There was a time when NBC used to be a giant in the field of comedy. It used to have a huge lineup of comedy shows that were actually laughable. Remember Friends, Seinfeld, The Golden Girls, Frasier, The Cosby Show, and many others? That was the golden age of comedy on NBC. But, that was long ago. In the recent times, NBC has been struggling hard with little success to bring back the magic that they used to wield in the 90s and 2000s. Over the past decade or so, they have not been able to replicate the success with comedy that they previously enjoyed. Now, Truth Be Told premiered in late 2015, and NBC expected it to be one of its crown jewels of the 2015-16 lineup. However, the response to the show has been dismal. For a network that is among the big four, this can be disastrous. However, some people are comparing Truth Be Told to Friends and are hoping that Truth Be Told will also become an equally big hit. Let’s have a closer look at the two shows.
Unsatisfactory Early Beginning
When Friends premiered in 1994, it is true that the show was not met with an immediate success. In fact, the response was average or mixed. There was both good and bad said about the show. One critic wrote that the show was trying to imitate the hanging-out style of Seinfeld, but fails completely. Another critic commented that it is another Seinfeld wannabe, but will never be as funny as Seinfeld. But, all said and done, the show went on to become one of the most successful shows ever in the entire television history.
Fans of Truth Be Told are drawing similarities between its dismal beginnings and that of Friends. But, this is not exactly a fair comparison. First of all, every show that performs badly in the first season need not necessarily become a huge success like Friends. Second, Friends registered mixed reviews. While it was not immediately liked by everyone, there were many takers for the show. Some people liked the show and supported it. In case of Truth Be Told, the response has been largely negative. Any support for the show is insignificant for a big network like NBC, who wants a hugely popular comedy show.
David Crane and Marta Kauffman were onto something when they created Friends. They really knew their characters well. The idea for the series came to them, when they were thinking about the time when they had finished college and had just started living in New York. Thus, they created the characters, who were in their 20s something, and did not have much clue about where to go from there. The future was a big question mark for them. This is something that everyone has gone through. The characters themselves were easily recognizable. The ensemble consisted of a nerd, another was a playboy, one successful executive, an eccentric, a perfectionist, and a fashion enthusiast. All of these characters are very identifiable because such characters are present in real life too. Be it the situational comedy, or Chandler’s sarcastic comments, everything was hilarious. The characters of Truth Be Told were miserable in comparison. The two couples live next door to each other, and there is some situational comedy. But, the characters themselves have hardly anything to make memorable.
Friends had some really amazing material to begin with. So much so that the show became a cultural icon. Who can forget Joey’s “How you doin’?”, or Chandler’s “I’m not so good with the advice… Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?”. Or perhaps, the best of all “We were on a break!” by Ross. Many a real world couple have broken up arguing the validity of this Ross’s statement. That show was pure gold. It had great content, which was delivered by a great cast.
In comparison, Truth be Told falls flat on its face. Any comedy that the show tries to make feels forced, and utterly not laughable. Take that scene where Mitch creates drama outside a Chinese restaurant, just because the valet thought he owns the Porsche. Mitch accuses him of thinking that he owns it because he is white, while it actually belong to his friend, Russel. What was that? This is not an outlier. This is actually the theme of this entire show. To make a mountain out of a mole and expect the audience to laugh. It is nothing like Friends.
It would be not wrong to say that Truth Be told brings nothing new to the table. The whole two couples living next door to each other, which results in misunderstandings and situational comedies, has been overused too many times. That is basically any sitcom show. Showmakers simply can’t milk this cow anymore now.
What makes matters worse for NBC is that there are many, much better competitor shows in the market. Television programming has gotten much better since Friends, when it was among the few shows that actually provided great TV time. Today, the competition is more severe, and if a show does not offer anything new to the audience, they don’t have to hesitate to change the channels.
There is another aspect to this that says more about NBC than about the show itself. The show’s lead men are Mitch and Russel, one white and the other black respectively. On the face of it, this might look like a well-balanced show racially, but the truth is that NBC has gotten too much self-conscious about their shows. To avoid any controversies, the producers and the network are not taking any big risks. When you start avoiding risk, you end up mediocre shows that won’t make a mark in any way. Sure, they will not court controversies, but they will not court any audiences either. This is what makes shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, as great as they are. The success formula, which worked for Friends worked well at that time because the ideas were fresh. Now, too many replicates have left nothing more to experiment with such premises.