Monday, September 05, 2011

NBC's Friends With Benefits: TV Review

I started watching Friends with Benefits because NY comedian/actor and STAR OF MY SHORT FILM "HEART BREAK" Zach Cregger has a starring role.

He's great in it, as recognized by this week's NY Magazine Approval Matrix! (bottom right box)

Everybody's saying that the show sucks, and it's being run as a "burn off" on Friday nights, though it seems pretty popular on Hulu. I agree, the pilot has its problems. BUT I don't think the show sucks. I actually really enjoy watching it.

Review AFTER the Jump-Off

- Here's what's wrong with NBC's Friends With Benefits: THE CASTING - and specifically ONLY the casting of 2 parts - most crucially the lead female, Danneel Ackles as Sara, and I feel the part is so misplayed that it ruins the show for many viewers. She's clearly a soap actor and not a comedy actress. This show could be a serious hit if the part was played by someone like Ellie Kemper, Lizzy Caplan, or a young Diane Keaton. Instead, her quirks come off as nails-on-chalkboard annoying and unattractive. Quirks and flaws are something that a real comedy actress can make endearing and someone you relate to.

The other problem is Andre Holland as Fitz. The part is already under-written and poorly developed - he's the token black guy and WAYYYY too token. It seems like the writers are throwing him something to do. This wouldn't be so obvious if a real charming, charismatic comedy actor held this role. Someone like Donald Glover, young Martin Lawrence or Will Smith would be fantastic. It would be game changing. Andre can act, but he's just not funny.

- Now for what's right: Ryan Hansen as Ben. Ok so I loved Party Down and already liked him. And he really pulls off the lead alpha male character. He's likeable and funny. He will make a movie work in a leading role, I can see that. He's very funny, and extremely attractive vs the doofus he played on Party Down (hilarious in both roles). Some of Ben's moments are the best written and executed in FWB.

Jessica Lucas as Riley
. Ok, this woman is pulling off the likeable slut. That's very hard to do in mainstream movies/tv. She's charming, beautiful, and has a very fun energy. She's really enjoyable on screen. She gets away with doing many things that normally would be attributed to a villainous character - great work.

And finally back to Zach. There's a ton of moments with his character "Aaron" that he pulls off really well. First of all - I haven't seen a character quite like Aaron on tv much. He's rich, but not a jerk. He's a nerd, but also attractive. He's incredibly sweet instead of douchebag bros we are so used to seeing, and that's very refreshing. Zach also brings a lot to all the little moments and his physicality with jokes on screen so look out for that!

- As for the writing: I think it's pretty sophisticated at times. There are modern, clever jokes in Friends With Benefits that I'm not used to seeing in all sitcoms. Sometimes it tries too hard, sometimes it ruins it's own jokes with insincere plot shortcuts - but writing wise it's certainly not worse than so many tv shows out there.

Here's a show that I haven't seen yet that has tremendously talented writer/creators and actors. It has great potential this fall:
- NBC's Best Friends Forever starring NYC talents (who are now in LA) Lennon Parham, Jessica St Clair, and in a smaller role the super funny Adam Pally. Watch the clips!

Check out Friends With Benefits on Hulu. It does get better after the first episodes. And when you're done you can go back to watching Louie.

A favorite sketch from Zach Cregger's comedy group Whitest Kids U Know:

A clip of Friend's With Benefits' Ryan Hansen in Party Down:

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