November 15, 2013

THE SKED Series Premiere Review: “Ground Floor”


GROUND FLOOR:  Thursday 10PM on TBS – If Nothing Else Is On…

As cable networks have stolen more and more of the glory from broadcasters, with TV movies, miniseries, and quality 1-hour dramas now largely in their domain, one of the last bastions of broadcast domination is the mainstream sitcom.  (Niche comedies are a different story.)  A few cable networks have had some limited success in the field, but nothing has come close to the popularity of a Big Bang Theory or even The Middle or New Girl.

TBS has a thriving business with its massively successful reruns of Big Bang, and it’s used that show as lead-in to efforts like Sullivan & Son and the transferred Cougar Town.  Its latest try is the merely pleasant GROUND FLOOR, which seems unlikely to change the status quo.  (Last night’s premiere ratings had the two half-hours at 0.7/0.6, down sharply from the Big Bang runs that surrounded them.)

Ground Floor hails from Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) and Greg Malins (a long-time senior writer/producer of Friends, among other credits), but it has a fraction of the brain cells or imagination found in their best work.  The concept is simple and self-consciously schematic:  Brody (Skyler Astin) is an ambitious young financial analyst who works for the charmingly egotistical Remington Mansfield (John C. McGinley, a Lawrence veteran) on one of the upper floor of a skyscraper, and he’s totally consumed by his career–until one night when he meets the gorgeous Jenny (Briga Heelen, a recurring presence on Cougar Town), who works in maintenance on… well, guess which floor.  Can this mismatched pair find true love?  Each has been given some friends and colleagues resistant to the couple:  upstairs, it’s not just Remington, but Skyler’s best friend Mike (Rene Gube), while downstairs, Jenny has to cope with Mark (Rory Scovell), called “Harvard” because he went to college, even-more-bombshell buddy Tori (Alexis Knapp), and general slacker Derrick (James Earl).  But even though all sides tell the lovers that they should stay within their class, it’s blindingly obvious that they’re meant for each other.

Make no mistake, “blindingly obvious” isn’t necessarily a bad thing where multi-camera sitcoms are concerned; it’s a field where the idea is to find a template that works and then stick with it.  Ground Floor, though, doesn’t have much of a spark.  Heelen is very appealing, but Astin is quite bland for someone who’s supposed to be driven and smart.  Watching him, you don’t wonder whether Jenny will be able to reform him, but how Remington ever hired such a pushover in the first place, much less come to think of him as a protege.  There just isn’t all that much difference between Brody and Jenny, who are clearly on the same intellectual and cultural level (Brody doesn’t even seem to come from money).  McGinley is a smoothie and always fun to watch, except that half the time here he appears to be doing an impersonation of James Spader from Boston Legal (he even takes Brody out on his balcony to smoke cigars and reflect on his “greed is good” philosophy–although it is funny that Derrick and Harvard catch his discarded cigars for their own smokes).  Harvard is clearly meant to be a breakout character, with plenty of eccentricities including an unrequited crush on Jenny, but in the pilot (by Lawrence and Malins) and first regular episode (written by Executive Producer Jeff Astrof; both episodes were directed by Gail Mancuso), he doesn’t come to life, and the other supporting roles are even less defined.

Ground Floor isn’t any worse than plenty of the new comedies that the broadcast networks introduced this fall, and I’d sooner sit through another half-hour of it than, say, The Millers or Sean Saves the World, let alone Dads.  But it’s far from a game-changer; it feels like everyone involved is only half-trying.


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."