In this world, there are rich people and there are poor people, and that has always been the case. Even back in the caveman days there was probably some caveman who had, like, a disgustingly big cave with a guest cave and a carriage cave and a pool cave that he always considered renovating into his private screening cave but never seemed to get around to it. All the other cavemen probably hated that fucking caveman! The rich caveman always had a very elaborate explanation for why he got to be rich while all the other cavemen were poor, something about working harder than others and being smart about his bison investments or whatever. The point that I am trying to make is that the world as we know it is defined by this economic stratification, and there isn’t really a way to get rid of any one piece of the puzzle without the whole thing coming down. Someone has to put the hamburgers in the industrial-strength microwaves at McDonald’s or else none of us gets McDonald’s, you know what I mean? Someone has to pick up the trash. Should we pay the people who pick up the trash one million dollars for doing so? MAYBE! I don’t know. I just know that the system is large and it is complicated and there’s not much use complaining about it and the truth of the matter is that almost every single person reading this post has an iPod that required the manual labor of someone earning slave wages, or whatever other example you want to pull that expresses the fact that we are each somewhere along the spectrum and probably benefiting off of the suffering and economic hardship of others. And I will tell you something: I love my iPod. Like, a lot. It’s really neat. Sorry, poor people who made it for me!

But here is the difference between the reality of our grossly unjust economic system and The Paul Reiser Show: one of them is a bloated, morally bankrupt human nightmare that has to exist in some form or another for the continued functioning of modern society. The other is the fucking Paul Reiser Show.

The Paul Reiser Show opens with Paul Reiser giving a direct-to-camera address explaining why this show exists. Sure. Except that after a couple minutes of explanation, I still have no idea. Did NBC lose a bet? Does Paul Reiser, like Jerry Seinfeld and The Marriage Barf, hold some dark secret about the network? I mean, honestly, what is going on here? By the end of the episode, the only thing I could think of was that 30 Rock joke about NBC’s programming guidelines:

According to his explanation, Paul Reiser has a perfect life: a beautiful wife, two children, whom he describes as “delicious,” which is disgusting, and the rare accomplishment of having achieved everything he’s ever dreamed, the only problem, according to Paul Reiser, is that he “isn’t dead yet.” Wait, what? I mean, on a fundamental level I get it. Paul Reiser is basically the high school football star of network sitcoms. He peaked when he was younger and now he’s got to live the rest of his life with a metaphorical bum knee and a mid-level job on the local police force. The only difference, of course, is that his bum knee and crappy job is living in a mansion and never having to work another day in his life if he doesn’t want to. COULD BE WORSE! “Not that I’m complaining,” Paul Reiser keeps saying. OK, good. You SHOULDN’T be complaining. But if you’re not complaining, Paul Reiser, then what are you doing? Because it sure sounds an awful lot like complaining.


Still confused? Me too! If the argument is that Paul Reiser was bored, I’m unconvinced. I mean, I’m convinced that he’s bored, but I’m not convinced that this boredom needs to be a whole TV show. Because it doesn’t. There seems to be this trend lately among aging television stars that because you have been wildly successful, you just “deserve” to fart out whatever in front of millions of people because it’s slightly more fun than watching the pool boy fuck your disinterested wife, or whatever. Somehow, Paul Reiser seems to genuinely think that we were actually WORRIED about Paul Reiser. His mid-life crisis is suddenly everyone’s problem. Gross, Paul Reiser. Gross, NBC.

