The Great Indoors, premiering Thursday night on CBS, is interesting in only one way. This new sitcom starring Joel McHale is a kind of self-negating machine: It’s aimed at millennials yet making fun of them constantly, and aimed at McHale fans while putting the star in his least-flattering light.
McHale stars as an intrepid, world-traveling, much-acclaimed journalist named Jack who’s asked by his editor to get off the road and come in to manage a young staff as the publication goes online-only. The staff is a motley crew of 20-somethings; McHale is given jokes that make him sound like a grumpy 60-something.
Jack is old-school media: He’s used to going out, doing firsthand reporting, and banging out a story that he’ll be able to see in a glossy print magazine illustrated with pretty pictures. His editor — played by the marvelous British comic actor and writer Stephen Fry in the very definition of a paycheck role — breaks the news to Jack that times have changed, everything’s digital, so go spread your wisdom to the pack of Snapchatting cheap-labor puppies that now make up his newsroom.
There are jokes about how appalled the young staff is that Jack’s “digital footprint is nonexistent.” Jack snarks back that these whippersnappers look up everything on search engines rather than experiencing real life. The millennials are made out to be pampered twits who, nevertheless, have their own knowledge to impart to Jack. Jack, in turn, must come to realize that he ought to adjust to the times we live in, but he’s not going to do it without being bitter and sarcastic about it.
McHale, of course, excels at sarcasm, but he’s not working with material at the level of his last show, Community, so the sarcasm is mild stuff. After a while, I realized that The Great Indoors is a variation on Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, another sitcom about a stick-in-the-mud dealing with people too young to know what “stick-in-the-mud” means.
For the five viewers who have worked in magazine journalism when it was the plush glory industry Jack is emerging from, this show will be almost suicidally depressing. For the rest of the audience, it’s merely unfunny. The greatest indoor advantage this show has is that it’s scheduled between two big hits, The Big Bang Theory and Mom. But if any show can fail to charm an audience primed for laughs in that time period, this may be that potential flop.
The Great Indoors airs Thursday nights at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS.