This FX program premiering on April 9 before “Louie” is the funniest new show I have seen in recent years. And it has special appeal to TV academy members of all ages since it’s about a veteran comedy legend and a rising young star battling over their own TV variety series.
It reminds me of three-time Best Comedy Series champ “30 Rock” if crossed with “The Larry Sanders Show” and maybe “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (appropriate since Larry Charles has directed several episodes of that Larry David laffer and this new show). Those programs all made fun of television and the entertainment industry, just like other Emmy favorites like “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Murphy Brown,” “Seinfeld,” and “Frasier.”
The pilot episode of “The Comedians” has Crystal as himself trying to convince FX (with a pretend president played by FX regular Denis O’Hare) to let him have his own show. The only way they will pick it up is to have upstart Gad as his sidekick for “The Billy and Josh Show.” Other regulars include Stephnie Weir as their producer, Matt Oberg as their head writer, and Megan Ferguson as a production assistant.
Through the first few episodes Crystal and Gad don’t get along at all, but are forced to team up. They don’t miss a chance to goose each other. Gad even tells Crystal how excited his grandparents were when they found out who his TV partner would be.
The third episode, “The Red Carpet,” is outstanding and should be on the radar for directing and writing nominations from Emmy voters. Crystal might even submit that one himself as Best Comedy Actor, trying to add to his six past trophies.
The fifth episode, “Go for Gad,” is a real showcase for Gad in the race for Best Comedy Supporting Actor. All throughout the first nine episodes that I have previewed, including this one, he has many moments of being kidded about his career, “The Book of Mormon,” his popular character Olaf in “Frozen,” and lookalike actor Jonah Hill.
Crystal is constantly reminded of his age, his catchprase “You Look Mahvelous” from “Saturday Night Live,” the nine times hosting the Oscars, “When Harry Met Sally,” “Forget Paris,” “Analyze This,” “The Princess Bride,” and even beating David Letterman on “Battle of the Network Stars” in the 1970s.
That’s what is impressive about “The Comedians” — Crystal and Gad are fearless about making fun of themselves. Nothing is off limits. There are tons of inside jokes in a rapid-fire pace that makes you want to watch again just to catch what you missed.
But it’s not all complete fun and mischief. There are some moments here and there of sympathy and reflection as the two comics get to know each other better. The episode “Billy’s Birthday” later in the season especially combines a nice mix of pathos and humor.
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