Monday, May 4, 2015

Live and "Undateable," Tuesday night on NBC

The cast of Undateable, l-r:
 Ron Funches, Rick Glassman, Bridgit Mendler,
Brent Morin, Chris D'Elia, David Fynn, Bianca Kajlich
If you haven't yet caught on to Undateable, NBC's hip revitalization of the classic multi-camera sitcom, Tuesday, May 5 is your night.

The show's executive producer Bill Lawrence has long been an impresario when it comes to promoting his shows -- this is the guy who took his Cougar Town cast to bars across the USA, and his Undateable actors, most of whom are stand-ups, on a nationwide tour of comedy clubs.

Lawrence and the latter show's creator Adam Sztykiel have bent the sitcom form on-screen as well, allowing their Undateable actors to improv lines and physical bits, many of which end up in the episodes' final cuts.

Now, the innovations continue, as Undateable joins only a handful of sitcoms to broadcast live; the show is now in illustrious company, with such greats as 30 Rock, Will & Grace and Hot in Cleveland. (In a format similar to 30 Rock or W&G's live broadcasts, Undateable will air live at 9PM, in two separate versions for the East and West coasts.)

But Undateable's live episode is noteworthy in one other respect:  the show will be an hour long and therefore, as Lawrence and Sztykiel promise, full of surprises and special guests.

Undateable creator Adam Sztykiel (r)
with stars Ron Funches and Rick Glassman
Joining series regulars Brent Morin (Justin), Chris D'Elia (Danny), Bianca Kajlich (Leslie), Rick Glassman (Bursky), Ron Funches (Shelly), David Fynn (Brett) and Bridgit Mendler (Candace) will be a troupe of Lawrence loyalists -- such as his wife and Cougar Town star Christa Miller and Scrubs stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison --as well as Kate Walsh, Victoria Justice and even Dr. Drew Pinsky.  And then, mixing into this super-sized musical episode set during a musical competition in Detroit's Black Eyes Bar, there will be at least one surprise guest whom the network will tease only as a "super-popular Grammy Award-nominated musician."

Lawrence describes the live episode as "half scripted sitcom, half variety show." Though he compliments earlier shows on their own live installments, he notes that "this will not feel in the same vein as theirs did."

Undateable's regular tapings already have an anything-can-happen feel, he explains, with actors going off on long, unscripted tangents or even calling out audience members who think they can better perform a given bit.  The show's May 5 episode will have more of the same craziness.  "NBC, and [its president] Bob Greenblatt love live television -- they did The Sound of Music and Peter Pan.  And they love this cast.  But what they don't realize is, these are all people who take great pleasure in making each other fuck up.  When you critics aren't here, Chris D'Elia is taunting Brent, 'I'm going to make you laugh, make you forget your lines, and make you look like an idiot.'  So this is going to be torture, but I'm very excited about it."

Undateable EP Bill Lawrence
For Tuesday's episode, NBC has been wise to add a 6- to 8-second tape delay to the broadcast, to accommodate a cast quite fond of four-letter words.  But other than that concern, the network seems quite on board with the broadcast -- and by extension, all of Undateable, which after One Big Happy's season finale last week now stands as the sole comedy on NBC.  Both shows await news of their renewal or cancellation, which will be delivered at NBC's upfront presentation on May 11.  If the news coming out of New York's Radio City Music Hall that day is good, it'll be partially due to Lawrence and Sztykiel's careful cultivation of their audience, which they see as a necessity for comedies to survive on network TV these days.

"I don't know what to do to get noticed anymore," Lawrence says, "but I certainly do like trying to push the envelope [in promoting the shows]."  With Undateable's live episode, "people will either dig it, or think that it's insane.  But if I'm going to roll the dice with these clowns," he adds, gesturing towards his cast spread around the room, "I'd rather take a big shot than just do what people have done before."

Live episode Tuesday, May 5
9PM Eastern and Pacific

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