Amazon’s latest original TV series Really is a comedy starring, written by, and directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, a guy you may know as that decently funny Indian guy in the Broken Lizard movies. Chandrasekhar has, in my opinion, a moderately respectable track record in the director’s chair. Beerfest and Super Troopers are good (not great, by any means, but good) movies that benefit from the context of their character relationships. They are films about guys hanging out, pulling pranks, and having fun. It’s fun to see cops pull pranks on each other and goof off at work, and it’s fun to see guys taking a silly competition (i.e. , in the case of Beerfest, a beer drinking competition) very seriously. I’ve quoted many-a-line from those movies while… well… hanging out with a group of guys.
But then you have Really. This show fails, I think, because of two format changes from Chandrasekhar’s previous work. These are: 1) Film –> TV, 2) male friendships –> marriage and parenthood.
Let’s start with 1) Film –> TV.
Really is a TV comedy that’s shot like a film, and I think it suffers from it. Mostly because it is a comedy. The cinematic lighting, the excessive use of close-ups, and the… well.. difficult-to-define visual cinematic mood of Really have the combined negative effect of evoking the completely wrong mood in the audience, which in turn sends the comedy of Really severely in the background. This point number 1 is really just my description of the visual stage that Really sets that makes the problem of point number 2 worse.
Which brings me to point number 2.
As you would see from watching the pilot episode of Really, the relationships of marriage and parenthood are completely inappropriate for Chandrasekhar’s brand of comedy, which relies heavily on character interactions.
Unsympathetic comedy protagonists are TV comedy gold, but what if Dennis Reynolds of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was married in that show, and he was using his D.E.N.N.I.S. system to commit adultery? What if Anders, Blake, and Adam of Workaholics goofed off at work, smoked weed, and made elaborate yet idiotic plans to get laid, but all at the expense of their marriages and their ability to support their families? Now, call me a prude if you’d like, but I doubt that fans of those shows would find those situations funny with those changes.
So the problem of Really is simple. Chandrasekhar invites the audience into Jed’s (the character he portrays) home, his marriage, and his family. This is, in itself, a potentially successful format; using families as main characters has been the go-to formula for sitcoms since the dawn of television. But Really uses this format to a severe detriment. Here’s an example:
1st scene: restaurant dinner with wife and kids. Lame jokes about kids saying the darnedest things. Jed checks out the waitress’s thong when his wife isn’t looking.
2nd scene: in the kitchen, kids are going to bed. Jed attempts to cash in on a few-months-late “Birthday BJ” his wife “owes” him and she accepts with a creepy lack of objection.
3rd scene: wife commences to pay what she “owes” him, but kid walks to their bedroom. They spin it is a game of hide and seek. She puts the kid to bed (topless, which is kind of weird) and returns to promise him that they will do it tomorrow. He responds by taking his iPad off of his nightstand, to which the wife responds by saying something like “Oh come on, Jed. Don’t jerk off now. Just wait until tomorrow.”
4th scene: Jed somehow convinces his wife that he needs to go out and get take-out from the same restaurant the family ate at for dinner that night. You know, the one with the thong-wearing waitress. She brings him his food, and says she needs a ride home. They go to her house, she convinces him to get in her hot tub with her. Naked. Full frontal nudity.
I turn the show off. It was ridiculously bad. Does any of what I just described sound funny to you? I found it 0% funny, weird, misogynistic, needlessly pornographic, and completely off-the-mark with its attempt at unsympathetic comedy protagonist (UCP) humor. I laugh at the absurd selfishness of Jerry, George, and Elaine. I laugh at the sociopathy of Dennis, Sweet Dee, Mac, Frank, and Charlie. I laugh at the idiotic laziness of Anders, Adam, and Blake. But I found it impossible to laugh at Jed’s adultery and depravity. The concern one feels for Jed’s emotionally abused wife and children, which is made worse by Really‘s dramatic (as opposed to comedic) cinematography, far surpasses any humor one might derive from Chandrasekhar’s style.