We gave it a B
It’s not news that Hollywood loves a mirror — or that it hardly minds showing exactly how the dream sausage of show business gets made. Cinematic history is littered with behind-the-curtain tales of ambition and stardust, and you don’t need to look much further than La La Land, the film that swept (nearly) everything this year, to see how proudly the tradition lives on.
But there is, of course, another side: stories not just about the dewy hopefuls who reach that shining syndicate upon a hill, but all the unglorious Nobodies — that vast rabble clawing their way up its steep, Crisco-greased side slopes, perpetually in danger of crashing down into the slag heap of failures and also-rans at the bottom.
TV Land’s latest offering joins a small-screen mini-boom in what could be called the showbiz cringe comedy: a sort of scrappy, Louis C.K.-style backlot vérité far less polished than the Prius party bros of Entourage or the ornery midlife musings of Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Larry Sanders Show. Think strivers sliding toward the far side of 35 — marginal-to-moderate industry players essentially spelunking their own lives on a spate of shows that include FX’s Better Things, HBO’s Doll & Em, and, more loosely, Master of None, One Mississippi, and Crashing.
Nobodies lands right in that strike zone — though it’s technically already a winner, having been greenlit for a second season before the first episode airs. (It helps, no doubt, that Melissa McCarthy is an executive producer.) Larry Dorf, Hugh Davidson, and Rachel Ramras star as avatars of themselves: By day they write for The Fartlemans, an animated show that’s No. 1 in the crucial “boys 2 to 6” demo. On screen and off, they also once belonged to improv troupe the Groundlings alongside McCarthy and Kristen Wiig — a space they return to in the series’ opening scene, to requisite humiliation. But their trump card is Mr. First Lady, a script written with McCarthy in mind. (The POTUS is a woman, see, so her “First Lady” is a man. It’s funny because it’s fiction!) Their project’s chances seem slim, mostly because Larry, Hugh, and Rachel are a mess: They blow meetings and spill red wine on white carpets; they pratfall out of bathroom windows after bad sex and can’t seem to meet a VIP without committing simple assault. (Unlike Ricky Gervais’ brilliant, scabrous Extras, where stars like Kate Winslet and Daniel Radcliffe leaned gleefully into celebrity grotesque, Nobodies‘ best-known guests play themselves on a more recognizably human scale.)
In the three episodes made available, Nobodies feels like a show still finding its tone, too slapstick and broad by half. And its themes are hardly revelations: Hollywood’s hierarchy is a cruel beast; executives are high-strung divas one tantrum away from a deep vein thrombosis; parking in L.A. is hard. But it’s still decent fun to watch the trio throw pebbles in the Narcissus reflecting pool of fame, and enjoy the tiny splash. B
Nobodies premieres on TV Land Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.