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'The Comedians' review: Not quite enough funny stuff

THE COMEDIANS -- Pictured: Billy Crystal, Josh Gad.

THE COMEDIANS -- Pictured: Billy Crystal, Josh Gad. Credit: FX / Ray Mickshaw

THE SHOW "The Comedians"

WHEN | WHERE 10 p.m. Thursday on FX

WHAT IT'S ABOUT In this single-camera comedy, FX wants to create a late-night comedy sketch show with Billy Crystal (playing himself) that teams him with "Frozen" and "The Book of Mormon" star Josh Gad (also playing himself). Neither star particularly likes the other, and they chafe at their generational differences, but "The Billy and Josh Show" must go on. After a series of miscues and missteps, it remains to be seen whether it will.

This scripted show-biz satire -- filled with star cameos, including Steven Weber as a transgender director, and Mel Brooks as Mel Brooks -- is based on the Swedish series "Ulveson & Herngren."

MY SAY  "The Comedians" is not as terrible as "The Billy and Josh Show," even remotely, and couldn't possibly be either. The fictional "Billy and Josh" is a train-sized wreck that illuminates the TV verity that networks trying to jackhammer a show out of a hunk of moldy green cheese still end up with a hunk of moldy green cheese.

But instead of cheese, think of "The Comedians" as a meta-hot dog stuffed inside a meta-bun. It's a send-up of two real-life stars who are cynically doing a fake show for FX that's built around their stardom. But these stars also may be hoping this broad, self-assured wink will somehow inoculate them from turning "The Comedians" itself into a bad show.

It doesn't quite work out that way. After a pretty good opening Thursday, "The Comedians" settles into a predictable rhythm that allows for some funny moments followed by another rhythm that allows for even fewer. There are two problems. First, overfamiliarity on our part -- from "Episodes" to "The Comeback," we have seen similar show business sendups with similar targets, like craven networks and insecure stars who operate in a world where navel-gazing is both a lifestyle and pathology.

Second, there's not enough fresh material to overcome the first.

At least Gad and Long Beach native Crystal are a couple of pros who are congenial and sometimes even amusing together. As a team, they are better than the shows -- both the real one and the fake one -- they're in.




A chat with Josh Gad


Josh Gad, of 'The Comedians," is suddenly one of the world's hottest stars -- thanks, "Frozen" (he's the voice of Olaf). He also was hot on Broadway during his long Tony-winning run in "The Book of Mormon" and on Hulu with his very funny "Borat"-like series "Gigi: Almost American." Next, he'll star in a big-screen version of "Angry Birds" and a live-action "Beauty and the Beast."

I spoke with the multitalented Gad last week.


Why "The Comedians"?I had no intention of going back to TV -- I've been unlucky with TV [and] sort of had a bad taste in my mouth after '1600 Penn' [for NBC]. . . . I wasn't actively looking for anything, but then I went to a benefit for Billy -- which I joke is the only way you get to meet Billy Crystal -- and after we were talking backstage he said, 'I've got this new show I'm adapting' and I'm thinking to myself, 'Of course I'm going to say yes.'


Is there a second season here?If the audience embraces this the way we hope they will, then I think Billy and I are eager to keep telling these stories. . . . Billy and I will walk into the office and say, 'You will never believe what just happened' -- and then take that concept and shred it and create a Frankenstein monster out of it.


Will you do another season of "Gigi: Almost American"?

I'm negotiating potentially something very big for "Gigi." . . . For me, the Internet is an incubator where you can try out different things without having to spend a fortune. We feel like we're ready to take the next step.


You're also doing a big-screen remake of "Gilligan's Island." Where does that stand?

Still plugging away on it and we're on our third draft. . . . We want to get it 100 percent right.


Any plans on a return to Broadway?It will never be over [for me]. It will always be a second home to me. I went to see 'Hamilton' and it was one of the two or three most extraordinary events I've ever witnessed. I was truly thrilled to see shows like that and then think, 'Oh my God, I need to get back.' . . . It will happen.

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