Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Captain’s Less Than Warm Welcome

(because it seemed like every review I read had some pun similar to that)

So at some point last week I saw a commercial for a new CBS sitcom called Welcome to the Captain and I was quite surprised to see that it starred someone I went to high school with Fran Kranz (of the infamous Frary Krundy.) Although he was a year or two ahead of me everyone knew him, or at least of him because he was like The Actor and ever since I’ve been noticing happily at the roles he’s been getting (the biggest one I can remember is The Bridegroom in The Village though I remember him as the stoner who mistakenly gets into Stanford in Orange County)
Well it premiered last night and I was somewhat interested in seeing what the “critics” thought about it, or his performance.
And they were a little, how do you say “lukewarm”

From the San Francisco Chronicle

So it's not surprising that CBS' latest sitcom, "Welcome to the Captain," gets a few things right, a few things wrong, shows flashes of potential, then vanishes 22 minutes later without much memory. CBS sent the first two episodes, and that combined hour was enough to suggest there might be something worth monitoring here, at least for people who are already onboard with the network's sitcom philosophy. Others may find that even though it's a single camera comedy (a la "Scrubs"), that's not nearly as inventive or daring as it once was. Even CBS can do a single camera comedy without a laugh track and make it feel like a multicamera sitcom shot on a stage with a live audience. Old habits, you know.

First, you'll have to look past the show's title. "Welcome to the Captain" can roughly be translated to "Don't Watch: Title Hints at Lack of Imagination." But it's the premise that must be excused for being so patently Hollywood as to cause a skin rash and a pronounced rolling of the eyes: A famous Hollywood apartment called El Capitan, home to a bevy of industry types, serves as a backdrop to the comings and goings of an assorted and quirky mix of tenants. See, it's El Capitan, but people like to call it the Captain. We're told that a lot in the pilot. (What's not mentioned is why in the world would CBS add "Welcome to" in the title - it's just pointless.)

Anyway, the series ostensibly revolves around Josh (Fran Kranz), a New Yorker who made a short film that won an Academy Award - which is catnip to the industry, but Josh spends the next five years of his life failing at making a living in Hollywood. As he's about to give up and go back East, an old college friend, the L.A.-slick Marty (Chris Klein), says there's an opening at the Captain - some old actress has died and her apartment can be had.

The first two episodes are essentially a romantic comedy about Josh bumping into a budding acupuncturist named Hope (Joanna Garcia) and how their paths cross at the Captain, but the series will only survive if viewers take to the quirky cast of characters who call the Captain home, starting with Jeffrey Tambor ("Arrested Development") who plays Saul, a former sitcom writer best known for his work on "Three's Company," or as he liked to call it, "T-Co." Saul likes to be called Uncle Saul for no clear reason, just as the nosy bellman likes to be called Jesus, as in the savior, rather than the Spanish version of the same spelling. Jesus is played by San Francisco comic Al Madrigal, in a performance that is both over-the-top and subtle, both a spoof and a caricature that could - if the series takes off - make him the next Kramer.

Tambor and Madrigal are clearly the draw here, but the series stubbornly wants to avoid too much quirk by focusing on Josh's everyman character and his desire to find someone who's "wife material."

Maybe that will work. Maybe the residents, which include Raquel Welch as a faded but still sultry soap star named Charlene Van Ness and a ditzy young actress named Astrid (Valerie Azlynn), who likes to put an "s" in front of all kinds of words that don't need it, will ultimately be too weird to anchor the series. Of course, most networks would opt for the quirk, not the romance, but that's not how CBS makes its bones. And until Fox starts making even one sitcom that's funny, it's hard to dismiss the CBS theory.

The trouble with "Welcome to the Captain," outside of the title and romantic emphasis, is that two episodes haven't revealed any clear direction. Parts are funny - Madrigal and Tambor mostly, though Kranz gets laughs when he's not trying to fall in love all the time

Unfortunately that’s the only semi decent review I’ve seen for the show
(correction I found a few more: this one gives 3 out of 5 stars
Maybe it’s because I hadn’t heard anything good about CBS’s new series, Welcome to the Captain, which resulted in me lowering my expectations substantially but I really didn’t think the first episode of this new sitcom was all that bad. Sure, the premise is kind of unoriginal and the humor is a bit goofy at times but overall I think it’s a good fit to follow How I Met Your Mother (which just so happens to be one of my favorite half-hour comedies).
I mentioned earlier that I think the series will fit nicely after HIMYM. The humor seems to be aimed mostly at a younger audience though I have a feeling older viewers could appreciate it as well. As for me, I’ll give it a few more episodes before I decide if it’s a show I want to grow attached to.)

And from the Bangor Daily News
Still "Welcome to the Captain" is the weak sister of CBS’s Monday lineup. It’s an improvement on the show it replaces, the comedic black hole "The Big Bang Theory," but that’s truly damning with faint praise

Tom Shales from the Washington Post
The Captain': Livable if Not Quite Lovable
Kooky and cute as a cockapoo puppy, the new CBS sitcom "Welcome to the Captain" faces sobering challenges. It has to maintain ratings parity with the rest of the CBS Monday night comedy lineup, and it has to revalidate the sitcom genre itself amid the rezoning of prime time into Reality City.

Regardless, "Welcome to the Captain" has many easily appreciated charms
the tone of the show remains unchanged and unlike anything else currently on the air, which is not necessarily a recommendation. Produced without a laugh track, the ensemble comedy features an assembly that isn't very close-knit, the way a family, a group of employees or even the denizens of the same bar tend to be.

