So as I said previously, I’m making a foolhardy attempt at reviewing every new pilot airing during the 2012 midseason. That means, sadly, every once in a while I’m gonna have to wade my way through a disastrous, monstrously awful piece of garbage.
You know. Like Rob.
I spoke of Are You There, Chelsea last night, and while both shows are completely, uniformly terrible, they’re bad in very different ways. Are You There, Chelsea attempts to be, you know, like totally hip and edgy, with its drinking and dwarves and its, like, totally frank sex talk. Plus it’s attempting to merge two sitcom styles together (an attempt that ends horrifically, yes, but an attempt nonetheless).
Rob, however, takes no chances whatsoever on anything in any point in time at all. It relies on only the basest of sitcom ideas, and levies its humor with cheap, easy, unfunny racial jokes. It’s an older-than-dirt story about a guy who marries early and marries into a big family with a culture he doesn’t understand. Cue the awful, awful racial humor.
And please (PLEASE) don’t hate me for saying this, but…
I liked Rob more than Chelsea.
Ok ok ok ok hear me out before you hit send on that threatening email- yes, Rob is the aging mountain-man of sitcoms (haggard and stale and virulently racist). And it overuses decade-old sitcom tropes for nearly every plot point. But those tropes are tropes for a reason- even if the only conflict here is “my mother-in-law doesn’t think I’m good enough for her daughter” or “my craaaaaaazy brother-in-law sure is crazy,” the plot still goes somewhere and has characters that act at least vaguely human. Are You There, Chelsea has none of that. Given the choice between a bunch of unfunny, zany drunks who don’t actually have any defining traits (besides, you know, the zaniness) and a bunch of old unfunny tired cliches, I’d eventually, after a few minutes of quiet sobbing, end up picking the cliches.
So now that I’ve done the unthinkable and actually defended Rob just a little bit, let me mercilessly destroy it.
Rob is awful. It’s awful in a really strange way. It took me on an odd, twenty-two minute roller-coaster ride of unpleasant emotions.
I expected this to basically be a wall-to-wall unending onslaught of cheap racial humor. And there’s plenty of that, believe me. But there are brief periods where there aren’t any racial jokes at all. And just when I think Rob could break through the confines of ‘unfunny racial humor’ and into ‘unfunny non-racial humor,’ the pilot senses the tiny gleam of hope in my eye and rams that hope down until it explodes in my brain.
The music tying each scene together sums this up perfectly. At the end of an act break, we cut to commercial with a terrible, sitcom-y bit of smooth jazz. I realize at this point that I was expecting every musical cue on this show to be a cheese-laden latin rhythm, and that there’s at least one aspect of something here that’s not the stereotypical crap I assumed it would all be. And then the commercial break ends and the pilot inarticulately stomps back onscreen to a cheese-laden latin rhythm. It’s maddening.
Oh and just for fun, I kept count over the course of the pilot- there are a total of forty-three non-racial jokes (in this case, a ‘joke’ is something that I could at least understand a shred of humor in: “yes, that was supposed to be a joke”) and only nineteen racial ones. So, roughly, only one third of the ‘humor’ here is actually racially-related. That’s better than I expected. Still awful. But I was expecting worse.
Also, on the creepy side, there were some moments that, as far as I can tell, were… supposed to be jokes. But weren’t. Like, at one point Rob wanders off into his in-laws’ house and finds a bedroom. We cut to a shot of a shrine in the bedroom, with candles and a picture of an older man (this is presumed to be Rob’s wife’s grandfather, who died some time ago).
Then the laugh track plays.
Please tell me there’s something I’m missing here. Tell me the joke is the size of the shrine (it’s kinda big, I guess. I don’t know. I’m not an expert on shrines). Tell me there’s something in here besides “Those cra-azy Mexicans! Always honoring those who have died in a way that’s not like white Americans! Ha ha!”
It’s creepy. It’s also, upon further inspection, making me regret that I said I’d rather watch this over Chelsea. I kind of wish that we, as a people, would just gather up any and all evidence that both of these shows ever existed and then shoot that evidence into the sun.
And on a final note, even though this show does stick with clingy desperation to old sitcom-y standard ideas about plot and character, there are still a handful of moments that stand out as unrealistic. In a lot of the scenes with Rob and his wife, she’ll smile or seem genuinely happy, and sometimes she even makes flirty innuendos towards Rob. I tend to find this stuff very unrealistic. Maybe if every other actor on this show was constantly fighting back tears, or if everyone who’s not Rob delivered their lines with a painful sigh through gritted teeth. That seems more like Rob Schneider-centric behavior.
Although there is a scene later where Rob makes a big speech full of apologies. That’s a good start.
Well, there you have it, folks. I’ve said just about all I can. See you next time!