Carol’s Second Act (“Pilot”)

Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: September 26, 2019 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 5.965 million viewers, 3.9/8 in Households, 0.944 million viewers and 0.7/3 with Adults 18-49, 0.3/2 with Adults 18-34, 1.3/5 with Adults 25-54

In which CBS continues to develop multi-camera sitcoms, because the network knows that the median age of broadcast network television viewers is far beyond the 50 years and that almost one of new young viewers can be convinced to tune into their shows, so why not staying classic with future shows and continuing the slow downfall of broadcast television? Now that it becomes a miracle for a show to get a rating higher than 2.0 in the targeted demographic (when it was reason to immediately cancel a show for getting below a 2.0 twenty years ago), everyone can feel happy and excited for getting a 1.5 rating or something that looks better than a zero before the decimal point, and to get to that, networks can continue to create shows that look like they came straight out of the nineties with their premise, and in the case of sitcoms, the humor better be stuck in the nineties as well, because all those viewers of age won’t understand millennial jokes or even know who or what a Lizzo is.

Time for rounds, please leave your jokes at the door.

CAROL’S SECOND ACT could have aired like this as a lead out to THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE thirteen years ago and maybe CBS would have had a minor success with it, but during a time in which we experience the fourth-ever impeachment inquiry in American politics, a show like CAROL’S SECOND ACT, which should actually be fun and amusing and light enough to get a distance from the real world, is sort of meaningless and kinda boring. Patricia Heaton may be great for her next sitcom role after nine years of both EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND and THE MIDDLE, but not having watched more than a handful of either shows show, I have as much of a connection with Heaton now than I did when THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE premiered, since I never watched SEINFELD back then, so I didn’t know who Julia Louis-Dreyfus was. This show is clearly a starring vehicle for Heaton, and because of this, the writers forgot to give the show a unique element that would make it worth the watch beyond its central star. People most likely tuned in for CAROL’S SECOND ACT because they’re 50 years or older, or because they like Heaton as an actress, or because they don’t like to pay for cable or streaming services, but I assume that these groups of people have less people in it than the group of people who just tune into television to see what’s on, randomly land on CAROL’S SECOND ACT, and find it to be a watchable sitcom with not enough laughs, so they continue to zap their way through the hundreds of basic cable channels.

Granted, the world hasn’t had a lot of sitcoms set at a hospital or told stories about doctors and nurses, so there is a reason for CAROL’S SECOND ACT to exist, but the pilot didn’t make a good impression as to why it should exist right now and why I should consider watching it and declare it as a better medical sitcom than a show like SCRUBS (and I know these two shows can’t be compared, as they have different styles). Maybe the narrative of a senior person starting a new career and becoming a doctor could be a fine one, but even that premise has been breakfasted by previous medical shows already, which doesn’t give CAROL’S SECOND ACT an advantage at all. Maybe the fact that Carol could be a motherly figure to all the characters in the hospital, as well as the patients, but that would remove the show from being a straight-up sitcom and instead turn into something of a serious show in moments, but I cannot imagine that CBS would ever allow a sitcom to stop the funny and focus on the drama of the situation for a minute or two. This is something NBC would love to do with their sitcoms, but CBS seems to want generic storytelling and conservative humor — don’t look too progressive or liberal or social media may jump on you to shred you to pieces, and judging by the fact that CBS still gets most of the total viewership, the network executives won’t want to jeopardize that.

Carol just wanted to take a quick shower.

What the show needs to do from here on is giving the viewers a reason to tune back in. The medical genre may be one of the three pillars of network television (besides the legal drama and the police procedural), but just because you set your television show in that genre doesn’t mean that it will get the viewers to tune in. If CBS would like to remember back about ten years to THREE RIVERS and MIAMI MEDICAL and the network will see that medical shows without a unique portrayal of the genre will get crushed in the ratings game and you can forget that a second season will ever be ordered. Maybe CAROL’S SECOND ACT should have had Chuck Lorre among its writing staff, because for some reason I loved BOB HEARTS ABISHOLA, which is partially set in a hospital, and it was working much better as a show. CAROL’S SECOND ACT just exists, makes me smile and yawn for twenty minutes, and then I forget that I ever watched it — no unique characters, no interesting stories, no laugh-out-loud humor. We might need the paddles to shock this one back to life.

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