To make matters worse, the pilot episode’s whole plot revolves around Paul Reiser being asked to host a game show, and him finding this soul-killing and insulting. Really? I mean, I understand how Paul Reiser might feel that way in that situation, but he knows that most people don’t get to host game shows, and that hosting game shows pays more than most of the jobs in the entire world, and that the idea that you were toying with the idea of hosting a game show for the simple reason that you didn’t know how to fill out the “occupation” field on your son’s PRIVATE SCHOOL application does not compelling and relatable drama make. There is a whole segment at one point starring Mark Burnett, the creator of Survivor. WOW! I’m not sure that there is anything more symbolic of the out-of-touch, slow-braised-in-showbusiness-until-your-head-falls-off-the-bone-and-disintegrates-into-garbage-sauce, bored millionaire mentality than a sitcom in which Mark FUCKING Burnett is the special guest star. Incredible. NORMAL PEOPLE DO NOT CARE ABOUT TV PRODUCER JOKES, SIR! “Aren’t these guys out of touch and insane with nothing but terrible ideas?!” Look in the mirror, you fucking idiot.

Perhaps the weirdest part of the episode was the Larry David cameo. In all of the press run-up to the premiere, Paul Reiser kept talking about how people were comparing the show to Curb Your Enthusiasm, but how he didn’t think the comparison was particularly apt for some unexplained reason. Right. You LIAR. First of all, no one in the real world had seen the show, so the first time they are hearing of this Curb Your Enthusiasm comparison was FROM PAUL REISER. It’s a clever little two-way-mirror deflection in which he gets to compare the show to Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is critically beloved and widely considered a “good comedy,” but then by disclaiming this comparison, which he himself just created, he also gets to shield himself from the criticism of people who don’t actually like Curb Your Enthusiasm. Clever girl. But then, to actually include Larry David in the premiere? That is just bonkers. Because The Paul Reiser Show IS like Curb Your Enthusiasm, insofar as they are both single-camera sitcoms that deal with former TV industry people playing themselves, both of whom are kajillionaires bopping aimlessly around LA. The difference is that The Paul Reiser Show is tone-deaf and terrible, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, well, that show is getting a little long in the tooth if you want to be honest, but it’s certainly a lot better than this. Why show how far beneath the bar you are falling by inviting the bar to appear on your show?

Historically, Paul Reiser makes kind, gentle, safe, and toothless comedy for a broad audience. That sounds condescending and disparaging but it isn’t. That’s a very particular skill and people rarely give it enough credit. It’s difficult to appeal to as many people as Paul Reiser has, in his career, appealed to! You can’t begrudge him his fame, his success, or the financial results of that. Good for him! We should all be so lucky! You can, however, begrudge him turning those things into the subject of a primetime sitcom. And as weird as it is at any given time for a creatively restless multi-millionaire to believe that everyone relates to and is interested in the plight of creatively restless multi-millionaires, it’s a particularly odd and possibly even despicable choice to make these days. Our economy continues to falter along (the job market is slowly improving, but there are still serious concerns about a “double-dip” recession, not to mention “stagflation,” which I don’t even really know what any of that means, but it sounds bad, right?), we are still engaged in TWO wars (three if you count the Libyan incursion), there’s a fucking NUCLEAR MELTDOWN in Japan, and I’m still personally worried about the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse, regardless of what the scientists say. These catastrophes do not eliminate the need for fictional distractions. If anything, they are more important than ever. Take us away from this terrible place! These catastrophes do, however, make it highly questionable to launch a brand new, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, and worst of all, deeply unfunny show about one famous multi-millionaire’s struggle to impress his delicious children.


Comments (100)
  1. Needed more Don Dimelo, theatrical director.

  2. I felt cheated out of seeing his weaselface get chomped in Aliens.

  3. Hey guys, remember yesterday when I was talking about how evil Apple is? Did you happen to click that link at the top of this review? I wonder if those previous two questions are related?

  4. Gabe, you Mad (About Reiser).

  5. Gabe, you’re almost always totally awesome. But today, on this post, you as well as you’ve ever
    Good work, sir (I always call the elderly “sir”).

  6. Spoiler Alert

    This was my favorite part of the episode.

  7. When he said he had “two delicious children” I actually shouted “EWWW!” at the television. Alone in my apartment. Loudly. Seriously Paul Reiser, that is such a gross thing to say!

