October 16, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Truth Be Told”


TRUTH BE TOLD:  Friday 8:30PM on NBC – Change the Channel

Out of the pit that is the current state of NBC comedy crawls TRUTH BE TOLD, which was seemingly designed to make its lead-in, the mediocre Undateable, look like a television classic.  Its creator is DJ Nash, who last gave us the semiautobiographical Growing Up Fisher, a fictionalized account of his childhood with a father who was blind.  That show died of terminal innocuousness, and it seems like the lesson Nash took from it was to write edgy.  Unfortunately, edgy is not his strength.

Truth gives us a pair of couples who are neighbors and best friends, only get this:  Russell (Tone Bell) and Angie (Bresha Webb) are black, and Mitch (Mark Paul Gosselaar) and Tracy (Vanessa Lachey) are not.  So you can imagine!  For Nash, this means gags about what respective cars white and black people would drive, what music they listen to, and–inevitably–a discussion about whether Mitch can ever say That Word.  For extreme edginess, Russell makes jokes about the waitress at the Chinese restaurant they frequent.  It’s all at the level of the stand-up comedy you’d find on the back end of the bill on a weeknight at a second-rate club, and even though Russell is meant to actually be a stand-up comic, the point doesn’t seem to be that he’s a terrible one.  (Similarly, Mitch is a college professor, although the only way one can imagine him being hired for that job is if it were an online diploma-mill.)  The women are supporting characters who are meant to be wiser and more tolerant than their spouses, which means they’re mostly dull.

When Truth Be Told leaves race-based humor, it actually gets worse.  The main plot of the pilot revolves around the babysitter Mitch and Tracy hire when the two couples are supposed to be going out to a concert.  She’s not just super-hot, but may–egads!–have appeared in porn.  Much of the episode is therefore devoted to the obsessive attempt to track down her porn movie online, and positively identify her.  An R-rated movie might be able to do something transgressive with this, and a well-written network TV show could have had fun with the need to talk around the specifics (the eternal model for this, of course, is Seinfeld‘s “The Contest”), but Truth Be Told is neither of those.  Instead it provides smirky, moralistic jokes that only make its characters look worse as they proceed.

The actors, under Pamela Fryman’s direction, do lazy work, but one can hardly blame them, given the material they’ve been handed.  If a pilot’s job is to establish as quickly as possible that its characters are distinctive and worth-watching–and, you know, also be funny–Truth Be Told fails utterly.  Whether that means it’s doomed in the ratings is unclear.  It’s airing in the Friday 8PM hour, one of the lowest-rated of the week (so low that the 1.3 for last week’s Dr. Ken was treated like a minor triumph), and little will be expected of it with Undateable as its lead-in.  Even a gain of a tenth or two from that show’s 0.8 might make it a “success.”  Whether or not that happens, though, the real truth is that NBC will have nothing to be proud about.


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."