With the start of winter season comes an onslaught of new studio shows trying to make an impact. It seems like so many of the cable shows today are retread versions of other shows, with a majority of them barely lasting a season, leading to the cycle repeating year to year. Going into this, that was my general notion about Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life.
With advertisements displaying the same kind of buddy comedy we have seen so many times before, Cooper Barrett had run-of-the-mill comedy written all over it. However, after watching the pilot, the show seems to have a fair share of promise. While it was problematic, there are certainly enough laughs and promise to keep audiences interested.
Titled “How to Survive Your Lovable Jackass,” the episode introduces its characters while focusing on Cooper’s abrasive friend Barry. After their television is stolen at a house party, Barry puts it upon himself to track it down.
As a set-up, this kind of arc could have been simple and fun, yet it’s overly complicated. There are unnecessary flash-forwards that makes the consistency of what is going on very confusing to follow, as personal dynamics change without the audience really having an understanding of who these people are in the first place. It’s best to not be as plot-heavy in a pilot, with it being more of an opportunity to show off the characters and the show’s qualities.
Even though the set-up is not the best, Cooper Barrett’s pilot is a fairly enjoyable half-hour of television. The cast has great chemistry from the start, bouncing lines off each other with relative ease. As the confident yet charming lead, Jack Cutmore-Scott brings some star power to the role. He is also able to explore the character’s nuances, making this sort of simple character-type relatively rounded.
Most of the humor, however, comes from its supporting cast. Meaghan Rath, Charlie Saxton and James Earl all do a solid job in the pilot, getting a fair share of laughs, but Justin Bartha is the highlight. The severally underrated comedic talent shines in the role of Cooper’s older brother, who is reluctantly helping him throughout his crisis. Everyone brings their A-game while also having a fun time, giving the show an earnest quality that is hard to ignore.
What is perhaps most exciting about the show is the nuggets of honest, heartfelt moments. Focusing on the complicated time after college graduation, the show displays the toughness of finding one’s self in the world and growing up in general. The longing for fun times with friends was a pleasant inclusion, wrapping the episode up in a touching manner.
Strong moments like this make the show’s shortcomings disappointing to see. Aside from the plot itself, the show also takes the easy way out in a lot of jokes. Bits involving one of the character’s masculine girlfriend are severally contrived and flat out unfunny, being the type of jokes seen so many times before. The pilot at times feels like it’s trying too hard to make big laughs, when a lot of the more contained, less outrageous scenes are where the laughs are present.
Considering the problems pilots often have, Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life is off to a surprisingly solid start. The cast is very much game, with their strong bond overcoming the story issues. With an earnest spirit and some thoughtful moments, Fox could have a real winner on their hands.
Rating: 7 out of 10