    • I imagine it’s something he used to say jokingly around the house in a “grandma” voice, but then it became a thing he actually started saying about his children without any hint of irony or sarcasm, and he’s so out of touch he forgot that it’s creepy.

  8. Mark Burnett has my grandmother’s torso.To be fair, it looks better on him.

  9. What happened to your Zune, Gabe?

    • It’s too special for everyday use. I mean, now that they discontinued it, it’s basically a collectors item! You know how hard it is to get parts if he dropped it?

  10. So it’s more Reisible than risible.

  11. Sooo…on a scale of 1 to Outsourced?

  12. “Paul Reiser really just nails that 18-24 demographic.”
    -NBC, probably

  13. The show had a lot of weird tonal dissonances. Like, why were all the game show contestants so unbelievably stupid? Kind of contradicts the whole realism construct the show is kind of half-attempting to create. The answer is that Paul Reiser is not funny enough to create comedy out of believably mundane situations. He has to have a make-believe sitcom plot device to help him along.

    Am I overthinking this?

    • Oh man, I was wondering the same thing during that game show segment. I got so confused by the shifts in tone that after that happened – or, rather, specifically after someone saying something along the lines of “That’s funny! You’re mean and awkward and that’s what the audience at home wants!” and then these awful characters laugh at one-dimensional dumb game show characters, but you can’t relate at all to any of them, or why they would be laughing – after *that* happened, I got into this really confused state where I felt like maybe I was watching a totally normal sitcom, but I’d forgotten that I’d just drank a Four-Loko and a bottle of Nyquil.

      Also, did they intentionally cast Paul Reiser’s wife to look like Larry David’s wife on Curb Your Enthusiasm? Because I think they did.

  14. Henry Rollins is slated to appear on a future show, so I don’t know if I am looking forward to or regretting the possibility of a “Riser Above” joke.

  15. What I love most about Gabe is that he tells me who to hate. Do you know how much mental and emotional work that saves me?

    • pt, I love you, but are you TRYING to be Winwood?

      • if he was trying to be me he would write something funny and rad

      • No, but who doesn’t occasionaly aspire to be more like Winwood?

        I wasn’t being entirely sarcastic. I would have absolutely no opinion on Gwenthy Paltrow, Kesha (I wouldn’t even know who she is), and many others if it weren’t for Gabe. Not that I’m blindly following him, Videogum just happens to be just about my only access to mainstream culture, so if Gabe didn’t hate on someone, and explain why, I wouldn’t have any information to base an opinion.

        • I figured. And I would never have even heard of the Paul Reiser Show (or remembered that Paul Reiser exists) were it not for this site.
          Gabe has changed my opinion on some things (that I otherwise wouldn’t care about), but only because I trust him. I take his recommendations (both positive and negative) because he’s so often been right in the past. I mean, none of us would be here if we didn’t think he had generally good taste, right?

  16. I also found the lack of female characters strange and off-putting. Not that I really care, because I won’t be watching the show and only saw it by accident waiting for the rest of my Thursday night lineup, but I think only two females appeared on screen for a total of 60 seconds.

  17. I’m just glad to find out that I’m not the only one still worried about 2012.

  18. Comrade Gabe is all like “I feel guilty about the poor and I dont think anyone should be rich therefore I hate this tv show.” Wow, neat. “Christianity is stupid / Communism is GOOD!” – Comrade Gabe.

    • Are you implying that Paul Reiser is Jesus? Because that’s what it seems like based on your summary of this post.

    • Christianity is the opposite of communism? Be sure to add this to your Amazon wishlist, Stevie:

      • Taco, thanks for making this point. I wanted to go on a rant on how Christianity can align with all sorts of governmental systems depending on your interpretation of the religion. In fact, the liberation theology born in Latin America in the 80s saw no problem with incorporating Marxism.

        But your post was better and funnier.

        • Correction: 70s

        • The liberation theologians and the people they and the activists helped may not have saw a problem with the incorporation, but everyone else sure did.

