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The Cool Kids - Pilot - Advanced Review

The Cool Kids premieres on Friday, Sept. 28 at 8:30 pm EST on FOX right after Last Man Standing.

High school never ends. That’s what the writers of FOX’s new comedy, The Cool Kids, want us to believe. Utilizing the best cast ensemble of any new show, the series follows a quartet of seniors as they pull pranks, get into mischief, and drive their principal administrator crazy. It stars David Alan Grier, famous for In Living Color, who played this character best as Joe Carmichael on The Carmichael Show. Leslie Jordan reprises his role as Beverly Leslie on Will & Grace, except much sweeter and sometimes a little naive. Martin Mull, from Roseanne and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and Vicki Lawrence, from The Carol Burnett Show and Mama’s Family, round out the main cast. It’s an all-star comedy troupe with 2 Emmy wins and 3 nominations, 3 Golden Globe nominations, 3 Tony nominations, and 1 Grammy nomination between them. With a cast this seasoned, it should be comedy gold but in a large part, this pilot falls flat. I found a lot if it more cringeworthy than funny.

The leader of these “cool kids” is Hank, a cantankerous man desperate to keep some control over his own life by taking charge of his friends’ lives. He’s feeling especially out of sorts in the pilot because one of the quartet, Jerry, just died. Bound and determined that no one will forget Jerry, Hank wants to throw the best wake Shady Meadows Retirement Home has ever seen. Somewhat less enthusiastic are Sid and Charlie. Sid is more interested in finding a replacement at their table since it is “prime real estate.” Charlie is more interested in reliving his glory days of dropping acid. Enter Margaret, who plops herself down at their table uninvited and shakes everything up. She isn’t about to take anything from anyone, which immediately rubs Hank the wrong way.

As with most pilots, this one is all about introducing the characters and starting to find its own comedic voice. Unfortunately, the characters often come off as stereotypes and the high school metaphor does less to provide laughs and more to dumb everyone down. For instance, when caught in a lie, these seniors fumble worse than any underage kid using a fake ID to buy booze. With their combined experience, you’d think that they would be able to talk their way into what they need or at least attempt it. Over and over again, the pilot goes for the lowest denominator with more sex-based jokes than a frat party and a particularly unfunny bit with Sid and Margaret that goes on way too long.

That’s not to say that it’s all bad. The talent is there and the concept is refreshing. Too few shows feature an older crowd, even though that is the majority of TV viewers these days. By focusing on an underrepresented demographic, they should be able to tap into comedy topics that aren’t stale already. The pilot also does a great job of adding heart at the end. Charlie hits Hank with some home truths, which reveal exactly why Hank is having such a hard time. It’s a poignant, though short, conversation that proves the show can go deeper.

Plus, the cast has great chemistry together. It feels like they are having a blast performing, which is the most fun thing about the pilot. There is a lot of potential here and let’s face it - most comedies start rough before they get better because they have half the time to cover much of the same ground that a drama pilot does. The sheer talent alone gives it a little more leeway for me, so it has 3 episodes to prove that the writing can match the acting. After all, these comedy legends deserve big belly laughs, not just a laugh track.

Grade: C-


“My kids are liars.”
“Oh speaking of enemas, look who just showed up.”
“Peace and quiet? I’m gonna have plenty of peace and quiet when I’m dead.”
“Times sure have changed. I mean in the 50’s a woman wouldn’t dare just come sit at our table like that.” “In the 50’s, you wouldn’t have been allowed in the restaurant.”
“Walked right into that one, Harvard.”
“You know what happens when you mix prescription drugs and alcohol?” “Yeah, a good time.”

The Cool Kids premieres on Friday, Sept. 28 at 8:30 pm EST on FOX right after Last Man Standing.

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