The pilot of Idiotsitter isn’t great, but, in a way that’s kind of a good thing. The plot is uneven. The jokes are thin. The acting is often superficial. But, comedy pilots are hard. Even the great Parks and Recreation stumbled at the beginning. Unlike many weak comedy pilots, Idiotsitter has potential, and should leave comedy fans hopeful, not only because of what it is, but also because of how it got made.
2015 was the year of two distinct trends in comedy: web series growing up and women taking the spotlight. The continued success of Broad City, the unexpected critical adoration of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and the pick-up of beloved web series High Maintenance to IFC have shown that web series aren’t a fad. Digital content is officially a training ground for television deals. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Broad City also join Amy Schumer and Melissa McCarthy as examples of how comedy is finally evolving out of its cro-magnon boys’ club phase, even if it is only taking baby steps in the right direction. These success stories mean that there will be more opportunities for DIY projects by female creators to hit the big time, and that is a good thing.
Now women too can make pilots that are just okay, and get time to figure out what works. Hopefully, Idiotsitter gets time to grow.
Nobody’s Perfect, Especially In Comedy Pilots
Previously, for a female creator to get a show or for a web series anchored by women to get a series pick-up by a network, the content had to be fantastic out of the gate. Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson, and Rachel Bloom (the women behind Broad City and Crazy Ex-Gilfriend respectively) had legions of fans on the Internet before they finally got a shot at fame. Their series also hit the ground running with great pilots. With shows like Idiotsitter, female digital creators now have the same benefit of the doubt that male TV comedy writers have enjoyed for decades. Now, you can get off to a rocky start and still have a chance.
A Fresh Premise
Sitcoms, particularly on the big broadcast networks, generally come in two types: the family comedy and the workplace comedy. Idiotsitter is kind of a hyrbid of the two, but it really has more in common with feature film bromances like Stepbrothers and I Love You, Man. Down on her luck and low on cash, Billie (Charlotte Newhouse) takes a job as an adult babysitter for Gene (Jillian Bell), a rich girl edging into her late twenties who has done her best to avoid the real world. Like most comedy pilots, this one struggles to explain exactly why these two have to be together, stumbling over the details of Gene’s house arrest and exactly why the courts would be satisfied with Billie being a part of Gene’s life. Regardless, it’s nice to have something other than the Modern Family or The Office clones that have been churned out over the last decade.
Actresses Worth Watching
The main characters of Idiotsitter are unfinished products. Gene and Billie are distinct, quirky characters, but they lack depth. Gene’s a spoiled party girl whose act is wearing thin, but we don’t get a sense of how she feels about that. Straight laced Billie has the neurotic intensity that makes for a good straight man (or straight woman), but we get no sense of her perspective. Though these actresses are incredibly experienced, as Groundlings alums and emerging character actresses, their characters are undeveloped and uneven. The backstories are only as deep as the next throw away joke and their personalities bend with the needs of the scene. However, Bell has the physical presence that reminds you of a young Melissa McCarthy and Newhouse has the same instincts that have made Lennon Parham (Playing House, Veep) an in-demand character actress. Despite an episode that strains to fill twenty-two minutes, these comedians give you enough to keep your interest.
Strong Supporting Cast
When casting Idiotsitter, they took a page out of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s book. Early on, It’s Always Sunny smartly recruited Danny DeVito to help anchor the young cast.
Here, veteran character actor Stephen Root steps in as Gene’s father. In pop culture, Root is probably best remembered as the Stapler Guy from Office Space but film lovers may remember him just as fondly from O, Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men, or any of his other two hundred acting credits. In a brief appearance in the pilot, as always, he leaves you wanting more.
You’ll also recognize Steve Berg, best known as the Mike’s Hard Lemonade Guy, who is building a great career for himself as a comedy character actor in comedy film and TV.
A New Way In
Even if Idiotsitter doesn’t improve after its slow start, the show is part of a sea change in the way TV is made. As they saw one comedy star after another launch their career with YouTube videos, Twitter bits, and Vines, Comedy Central decided to take matters into their own hands. CC: Studios is Comedy Central’s attempt at incubating short form web series in hopes of seeing the best of them grow into half-hour series. Idiotsitter spent 2014 as a six-episode web series before it was chosen for development on the mothership. This approach should allow Comedy Central to take more risks, find new voices, and ultimately producer a better, more diverse programming slate.
Time will tell if Idiotsitter can grow into another female-led sleeper hit for Comedy Central. Even if the show crashes and burns, it is further proof that the way TV gets made is changing for the better.