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Who's Watching "Nobody's Watching"?

Every once in a while, a show comes along that is so funny and so witty that you consider yourself lucky to watch it... even if the dunderheaded executives at the now defunct WB decided that you shouldn't get to see it.

That show, my friends, is Nobody's Watching, created by Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence and Family Guy's Neil Goldman and Garret Donovan. Thanks to You Tube, the show-that-may-never-be is watchable on your computer and if Bill Lawrence has anything to do with it, the series might even make it on the air. In an interview with The New York Times, Lawrence says that Comedy Central and ABC have expressed interest in picking up Nobody's Watching, but since the pilot was produced by NBC Universal, NBC has first crack at it. (It was originally developed by the WB after NBC president Kevin Reilly passed on the show.)

That Nobody's Watching would get passed over for a series order but such stinkers as Life with Fran, Twins, and (shudder) Reba would make it onto the WB is a sad commentary on the current state of the industry and its abhorrent reliance on focus groups and test screenings. Or as Lawrence told The New York Times:
"All went well with Nobody's Watching until the testing phase. Then, Mr. Lawrence said, he and his partners journeyed to a "sweaty test-screening room" in the San Fernando Valley where issues were raised by the screeners about whether the premise was confusing. That seemed to Mr. Lawrence to be the unspoken concern of WB executives, although once it was spoken, the test audiences seemed to glom onto it.

Still, those young executives at WB encouraged him the show was a sure thing. Mr. Lawrence left for New York in May 2005, ready to hear Nobody's Watching announced on the WB schedule. "I was not in the business to fly to New York to feel like an idiot," he said. But that's what happened. WB passed on the show."
I first watched Nobody's Watching a few weeks back when it popped up on You Tube. I was immediately struck by the innovative "meta" structure of the thing, a set-up so fiendishly original that it had no business being focus-grouped by the WB. Also, while watching the pilot, I couldn't help but laugh. And I kept laughing, because Nobody's Watching might just be one of the funniest sitcoms that nobody got to watch.

Here's the sitch: Twentysomething Ohio natives Will (Battlestar Galactica's Paul Campbell) and Derrick (Taran Killam) are hired by the WB to create a new sitcom; they'll live on the lot in a makeshift home created out of discarded sitcom sets and, oh, the entire process, and every move Will and Derrick make, will be filmed for a reality show devised by the evil Jeff Tucker (Prison Break's Paul Adelstein), the WB network chief who sees this as an opportunity to use Will and Derek for his own ends.

Nobody's Watching cleverly plays with classic situation comedy trappings such as three-sided sets, live studio audiences, multiple cameras, etc., but it's all seen through the modern (and somewhat jaded) lens of single camera comedy and juggled with the surreal, pop culture reference-laden humor of Scrubs. Just look at the show's title for a sense of the off-kilter humor in the show. Part of the title's joke is the fact that Will and Derrick decide ultimately to name their amorphous sitcom Nobody's Watching, knowing full well that the critics will savagely use that very title to bash the show; also, everybody's watching Will and Derrick: the network, the live audience, the video cameras in every nook and cranny of the sets, including their "secret bathroom" (don't ask). It's a telling commentary on the state of shock television today. It's even more telling that network execs thought this wouldn't find an audience, despite boffo numbers over the years for lousy sitcoms According to Jim, Coach, and Yes, Dear, all of which get mercilessly mocked -- by name, no less -- by Will and Derrick. (It's worth noting that the creator of Yes, Dear, Greg Garcia, who went on to create the superb My Name is Earl, had a falling out with Bill Lawrence after seeing Nobody's Watching's pilot.)

Mocking well-known sitcoms while creating a metatheatrical show-within-a-show on the discarded sets of long-dead sitcoms? Now this is a show I could get behind.

Still, there's hope for Nobody's Watching, with NBC, ABC, and Comedy Central all expressing interest in reviving the series, according to The New York Times:
"Mr. Lawrence said that Mr. Reilly had called from his vacation in Mexico last week and said he wanted to take another look. The show's offbeat characters and rapid-fire dialogue might make it an ideal partner for another comedy on NBC, [NBC Universal president Angela] Bromstad said, a show the network has struggled to find a match for: Mr. Lawrence's Scrubs.

Could it happen? Could a dead network show be revived because of the power of individuals supporting it on the Internet? [...]

What Mr. Lawrence really wants right now is for so many people to start talking about his comedy pilot now featured on YouTube that some network executive will decide, 'Now I can pick this up and I won't look dumb.'"
To that end, I've included the entire pilot of Nobody's Watching below (it's unfortunately split into three sections) for your convenience. Watch, enjoy, and spread the word. While I might not be the television exec that Bill Lawrence needs to get his beloved show resurrected, I will gladly get everyone I know to watch Nobody's Watching.

Nobody's Watching, Part 1 of 3:

Nobody's Watching, Part 2 of 3:

Nobody's Watching, Part 3 of 3:

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Dateline (NBC); What I Like About You/Twins (WB); America's Funniest Home Videos (ABC); 24 (FOX); WWE Friday Night Smackdown (UPN)

9 pm: The Unit (CBS); Las Vegas (NBC); Reba/Living with Fran (WB); Kyle XY (ABC) , 24 (FOX)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS); Law & Order (NBC); 20/20 (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Spaced on BBC America. (11 pm ET)

It's another episode of my new favorite British comedy, Spaced, a wacky 1999 Britcom starring Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson. On tonight's episode ("Battles"), Daisy wants to get a dog, while Tim meets his ex's new boyfriend.

8:30 pm: Peep Show on BBC America. (11:30 pm ET)

One of my favorite single-camera British comedies returns Stateside for a second season of twisted and bizarre episodes. On tonight's episode, Mark, still despondent over losing Sophie, makes a new friend at the office, while Jeremy meets an old friend, one he used to bully, who invites him to work on his latest indie film.

9 pm: Black Books on BBC America. (Midnight ET)

BBC America continues its reairing of the second season of the brilliant Britcom Black Books, which stars Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey. In tonight's episode ("The Fixer"), Manny and Bernard are tasked with teaching an illiterate hit-man to read; meanwhile, Fran tries to figure out what her new job entails.

11:20 pm: The Catherine Tate Show on BBC America. (10:20 pm ET)

Later on BBC America, it's another episode of the new season of The Catherine Tate Show. Who's Catherine Tate? Why, she might just be the heir to Tracy Ullman's sketch comedy throne.


Anonymous said…
The premise and set-ups are great and could go the distance, but the characters could be a lot better (as could the casting). The show lacks an edge, it's too light. Geekier casting in the form of a young Tony Hale or Rainn Wilson could give the characters and show a inch of subtext and a better not-ready-for-hollywood feel. Just saying.
Anonymous said…
sounds very cool. I will have to check it out!
Anonymous said…
I watched the show recently on You Tube and thought it was hilarious. I love the way it pokes fun at the traditional sitcom and that it even goes so far as to bash some of the more tedious sitcoms on television now.

I wasn't impressed by either of the female leads but Paul Campbell (Will) was excellent. He has great comedic timing and is very charismatic. Extremely different from his character on Battlestar Galactica. It's great to see him doing comedy...and doing it well at that.

Overall, it's a difficult premise to pull off but I thought that, for the most part, it was successful and definitely would have tuned in for more.
Anonymous said…
Nobody's Watching is one of the most original, funniest things I've seen in the last 5 years. Thank you, Jace, for pointing me in its direction!!!

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