Building a spoof element into a reality-TV competition seems fraught with peril, but “America’s Next Weatherman” pretty deftly navigates those currents, with Matt Oberg (“The Comedians”) playing a weird, off-kilter host while almost everyone else appears deadly earnest about what’s transpiring. If not as inspired or elaborate as, say, “The Joe Schmo Show,” the approach does deliver some laughs, thanks largely to the puzzled reaction shots and absurd stunts the contestants must endure. That said, it’s another matter whether anyone sober enough to get the gag is apt to see it, scheduled as it is at 11 p.m. Saturdays.
On face, everything about “Weatherman” looks like the usual made-for-TV competition, with the candidates vying for cash and a shot on CNN, and two veterans of the Los Angeles TV market, Johnny Mountain and Jillian Barberie, on hand to assess their work. That’s playfully undermined, however, by Oberg’s deadpan lines as the host, at one point referring to himself as “sexually nonthreatening,” and later portentously telling the players that the loser of an elimination contest will be “gone … with the wind.”
The contests, moreover, exhibit a greater-than-usual willingness to mess around with the aspirants, such as dropping bugs on them in the middle of a forecast, causing even the judges to grimace. In addition, the commercial bumpers include ridiculous audition-tape snippets from hopefuls who didn’t make the cut, such as a medley of those who opted to submit footage of themselves wearing bikinis.
While the “Funny or Die” label should be a tipoff that not everything is as it seems, the producers insist the game itself is on the level. Perhaps so, but some of the contestants come off as so over the top as to feel like plants, which is at the very least distracting.
Nevertheless, it’s worth watching (or not immediately zapping away) if only for Oberg’s antics, which bring a “Colbert Report”-like quality to the process of booting someone off such a competition, with the inevitable cloudburst that greets their exit.
For “Funny or Die,” it’s a relatively minor addition to the company’s brand, but not an unwelcome one. The real question is why TBS would treat something that at least tries to bend the mold in what appears to be slapdash fashion, scheduling-wise. For that reason, while “America’s Next Weatherman” is actually better than fair, the forecast remains cloudy, with a chance of cancellation.