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Mike Schur, the prolific TV producer with The Office, Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place among his credits, is expanding his empire with a new NBC comedy called Abby's. A superfan of Cheers, Schur (and co-creator Josh Malmuth) takes the classic premise — a neighborhood bar where everybody knows your name — and refashions it for a modern era. But despite an iconic formula, an excellent cast, and a practically royal TV lineage, Abby's isn't quite where I want to grab a drink after work.
For Schur fans — which if you've enjoyed a TV comedy in the last decade, you probably are — be warned that Abby's is unlike anything you'd expect from something with his name on it. The breakneck dialogue, the unpredictable visual gags, and the scathing (yet ultimately forgiving) insight into the characters isn't there, and based on the first three screeners sent to critics, that's because of the format.
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Much like Cheers, Abby's is a three-camera sitcom shot in front of a live studio audience — the bar set is in lead character Abby's (Natalie Morales) backyard, meaning pretty much the entire show is shot outside. The combination of live audience and the static sets of a multicam setup means that the pacing feels significantly slower than any of Schur's other shows. There's not quite enough room yet for anything other than set-up, joke, and audience applause. And the jokes themselves, perhaps purposefully, are not the kind that take you by surprise or give you a deep understanding of who a character is.
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By the end of the first three episodes, each character is still just a loosely sketched 2019 archetype that doesn't really need to be developed in order to understand. There's the grumpy bar...
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