Last week, The New York Times credited YouTube for giving a potential second life to a sitcom pilot called “Nobody’s Watching.” The show is about two midwestern slackers who tell a network they could create a better sitcom than the current ones on the air (namechecked as offenders are According to Jim, Good Morning Miami and Yes Dear, which substitutes for the word shit). The networks takes them up on that, setting them up to live on a sitcom set, secretly manipulating events to instead create a noxious reality show.
The show comes from Bill Lawrence, the creator of Scrubs, and the influence definitely shows. The main characters feel a lot like J.D. & Turk, who frequently reference old sitcoms themselves, ‘cept these characters don’t have lives outside of sitcoms. Their enthusiasm for the form wasn’t infectuous to me, particularly when the show reaches for emotional moments. They work on Scrubs because of the wonderful contrast of inconsequential to life and death, but here when you’re dealing with a celebration of light and fluffy, I find attempts to tug our heartstrings cloying.
The whole pilot left me cold, but as a caveat, I’m biased against Hollywood crafting shows about themselves. If nobody’s watching, maybe it’s because whole swaths of people aren’t represented in any of the current comedies on television. Better to turn the medium outward rather than inward, as The Office, My Name is Earl and Lucky Louie do.
The story holds up the fact that the pilot has received over 300,000 views on YouTube as an example of how shows might find new life thanks to the internet, circumventing bad decisions by network execs. But the pilot is actually broken into three segments online and only the first has 350,000 views. The later two, as of right now, have 115,000 each. Not exactly retaining viewers. If the networks ever get net savvy, they might wonder why over two thirds of the viewers of the first part didn’t watch the other segments. YouTube thus might be as much of a curse as it is a savior, an online version of the focus group testing that show creators oh-so-love.
You can watch all three segments of “Nobody’s Watching” after the jump.