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McHale's nadir -- as the star of CBS' new The Great Indoors


Joel McHale takes the money and slogs through The Great Indoors. CBS photo

Premiering: Thursday, Oct. 27th at 7:30 p.m. (central) on CBS
Starring: Joel McHale, Susannah Fielding, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Ko, Shaun Brown, Stephen Fry, Chris Williams
Produced by: Mike Gibbons, Chris Harris, Andy Ackerman

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Ageism isn’t only aimed at today’s elders. In the sad case of CBS’ The Great Indoors, it can also be applied to millennials.

Joel McHale once knew the glory of NBC’s arguably over-praised Community. For whatever reason (money), he’ll soon be thudding his way through a “traditional” multi-camera CBS sitcom filmed before a live studio audience and equipped with an annoying laugh track sweetener whenever necessary -- which is often. Still, we may have a TV first here in next week’s Episode 2. Has a declaration of masturbation ever been greeted with joyous whoops from the audience? It takes so little these days.

McHale, who in real life will reach the ripe old age of 45 next month, stars as bragging adventurer Jack Gordon. The poor guy is summoned back from the wild to preside over an untamed brood of young dweebs. They’ll be primarily responsible for ushering in the new age of Chicago-based Outdoor Limits magazine, which is ending its print days and going exclusively online. So far, their most re-tweeted post is “Best Outdoor Gear for the Zombie Apocalypse.”

Clark, Emma and Mason (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Ko, Shaun Brown) are all utterly insulated from the “real world.” The millennials in turn view Jack as an ewww-inducing primitive.

“He has no Twitter, no Facebook,” says Emma. “It’s like he doesn’t exist.”

Jack tries to interest them in the plight of an endangered species of bear, but makes no initial progress.

“You guys don’t know what it’s like to look at a creature that is the last of its kind,” he says in exasperation.

You guys know what’s coming next. “Yeah, we do,” Clark, Emma and Mason say in unison.

The Great Indoors otherwise sprinkles in three supporting characters. Roland (Stephen Fry) is the paunchy, punchy, Scotch-swilling founder of Outdoor Limits. His cute daughter, Brooke (Susannah Fielding), with whom Jack of course once slept, will now be his new immediate boss. Away from the workplace, Jack drinks old school cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon at a less than five-star Irish pub run by his best pal, Eddie (Chris Williams). “You look sick to your stomach,” Eddie tells Jack early in Episode 2. “I told you never to eat the food in here.”

Most of the punchlines land with the dexterity of a nerd trying to catch or throw a baseball, although batty Roland occasionally gets off a halfway funny one. The show overall is so relentlessly one-joke and stereotypical that one wonders how it can possibly carry on for more than a few weeks.

“I can’t exist in this world. And I can’t get through to these kids,” Jack inevitably laments before trying anew in a second episode built around dating apps and his strong aversion to them. He soon finds himself being described as a “confused old man” who got “grandpa’d out even harder” than anticipated.

Jack technically is a Gen Xer. But he might as well be the Quaker Oats man in the eyes of millennials getting the same broad brush treatment. It’s a wonder they can even feed themselves in a comedy that force-feeds its concept and swallows McHale whole in the process.


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