          • part time smith vermont the IV is always all like “oooh look at me I’m god’s gift to noam chomsky and shit.” He’s like that all the time. Its ridiculous

            any idiots out there want to tell me what rad alternative recording artist group put the “christianity is stupid / communism is good” stuff out there in to the media-scape? here’s a hint they are from the contra costa county region

          • HAHA, nailed it, Stevie. I’m a Winwood enthusiast in general, but that comment may be your best work yet.

          • Steve, this really gets at the heart of our relationship. It’s like you almost get me so, so well, but then you just make a little misstep that hurts in its lack of understanding. I’ve never read Chomsky, and he doesn’t really interest me, but man, if you replaced that Chomsky with any number of other things, sure, that’s a direct quote!

  19. Did anyone notice how loudly the actors were speaking? Relax, actors.

    • You sure you didn’t still have the volume up from watching The Killing?

    • Don’t you know how comedy works? If no one laughs, say it louder and slower. I learned this in high school when trying to watch Mad TV with a friend who loved it. I noticed they were both terribly unfunny, and both used the louder and slower technique.

  20. Why did he have three “normal” or, even working class friends? What was that? He explains in the beginning, “They’re not really my friends. I didn’t choose them.” Basically stating that NBC development chose them to give the show at least SOME resonance for most of America but, they feel out of place unnecessary and confusing. That said, the whole show is terrible so, it doesn’t really matter. Great review, Gabe.

  21. I’ve been looking for a show to watch since The Baloosh’s “Defenders” went off the air. This looks like it might be the ticket.

  22. I think the comparison to CYE is apt. In both shows people drink a lot of tiny bottles of water.

  23. Gabe you are good at writing things in a way that justifies our selfish existence, while being politically correct, while being sensitive to the less fortunate, while also pointing out the semi-sadistic nature of the modern world. All at the same time. its a very admirable skill, no joke, and you implement it quite a lot, and I like.

  24. They didn’t give Helen Hunt much airtime.

  25. I wanna get me some of that “slow-braised-in-showbusiness-until-your-head-falls-off-the-bone-and-disintegrates-into-garbage-sauce” for my BBQ this weekend…

  26. I just want to point out that this show, like Outsourced and Perfect Couples, was picked up but that pilot by Tom Lennon and Ben Garant was not.

    • I love Tom Lennon & Ben Garant as much as the next guy (provided that guy loves them VERY VERY MUCH) and I even think Dave Holmes was in the pilot to which you referred and gosh darnit if I don’t like him too, but Tom Lennon & Ben Garant have been part of their share of not-so-great projects, too.

      Perfect Couples really seemed to have some things going for it, including Jen Kirkman and Nick Adams on the writing staff and a theme song by AC Newman.

      I just think it is really hard to have something awesome get through the typical entertainment biz process – from the page to the cast to the pilot through the network pick-up process, through writing and screening subsequent episodes and incorporating network notes – and come out on the other end still being awesome. It’s what makes the stuff that manages to do that so noteworthy.

    • Let’s not forget that an abomination like Running Wilde is “Mitch Hurwitz and Will Arnett” on paper. In other words, take things on paper with a grain of salt!

  27. At least he had Larry David in the pilot…

  28. In Tina Fey’s memoir, she states all older female comedians are labeled “crazy” which in reality means no one wants to fuck them anymore. The only people I’ve ever heard describe non-food items as “delicious” are women, so by these deductions Paul Reiser must actually be crazy.

  29. Seinfeld : Mad About You :: Curb Your Enthusiam : The Paul Reiser Show

  30. I liked Paul Reiser until one day I picked up his book on Parenthood over at my brother’s house and read that people who decide not to have children are fundamentally selfish.

    And should, like, be shunned.

    Fuck you , Paul Reiser.

  31. I say we take off and nuke the entire show from orbit.
    (Drags on cigarette)
    It’s the only way to be sure.

  32. I can’t believe poor people made my Macbook .They should make their own Macbook, then use it to log on to and find a better job.

    Next problem, please.

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