoo.  McHale obviously knows a good piece of writing when he sees it, so could this smug package of cliches really the best he could find for his return to TV?

Created by Mike Gibbons, a sitcom newbie whose experience was largely as a writer/producer of comic talk shows and Tosh.0, Great Indoors is targeted directly at the CBS “Get off my lawn!” home base of cranky oldsters.  McHale plays Jack Gordon, a mighty explorer who writes up his dangerous adventures for Outdoor Limits magazine, owned by mentor Roland (Stephen Fry, staring at the ceiling and thinking of England).  But the printed form of the magazine has gone the way of much old media, and Jack finds himself summoned back to its Chicago offices and put in charge of the digital playpen.  These millenials (Christopher Mintz-Plasse as white nerdy Clark, Christine Ko as Asian woman Emma, Shaun Brown as back gay Mason–and I wouldn’t be as blunt about their descriptions if those weren’t script points) are, needless to say, shallow, narcissistic, overly sensitive and entitled.

The Great Indoors pilot script doesn’t miss an obvious punchline.  Jack’s new team lives through their phones, knows nothing about real life (from the region of Patagonia to Out Magazine), and thinks they should win prizes just for “trying hard.”  In case all that wasn’t hackneyed enough, there’s also Brooke (Susannah Fielding), Roland’s lovely daughter and Jack’s boss at the digital division, and guess what happened between the two of them on a company retreat that neither has ever forgotten?  Oh, and Jack’s one and only friend is local barkeep Eddie (Chris Williams), who offers wisdom as he hands out beers.

The dynamic of The Great Indoors is utterly predictable, as Jack ridicules his charges, but ultimately works together with them for a story that combines his real life concerns (and an awwwww bear cub) with their digital ingenuity.  Director Andy Ackerman keeps the pilot moving smoothly enough, and the actors go through their paces as though they don’t hate themselves, although aside from everything else, McHale is so ludicrously miscast as a macho legend that it all seems like one of those meta-parodies Community once reveled in.  In the end, though, it’s storytime at the old age home.  With The Big Bang Theory as its lead-in, The Great Indoors may very well thrive, at least for a while.  But it’s another nail in network TV’s sitcom coffin.

NETWORK FINAL:  Joel McHale’s Darkest Timeline.


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."