Perhaps it’s time for a moratorium on new improvisational comedies that enlist Hollywood denizens to play good-sport versions of themselves. In this case, it’s as guests on a fictional radio show handed over to a dimwitted intern — who peppers those sitting in with idiotic questions — after the long-time host jumps to satellite. While this series is doubtless inexpensive and promotable, nevertheless, so many others play the awkward-interview game far better (“The Colbert Report,” for starters) one has to wonder, why bother? And besides, haven’t they already done this in real life with Adam Carolla?
Exec producer-star Lance Krall plays the aforementioned intern, Lance, whose show is such a mess that ratings actually rise. This drives the station manager (Brian Huskey) absolutely crazy and makes life hard on Lance’s sidekick, Anna (Anna Vocino), the semi-reluctant co-host of what the station improbably dubs “Moron in the Morning.”
Although there are some back-office shenanigans, the episodes focus mostly on Lance’s interaction with guests, from Kiefer Sutherland and “The Office’s” Angela Kinsey in the premiere to “Heroes'” Jack Coleman and “The L Word’s” Daniela Sea in the second half-hour.
Unlike “Da Ali G Show,” there’s no sense of risk, since those participating are in on the gag, as Lance rifles through exchanges that range from rude (prodding Sutherland to don his headphones) to simply ill-informed (asking Kinsey about shooting “The Office” in the U.K.). There’s no way of knowing how much riffing went into the three to four segments with different personalities in each half-hour, but given that everyone knows it’s a goof, the payoff isn’t nearly as funny or uncomfortable as it needs to be to sustain such a flimsy exercise.
VH1 bills “Free Radio” as a “fresh alternative to the typical sitcom,” but at this point, it’s actually a stale addition to a long roster of improv-coms — recently joined by Starz’s equally tiresome home makeover mockumentary “Hollywood Residential” — which rely on stars spoofing their own images. In addition, the guests serve as rather passive foils for Krall’s shtick, instead of throwing fits or behaving boorishly. (The Sutherland episode, by the way, makes no reference to the actor’s recent legal troubles.)
The series does feature a reasonably impressive talent roster over nine episodes, and at least the performers fare better here than they do on “Celebrity Rehab.” Whatever drew them in, though, “Free Radio” delivers little more than static.