TV Review: ‘The Comedians’

Billy Crystal, Josh Gad, Stephnie Weir, Matt Oberg, Megan Ferguson, Dana Delaney, Denis O’Hare, Steven Weber

It’s surprising to learn “The Comedians” was based on a Swedish series, since the execution feels highly personal and deeply rooted in the here-and-now U.S. Yet another program featuring actors as slightly tweaked versions of themselves, this FX comedy deals with Billy Crystal and Josh Gad being thrown together to co-star in an FX variety show — the twist being that they almost instantly can’t stand each other. Dotted with celebrity cameos, the customary exaggerated Hollywood insecurities and an underlying commentary on the generational divide, the show generates enough solid laughs to overcome its arid patches.

Filled with meta references (the FX network president, played by Denis O’Hare, looks and sounds quite a lot like real-life version John Landgraf), the program begins with Crystal learning that his plans for an FX series — one in which he plays all the parts — won’t fly without including Gad, the Broadway star and part-time snowman. (Embracing failure, Gad keeps a “1600 Penn” poster in his dressing room.)

The two meet for a get-acquainted dinner that proves an unmitigated disaster, so much so that the project seems to be dead. Ultimately, however, both sign on, creating a shotgun marriage where almost every attempt to bond goes completely awry — such as Gad, a basketball novice, dropping by while Crystal watches a Clippers playoff game.

To Crystal, Gad can be boorish: The older man is stupefied when he mentions the legendary Ernie Kovacs, and is met with a blank stare. Meanwhile, Gad can’t grasp Crystal’s neediness given all the success he’s enjoyed, and when he learns they’ll be working together says, “Nobody was more excited than my grandparents.”

Along the way (and nine episodes were made available), there are brief but amusing glimpses of the sketches produced for the show, a Mel Brooks cameo and Dana Delaney as Crystal’s wife. In the best half-hour, Crystal and Gad are supposed to attend what’s obviously meant to be the Kids Choice Awards together, only to get insanely high and take an ill-advised detour to a supermarket.

Within the office, there’s the harried producer (Stephnie Weir), equally harried head writer (Matt Oberg) and blase production assistant (Megan Ferguson), who can’t be bothered to do any of the menial tasks that go with the job description.

Format-wise “The Comedians” simply apes the docu-series-spoof we’ve probably seen too much of since “The Office,” complete with direct-to-camera interviews and plenty of fake showbiz smiles. The program also contains a serialized element, with the fate of the show-within-the-show rising and falling along with the network’s faith in the project.

Given how close this all hews to reality — such as Crystal opening up to Gad about losing his father at an early age — viewer reaction will likely depend in part on their tolerance of the stars in general, and Crystal in particular.

Still, “The Comedians” is likely more commercial than the acclaimed but little-watched “Louie,” with which it will be paired, and could even funnel some viewers in that direction. If the show can manage such a trick, these two comics had better get used to each other — in their real guise, if not their fictional one.

TV Review: 'The Comedians'

(Series; FX, Thur. April 9, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Jennilind Prods., Larry Charles Projects, Tamaroa Prods., Flying Glass of Milk Prods., and Fabrik Entertainment in association with Fox 21 Television Studios.

Crew: Executive producers, Ben Wexler, Matt Nix, Larry Charles, Billy Crystal, Mikkel Bondesen, Henrik Bastin, Kristen Campo, Carl Molinder, John Nordling; co-executive producer, Josh Gad; producers, Victor Hsu, Samantha Sprecher; director, Charles; writers, Wexler, Nix, Charles, Crystal; camera, Anthony Hardwick; production designer, Charles Breen, Rusty Smith; editor, Steven Lang; casting, Allison Jones. 30 MIN.

Cast: Billy Crystal, Josh Gad, Stephnie Weir, Matt Oberg, Megan Ferguson, Dana Delaney, Denis O’Hare, Steven Weber

More TV

  • 'Lincoln Lawyer' Series in Development at

    'Lincoln Lawyer' Series in Development at CBS from David E. Kelley

    David E. Kelley is returning once more to the court of legal dramas. CBS has issued a series production commitment for “The Lincoln Lawyer,” with Kelley in position to pen and executive produce. Based on the series of bestselling novels by Michael Connelly, the show hails from A+E Studios in association with CBS TV Studios. [...]

  • Patrick Somerville'Maniac' TV Show premiere, London,

    'Maniac' Creator to Helm 'Made for Love,' 'Station Eleven' for WarnerMedia

    “Maniac” creator Patrick Somerville has signed on to helm two new series, “Made for Love” and “Station Eleven,” for WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service. “Made for Love,” which will be executive produced and directed by S.J. Clarkson, is a 10-episode, straight-to-series adaptation based on the novel of the same name by Alissa Nutting. The half-hour comedy [...]

  • Naomi Watts and Gretchen Carlson'The Loudest

    ‘The Loudest Voice’ Stars Naomi Watts, Russell Crowe Talk Roger Ailes

    Roger Ailes may have been the force behind the creation of Fox News, but the late newsman’s legacy will forever be his atrocious sexual harassment of several of the network’s female anchors and producers. Showtime premiered its new limited series “The Loudest Voice,” which chronicles Ailes’ rise and fall, on Monday night at the Paris [...]

  • Steve McQueen VSS

    Amazon to Launch Steve McQueen's Anthology Series ‘Small Axe’ in the U.S.

    Amazon has boarded “Small Axe,” the upcoming anthology series from “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen, and will launch the series in the U.S. It will bow on the BBC in the U.K. and BBC Studios is selling it internationally. Amazon’s European content chief Georgia Brown revealed its involvement in the series, Tuesday, at [...]

  • Paula Pell

    Quibi Orders Comedic Murder Mystery From Lorne Michaels, 'SNL' Alums

    Quibi keeps shelling out cash for content: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s richly funded startup has ordered a short-form murder-mystery comedy written by and starring former “Saturday Night Live” writers Paula Pell and John Lutz, and executive produced by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video alongside Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker. In “Mapleworth Murders,” Pell (pictured above) is Abigail Mapleworth, [...]

  • Sky

    Comcast Expected to Appoint Maximo Ibarra as New Sky Italia CEO

    Colombian-Italian executive Maximo Ibarra is expected to be appointed CEO of Comcast-owned pay-TV operation Sky Italia, which has been without a chief executive for the past seven months, a source close to Sky Italia tells Variety. An announcement is believed imminent that Ibarra will be the Italian paybox’s new chief after it was announced Tuesday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content