Comedy Oddities: The Michael Richards Show

After Seinfeld finally came to an end everybody expected big things from all of the cast, but only Julia Louis-Dreyfus has fulfilled her potential, with Jerry seemingly happy to take a back seat and do stand up and his occasionally interesting but often dull Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee show. Though I guess when you’re as rich as he is he can just do vanity projects, especially when if he needs to make a little cash he can do gigs like the forthcoming ones in London where he’s ridiculously charging five thousand people between seventy to one hundred quid. Sorry, I know I’m angrily rambling but this painfully rich man ripping off people for that amount for a show which is only going to last an hour does frustrate. Anyway, going back to the original point, Michael Richards was expected to be a big star, but his show was cancelled after only eight episodes (with a ninth never airing) and this was long before his idiotic racist comments in 2006.

The series stars Richards as Vic Nardozza, a private eye who works with Stacey Devers (Amy Farrington), Brady McKay (William Devane), Kevin Blakely (Tim Meadows) and Jack (who they couldn’t be arsed to give a surname, and is played by Bill Cobbs). It’s a workplace comedy essentially with a lot of supposed banter between the cast, with Richards getting the main plot of episode and the rest having to put up with a minor sub-plot. I’ve watched a couple of the episodes but will concentrate on the first for this review, mainly as it’ll give you an idea as to why it’s all such a disappointment.

It begins with Mike Hagerty (best known as Mr. Treeger from Friends) worrying that his new fiancé might be cheating on him, so Vic sets up a honeytrap to see if she is. His friend Mitch is supposedly up for the job having screwed over 300 women for the company, with Vic bizarrely commenting “Mitch is everyone’s type. Women are robots”, which is the first clunker of the episode though there’s many more to come. It turns out Mitch is reluctant to get involved because he doesn’t get to fuck all of the women Vic asks him to seduce and he then brutally assaults a child and we’re supposed to laugh, because there’s something off about this whole project. Vic’s unable to find a replacement and so takes on the role himself, and somehow manages to succeed somewhat hilariously (I jest, it’s not amusing at all), he’s then raped by the woman and the show becomes horribly painful to watch. The next day he tells Hagerty about the infidelity who then wants to kill him, and I can’t really blame him either. The episode ends with Mitch being beaten up by mistake, who then knocks Vic out of a window, and we cut to Vic in hospital with two broken arms and soon enough he’s being raped for a second time by the fiancé. I’m not kidding either, it comes to a close with Richards being mounted by the woman as he cries out “No” repeatedly.

During all of this abhorrent nonsense Kevin is concerned that Jack might die because he’s cranky, as Vic has a theory that a sign of death is old people being grumpy twats the week before they die. It’s a bizarre subplot, I mean surely everyone knows old people tend to be arsey because they’re constantly in pain, fully aware of the futility of life and have to get by on a government pension so small beans on toast is considered a luxury meal, and it’s lacking in humour as well. There’s one vaguely amusing moment when Jack writes Kevin a poem that starts off apologetic but then becomes insulting, but it’s not worth the wait.

I know this review has been pretty harsh so far, and admittedly there are some occasionally funny lines but it’d be disturbing if a sitcom made it to air without any, hell, even Two and a Half Men made me chuckle once, though I did have the flu and a high fever at the time which I hope explains such a thing. But during the episode I did laugh when Vic chats up a woman by asking her “What do you think is the best religion?” and when Jack thinks he’s had a stroke it turns out to be “an ice cream headache”, which might not sound that funny but the way the Doctor delivers the news elicited a smile, and there’s a couple of other minor moments of amusement. But the laughs are few and far between, and considering how bad and sometimes offensive a lot of the jokes are it’s not enough by far.

As a character Vic is a lot more low key than Kramer which is a positive thing, as much as I love Seinfeld I’ve no interest in seeing Kramer The Sitcom, though after a trip to the gym which almost incapacitates him he gets to pull off some of his trademark physical comedy. The big problem though is that he’s nowhere near as likeable as Kramer, and the rest of the cast get little to do. The always amiable Tim Meadows has some okay lines, and Bill Cobbs delivers one funny comment, but that’s about it, it relies on Richards far too much and he simply doesn’t deliver. It’s amazing that the show was co-created by Richards and three former Seinfeld writers, as it lacks pretty everything which made that sitcom so good. The first episode is cited as the best in an article by Vulture and I can’t help but agree, believe it or not it all goes downhill from here, with an over reliance on tired physical comedy from Richards and Tim Meadow’s Kevin suddenly gets a lot smarter but also a lot crueller, especially towards Bill Cobb’s Jack who he idolises in this episode, and for some unknown reason he leaves the agency to work in a racist diner. Sigh. I truly wish I was making this stuff up, but I promise I’m not.

Richards made a minor comeback in 2014 when he was cast in Kirstie, a vehicle for Cheers star and abhorrent Scientologist Kirstie Alley, but that was canned after twelve episodes and since then the only thing is he’s been involved with is Faith, Hope & Love, a rom-com due to be released this year that co-stars Peta Murgatroyd and Robert Krantz (no, me neither) which seems unlikely to relaunch his career. I’ve a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to the situation, having watched the video of his racist outburst it’s hard to forgive him but then it was one mistake in a fairly long career, and he did apologise for it (though not to those involved, just on television). Ultimately I feel it’s partially a shame that he’s not on screen anymore as he clearly has a strong comedic talent, but it’s not a shame that The Michael Richards Show was cancelled, it’s often tediously laugh free, the humour which is present mostly misfires, and any show which makes fun of male rape really shouldn’t have made it to the screen in the first place.

Alex Finch.
https://twitter.com/comedytowatch

Related Link:
If you’re a masochist you can watch the episode on youtube here.

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