In a transparent PR stunt, TBS is offering $1 to anyone who doesn’t laugh at its new “reality” show, in which Pauly Shore seeks to jump-start his moribund career by assuming management of the Comedy Store from mother Mitzi. Were the proposal retroactive to movies such as “Encino Man,” “Jury Duty” and “In the Army Now,” he could send me $4 and call it even. The fine print caps the payout at $250,000, which might be an ambitious audience goal for this kind of weightless exercise.
Then again, “Minding the Store” doesn’t really work particularly hard at being funny, focusing instead on Shore’s efforts to breathe life into his family’s Sunset Boulevard club as well as his own act. (His skeptical mom, meanwhile, is limited to a nay-saying offscreen voice that sounds a bit like the mayor of Munchkinland.)
The series thus becomes another day-in-the-life of a showbiz barely-was concept, given the brief trajectory of Shore’s “dude” persona on film and the thinness of his standup material.
As with many a program in this genre, the challenge is how to create even a semblance of tension through producing tricks that can’t help but leave the strings plainly visible. In the premiere, Shore tries to boost the club’s sluggish attendance with a “hot girls of comedy” promotion, the gag being that women who meet the physical criteria tend not to be very funny.
Will it work? Will Pauly lose his $100 bet with a fellow comic? Is a half-hour usually this long?
Shifting gears in the second episode, Shore hits the road with dad Sammy after pledging to his therapist not to indulge in one-night stands. (Why this is suddenly verboten is anybody’s guess. There’s some reference to Pauly being a sex addict, but if there’s a relationship at stake the lucky gal isn’t shown.)
In an awkward stab at being heartwarming, Shore attempts to bond with his father (largely an absentee, we’re told, during his youth), who seems more interested in picking up cocktail waitresses. Ultimately, though, the show mostly provokes a twinge of sadness — especially when Shore mentions Jamie Foxx’s acting success, as if that’s a potential career leap.
TBS has generated modest noise with strange pop-culture artifacts like “The Real Gilligan’s Island,” but even throwing stray bucks around, “Minding the Store” feels like just another reality entry in which a pseudo-celeb grasps for additional minutes of fame, only to come away with empty air.
And despite TBS’ slogan, that’s not really very funny at all.