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I'm a big fan of Scrubs. I find its brand of surreal humour mixed with real heart is, in my opinion, one of the better, more original things on modern TV, so when I heard about 'Nobody's Watching' I ran off to see it. Basically in April of 2005 Bill Lawrence, creator type fella of Scrubs, teamed up with two writers from family guy and created this here pilot. The pilot was rejected by the WB ,however in June of 2006 the pilot was leaked onto youtube, and on the basis of the positive reaction NBC has commissioned it as a series.
First the basic concept. Nobody's Watching follows two fellas who have been best friends since they were six, uptight Derrick and free-wheeling fatherless Will. They send in a video to network execs the country over bemoaning the lack of quality of recent sitcoms. As such they are invited by two WB execs slick-as-an-oil-spill Jeff and quiet Roy to create a sitcom of their own, with a catch. They are being filmed while they create it. They are part of a (fake) reality TV show. This is taken to the point of having them live on a sitcom set, with a bedroom set, an office set, a lounge set, and most jarringly, a live studio audience. They quickly hire an assistant, motivated and pushy Jill, and after a short while hire clichéd blonde bombshell with a heart, Mandy. Of course there's a catch. Wily Jeff is up to no good to boost the ratings of the reality show.
The first show this reminded me of was Scrubs. This is perhaps hardly surprising considering the main brain behind both is Bill Lawrence. Firstly Roy is played by Scrub's semi-recurring character Dr. Zeltzer, and Roy is obviously designed exactly for the same actor, Roy is practically a clone of Zeltzer. Not that is a bad thing, Zeltzer (and Roy) are both very amusing, especially when paired off, as in this case, with an arrogant moral vacuum. The relationship between Will and Derrick also reminded me of Scrubs, two best friends who are that close is something Bill Lawrence has wrote and handled very well in Scrubs, especially when one is far more ready to express his emotions than the other.
The second show this reminded me of was the Office, with Nobody's Watching filmed in a same mockumentary style with characters who acknowledge, speak to, and look at the camera based on the premise of a reality show, but Nobody's Watching is somewhat out of the box even in these relatively new realms. It is day one and the show is already self-referential and postmodern with characters who actually acknowledge their own studio audience. The show pulls in a slew of sitcom references, and a spat of cameos (I count four in the pilot) adding in the pop culture references so beloved by Scrubs and Family Guy alike. At the same time the show manages to be both a tribute and a mockery of the traditional sitcom format, in the same way that Futurama both praises and mocks Science-Fiction.
All in all I liked Nobody's Watching, with a couple of caveats. Firstly the studio audience seemed to encroach on the show somewhat at some points. In the same way as early Scrubs was originally chock a block of cartoonish sound effects I hope that they will be dialled down a bit too, on repeated viewings I noticed them less and less. Secondly I found that the characters were perhaps not quirky enough, in that while Scrubs characters each come with a slew of running gags these characters only have wisecracks. That said these things take time to develop and the Scrubs characters were pretty bland at first as well. They need to be allowed to develop.
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