At the same time, the laugh lines are more sophisticated than the usual rat-a-tat gags fired off in most sitcoms, and character development is more of a priority.
The characters are refreshingly non-hostile and converse in something other than brittle, cold sitcom-speak. But the serialized nature of the stories (subsequent episodes begin with the "previously on" feature usually seen on dramas) is no particular plus. And while the characters are sweet, they stop short of being lovable.

Still, there are no screaming contestants humiliating themselves or yuppies playing native on a tropical isle or manic loonies trying to remember song lyrics. "Welcome to the Captain" has, instead, decided pluses. Indeed, it's worth tuning in just to hear La Grande Welch declare, "I read about it on the World Wide Web" with a breeze in every lyrical syllable.

but yeah not a lot of people liked it
From the San Jose Mercury News
Even in a strike-plagued season that has us starved for fresh TV fare, "Welcome to the Captain" is not a welcome sight.

The "captain" in the title of this lifeless CBS sitcom refers to a legendary Hollywood apartment building called El Capitan and if walls could talk, it probably would have some amazing stories to tell. Unfortunately, walls can't talk and we instead have to spend time listening to a lot of bland dialogue being spouted by equally bland characters.
"Welcome to the Captain" is one of those shows running on creative autopilot that makes you wonder how it ever got on the air. But now that it's here, surely an eviction notice can't be far behind.

From the LA Times
I very much wanted to like "Welcome to the Captain" -- the notion of a show exploring the odd and lovely personalities that collide among L.A. renters is so darn appealing.
Yet setting a comedy in Los Angeles is both tempting and perilous. There is so much to skewer here, but it's far too easy to swing at the easy shots. And swing writer John Hamburg (who gave us "Meet the Parents") does, with occasionally amusing but more often predictable and mildly dopey results.

All of which is an attempt to explain why, though one may want to like "Welcome to the Captain," it isn't easy to actually do this. It's not a terrible show by any means. It earns a few laughs, has some clever moments and in the midst of this darn strike, is new anyway. But after watching two episodes, I was left with the thought with which I began: An iconic apartment building full of wacky characters would make a great TV show. Would, though. Not does.

Boston Globe “Christine is Welcome, The Captain is not”
Let's hope "Welcome," as forced as "Christine" is relaxed, runs itself into cancellation sooner rather than later.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: 'Christine' warrants welcome-back salute; 'Captain' is dismissed
Welcome to the Captain, CBS' new sitcom about the eccentric residents of an old Hollywood hotel, is the latest in a line of shows that send TV critics to their thesauruses so they won't have to write the word quirky again. But there's good quirky (Pushing Daisies, Arrested Development), hit-and-miss quirky (Eli Stone, Scrubs) and just plain flat quirky, which applies to Welcome to the Captain. And is flat quirky even quirky at all?
But two episodes in, creator John Hamburg (Meet the Fockers), who also directed the pilot, doesn't seem to know exactly what to do with these odd characters he's dreamed up. The actors do what they can to give Hamburg's unfocused, not-very-funny writing some punch, but at the rate the show's going, it might not be on the air long enough for its characters to jell, writers strike or no writers strike

From Entertainment Weekly
A C grade
The Captain isn't an officer; it's an apartment building in L.A., the loopy kind that exists only on TV sitcoms like Welcome to the Captain. The tenants are all on a first-name basis, with plenty of time to socialize, deepening the mystery of how they manage to pay rent. While CBS' new single-camera comedy (debuting Feb. 4) is ostensibly about new resident/struggling screenwriter Josh (The TV Set's Fran Kranz) and his crush, acupuncturist Hope (Reba's Joanna Garcia), they're far too bland to hold the center. This place was built for wacky-neighbor tropes
Sadly, Welcome to the Captain just isn't funny or inspired enough to nail the peek-behind-the-Hollywood-curtain genre; a joke about Wilmer Valderrama's condom budget already feels dated. Besides, this is the new Hollywood, where C-listers beg for reality shows and starlets flash their hoo-has. There's just not a lot of curtain left

And from The New York Times
If you have just about lost your tolerance for portrayals of Los Angeles involving the oversexed and underappreciated, the dippy, the dopey, the hollow and the holistic, “Welcome to the Captain” may not merely tax your immune system, it could also send you to the nearest virologist.

From “Swingers” it borrows an abject East Coast neurotic dumped by his girlfriend and plunked among the party boys. From “Curb Your Enthusiasm” it takes a distaste for show business bottom feeders but forgoes the essential hostility. Like nearly every other middling sitcom of our age, it relies on references to the dubious product that came before and inspired it

“Welcome to the Captain” comes to us from John Hamburg, who made the film “Along Came Polly” and helped write “Meet the Parents” and its sequel (all starring Ben Stiller). He seems to like pitting the generically anxious against the baroquely loopy. But the result doesn’t match up here, in part because Mr. Kranz, a placid actor, never musters more than bemusement. Whatever the source of his irritation or confusion — a dimwitted young actress who wants advice, an erotically predatory former soap star who is after him (a great turn by Raquel Welch, whose character pretends to be 42), Josh nearly always registers the same look — of someone suffering a mild case of lactose intolerance.

The Captain has a great facade, but it’s filled with people who will make you keep checking the real estate listings.

Ok let’s just say it premiered to “mixed reviews.”

Wow I could not do “show business;” I am way too sensitive.
As for my review to be honest I was amused by the last 5 minutes that I saw (I forgot it was coming on) and Fran was good in it so at least that made me happy. And who knows it could have an inexplicable “Two and a Half Me” run and I could say I knew (of) Fran back when.

You can watch it yourself here

Welcome to The Captain

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