I do so very much love a good comedy. Sometimes it’s the high concept stuff – the kind of story that starts out with a humorous angle and then manages to work the laughs organically through every layer of the property. Other days, I can go for the low-hanging fruit just like anyone else can: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat through Airplane, Hots Shots, or Scary Movie 3 when they’ve come up on cable, and years later they still brings me a modest bit of joy.
But I’ve often warned (have I not?) that mixing it together with other genres – especially Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror – is, at best, a risky proposition.
Well, the simplest explanation is that laughs just don’t always work, especially when the storytellers spend so much time dialing up the tension of a particular sequence or the dire circumstances that could befall an entire cast of characters in this fictional universe. It can be effective when used sparingly, true, as Seth Macfarlane and his band of space explorers have finally toned it down for Season 3 of The Orville: New Horizons: I found a lot of the yucks just tonally misplaced in that program’s Seasons 1 and 2, and I’m glad that they’re now just allowing it when and if it feels right.
Leave it to the creators of the latest spin-off of the once-bright star in the AMC crown – The Walking Dead – to muddy the waters long run red: Tales Of The Walking Dead – an anthology series promising to explore some stand-alone adventures in the ultimate land of TV zombies opened up its inaugural season with a bit of a predictable stinker simply titled “Evie/Joe.” Here’s the episode’s synopsis as provided by IMDB.com:
“In a road-trip story, a reclusive prepper abandons his bunker in search of a female prepper from his past; along the way, he meets an unlikely ally who is his polar opposite; they team up in an effort to find their lost loved ones.”
So it would seem that the folks behind this incarnation believe that what’s been truly missing from the wider Walking Dead universe is – ahem – romantic comedy. (In case you missed it, the Nielsen ratings for the original show now entering its last crop of episodes, haven’t been nearly as grand as the program’s glory days. I’m wondering if this spin-off is an attempt to switch gears just a bit … but … romantic comedy? Really? That’s what we’re banking our futures on?) While such things have proven successful on the silver screen – Shaun Of The Dead (2004) immediately comes to mind – I’m not convinced that these creatives know what they’re doing if Evie/Joe is any indication.
How can you deliver a romance without any chemistry?
While the script gives their slowly developing relationship a bit of life, methinks what’s missing from the equation are a pair of talents capable of elevating these written words to the next level. The script credited to Maya Goldsmith and Ben Sokolowski telegraphs much of this pair’s growing attachment to one another, so it’s good that neither player really needed to convey much nuance, especially since it would appear that they cannot. Crews – an athlete-turned-actor – has developed some nice comic chops when I’ve seen him elsewhere, and it’s easy to see how the showrunners thought his casting might be a good idea. Big, bulky, and brutish, he looks the part of a guy who just might survive the End Of Life As We Know It in a bunker.
But pairing him opposite Munn – someone I’ve often dubbed a ‘can’t-actress’ – really did the poor guy no favors, as she kills the momentum at seemingly every opportunity. How does she keep finding work, and can I get me some of that?
Part of the appeal in any romantic entanglement is that irrepressible yin and yang. The high and the low. The push and the pull. There should always be an undercurrent – one that suggests there’s more to these two people than meets the eye – and it’s this blossoming reality that serves to draw an audience in with each new development. As viewers, we want these two poor souls to get together – somehow – because that’s the way love inevitably works. Right? Sadly, that just doesn’t happen here because neither player made me believe they were authentically drawn to the other. Yes, they’re together in the closing moments, but was it because they legitimately fell for one another … or was it because that’s the way it was written? I’m inclined to say that’s the way it was plotted, so it came to pass.
Love by script’s convention is the saddest of them all.
Though the writing effectively dribbled a tidbit here and there and even occasionally flirted with some interesting ideas about finding love in the apocalypse, the whole affair ends up feeling formulaic … a huge, huge disappointment for a pilot episode.
Crews should’ve saved and stayed with his dog.