Review: CBS’ ‘The Great Indoors’ is an inside joke
“The Great Indoors” is a generation gap workplace comedy that has some decent laughs. If only it didn’t feel so obviously constructed.
Then again, this is a CBS sitcom, and that broadcast network likes shows that feel like so many Legos interlocked in place. Still, despite how broad and obvious the humor is, the show does manage to be funny a good deal of the time.
Joel McHale stars as Jack, a world traveling adventure writer for an outdoor magazine who gets called to the company’s Chicago headquarters, manly backpack in tow. When he arrives, the magazine’s founder, Roland (Stephen Fry), informs him that he is killing the mag’s print edition and going completely online and that Jack’s subsidized life of climbing mountains and living with bears and such is over.
Instead, Jack is to lead a team of millennials as they podcast, tweet and Instagram the magazine into the 21st century. Never mind that Jack disdains social media, office life and the younger generation itself.
His millennial team consists of a maybe-gay black guy named Mason (Shaun Brown), a preoccupied Asian woman named Emma (Christine Ko) and a clumsy, earnest white fanboy named Clark (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, the show’s second lead). They all spend a lot of time looking at their phones. Needless to say, they know nothing about outdoors life.
There’s also a goofy receptionist (Deborah Baker Jr.), the sort of scene stealer always inserted into standard sitcoms. And of course, there’s the not-quite-love interest, which would be Roland’s daughter, Brooke (Susannah Fielding), who is Jack’s boss. She’s engaged now, but she and Jack once slept together. Cue the sexual tension jokes.
The pilot is a bit clunky setting all this up (there’s also Jack’s local bartender and friend, Eddie, played by Chris Williams), but the actors are all pretty sharp, as are the cross-generational jokes. In the first couple of episodes, Jack comes across as something of an egotistical jerk, but that will likely tone down, and the show manages to keep up the brisk pace broadcast sitcoms demand.
It would be nice if there was some room to breathe, to dive and maybe in time there will be. For now “The Great Indoors” is far from great, but it’s pretty OK.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
8:30 p.m. Thurs.