One And Done: Becoming Glen

The only other time I’ve reviewed something Johnny Galecki’s starred in was the lacklustre US attempt at remaking Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong’s Peep Show, but thankfully this pilot is far, far better, it’s not without it’s issues but it has some genuinely very funny moments and the concept is an interesting one. Galecki plays the OCD suffering Glen who is still living with his parents (Gerald McRaney and Sally Struthers, both great here), supposedly writing a novel but he’s only two pages in after many years. Then his childhood crush Alison (Samantha Mathis) returns home as she’s looking after her unwell mother, and Glen lies that he’s doing the same thing, claiming his mother has Alzheimers so as to persuade Alison he’s not a complete loser like her ex-husband. He also bonds with Alison’s son Josh and gets a job at the video store, but lies to Alison about this of course. So will he get the girl of his dreams? Or will his inability to tell the truth make it all go horribly wrong?

Written by former Family Guy scribe Ricky Blitt like that show there’s fantasy sequences and flashbacks, but it’s mostly smarter than Family Guy. Glen narrates his life during the episode and we learn that how he’s now rich and successful, but that this is all about the summer of 1994, the year Glen became a man. It uses it’s setting to make jokes about the time period, like the mother’s disbelief that OJ Simpson could be a killer, along with a rather cruel one about Julia Roberts where a video store employee says “If someone comes in and asks for a Julia Roberts movie, after you clean up your vomit and involuntary faeces tell them it’s over there.”

There are a lot of better jokes thankfully, when challenged by his Dad that it’s taken Glen six years to write his book and it’s still not finished his mother chirpily claims “It took Hitler seven years to write Mein Kampf” and when the Dad angrily moans that Glen hasn’t left the house in six years she casually mentions “It’s been windy”. There’s also a cute fantasy sequence where Glen imagines Alison saying “Let’s get married so you can comb my hair and touch my breasts” and during a job interview when Glen is asked “What kind of experience do you have?” he responds with “Just the right amount”, which I might have to steal if I ever find myself in that situation.

One scene which initially concerned was when Glen meets a homeless man on the street and the latter screams “Give me some change faggot” but the series acknowledges the unfortunate use of language after Glen, who is desperately in need of the toilet, shoves him over and later notes “Every day I vowed to the lord my spastic colon would never again kill a homophobic homeless person” which made me laugh a fair deal. Glen’s undoubtedly something of a twat, upon not getting a job he’s not qualified for he ponders “Was it because I was white?”, but I’ve no issue with unsympathetic leads, or those that sometimes are an idiot at the very least, and he pulls off the role well. As does Mathis as the romantic interest, though she sadly doesn’t get as many attempts to be funny as Galecki does.

Unfortunately in an attempt to be edgy it sometimes crosses the line, most egregiously when the Father angrily rants at his wife, uttering “You know some times I wish I was Muslim, so I could beat you with a stick. Doctor Philip says I have to vent my anger on someone”, it’s a hideous reduction of the ways of the religion, made even worse when his wife comments “I’ll go and get a stick”, because domestic abuse is always hilarious, right? Also frustrating is a comment Glen makes about his mother to the video story employee – “That’s my mother, she’s retarded” – and in a job interview there’s a lazy paedophilia joke too. As you can see it relies a little too often on shock humour, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise considering it’s from a Family Guy writer. Either way without these elements it would have been a much better show, and perhaps it’s the reason it wasn’t commissioned. At least not initially, as somewhat unusually it was remade several years later as The Winner.

The remake saw Rob Corddry in the lead role and it was a massive flop, and cancelled after only three episodes which is quite understandable as it doesn’t work that well at all. It’s shot in a studio and feels like a far more conventional sitcom, and though I normally like Rob Corddry he isn’t the right fit for the show, he comes off as far creepier and unlikeable than Galecki did. The plot and much of the dialogue is identical but a lot of the jokes have either been altered or completely changed and the delivery is poor too, and it’s coarser than Becoming Glen which is saying something considering that wasn’t exactly the epitome of intellectual wit. So it’s a disappointment that Galecki’s version of the show wasn’t given a chance as I feel it would have lasted far longer than The Winner did, and would have been a far more interesting series with a much better cast.

Alex Finch.

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