Abby’s (“Free Alcohol Day”)

Season 1, Episode 3
Date of airing: April 11, 2019 (NBC)
Nielsen ratings information: 1.636 million viewers, 1.1/2 in Households, 0.42/2 with Adults 18-49, 0.2/2 with Adults 18-34, 0.6/2 with Adults 25-54

I think I am starting to like the show, even though it’s still a meaningless half hour of sitcom television. The premise is too soft, the stories don’t wake the characters up and have them interact with each other, and there is no sense of continued storytelling, in which the back story delivered in a previous episode is of some importance in the next. Okay, ABBY’S is only three episodes old, and when it comes to sitcoms there usually isn’t any time to develop the characters over the course of the first few episodes, but this half hour made me realize that the character development better mean something, and this episode wasn’t just one for diversity and inclusiveness, with Abby’s bisexuality never to be mentioned again. This better be one of Abby’s general problems as a character — her inability to share her feelings with others, her inability to find friends beyond the walls of her backyard bar. Maybe the show should develop a premise, in which the central character of the show needs to learn how to be a member of the living society. Because I still believe that Abby’s background in the military, and how her closeted lifestyle as a kid and teenager back home, might have seriously hindered her of growing up properly, or finding peace with herself.

Former lovers are still good with each other.

Meanwhile, this episode was sometimes funny, and sometimes tiring. Free Alcohol Day sounded like a nice premise, but it could have been used for more than just introducing Dani to the audience. Free Alcohol Day could have been used as an opportunity to make jokes about alcohol, mixing drinks, and trying out what makes a liquid alcohol, and how much you are able to mix to actually make it alcohol. For one scene there was this effort to make Dani’s garbage water more tasteful and the bar patrons were experimenting a little bit — that could have been the funny premise of the episode, but the writers decided they needed to be politically correct, and they overturned the sense for a comedy show to replace it with an inclusive episode about people being bisexual and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, it became noticeable how that progressive part of the story became the frontrunner of the episode, instead of the comedy.

At least I am starting to remember Beth’s name, although her actions in this episode were horrifying to my eye. She “breaks” into Abby’s house, looks through her stuff, takes her laptop and wants to snoop in her emails… I am actually surprised Abby didn’t just kick the mother of two out immediately and told her to never return to the bar again. I am also surprised that the writers didn’t take this opportunity to leave the realm of a sitcom and have Abby actually open up about her past just enough to explain why she never shares intimate details about her life and relationships with anyone. It would have made Abby an inconsistent character, since she is a non-sharer, but it would have made her a more relatable character, and it would have opened up the opportunity to go for the PTSD-kinda back story in Abby’s life. If I had been part of the show’s writers room, I would have pitched this back story so hard, because it’s what would make ABBY’S a unique and memorable show, and in this day and age you can’t just deliver another generic multi-camera sitcom, without having it stand on its own legs immediately, instead of copying other sitcoms. UNDATEABLE came too late with the idea of producing live episodes, but the idea was so great it could have sustained its longevity for more than three seasons, if the live episodes had begun with the very first episode. ABBY’S seriously needs to find an angle to stand apart from most of the multi-camera sitcom fare on broadcast television.

“Wait, I can’t just break into your house and find out information about your past?”

Best part of the episode: Dani and Abby were still somewhat flirty when they were among themselves. It’s proof that, even though their relationship didn’t prove to be long-lasting, they can still be friends after.
Worst part of the episode: If you have a friend like Beth, who snoops around your things and wants to read your personal emails, better stay far away from her. Beth’s behavior in this episode was utterly disgusting, and I cannot understand why I am supposed to like the character, now that she has proven she does not understand the concept of privacy. Beth and Abby’s “conflict” in the latter’s house wasn’t even funny, it was all just weirdly bad.
Weirdest part of the episode: For people who didn’t like the free alcohol Dani brought along, they surely drank almost all of it. Well, at least the writers managed to find a plot device to have the shots go down the throats of the bar patrons.
Player of the episode: It was the cat. Have a cat in your television episode, and you might win this one.

Abby’s (“Rule Change”)

Season 1, Episode 2
Date of airing: April 4, 2019 (NBC)
Nielsen ratings information: 2.055 million viewers, 1.4/3 in Households, 0.5/2 with Adults 18-49, 0.2/2 with Adults 18-34, 0.7/3 with Adults 25-54

Maybe I am starting to see the appeal of the show. The premise might still be one of the laziest one in sitcom television, but with the characters slowly getting established, there might be an opportunity for the writers to get into what really counts, according to them. That already partly showed with Bill, and how he tried to make friends at Abby’s, how he put effort into belonging to his place, and how all of this might explain why he doesn’t just shut the bar down as the owner of the property. Maybe Abby’s bar is the one thing Bill needed right there and right now, and what he was doing during this episode was his way of connecting with the patrons, of becoming a friend. And while that is a great-enough story for this early in the show, I can only hope that it will lead to some of the other characters being established. Besides Bill and Abby, I can’t even remember anyone else’s name, and I blame the fact that those characters aren’t actively involved in any of the stories.

Cheering on the new co-owner to do their business.

I did however love how the episode made fun of Bill’s white privilege. The guy does in fact look like he was raised by poolside chicken tenders, and that will ever be the visual for as long as he is keeping that cellphone wallet on his pants. Bill is indeed the privileged white kid who seems to have nothing to lose, compared to most of Abby’s patrons, even if almost none of the characters have established back stories yet. Bill could easily kick Abby out, shut her bar down, and buy a bar of his own to emulate Abby’s, simply because he is young and white and has the money, which puts him at an advantage – and that advantage is being professionally made fun of in this episode, and one can only hope this will turn into a running gag like that cellphone wallet on Bill’s pants, just to remind us all that white privilege exists, and that you are allowed to make fun of it every once in a while. Especially when Bill is in the middle of realizing that he has a privileged life, and is deciding to tone that down considerably, just to be on a level with the patrons of the bar, or otherwise he will never be friends with them in the long run. Besides that, it helps to distinguish ABBY’S from other multi-cam sitcoms, as it attempts to take a stance on diversity: A Hispanic bar owner, a mixed-racial bartender, a black patron, a white guy who is being made fun of, a white mother who hates her husband and kids, and a white man who happens to be the voice of reason. Perfectly balanced diversity, although that shouldn’t be like that all the time. Still, it’s a beginning, and what’s missing now is that some of the bar patrons are gay or maybe pre or post trans. That brings a lot of story to ABBY’S, and the show needs story right now to define the characters.

Record-keeping is one of those unwritten rules of this unlicensed neighborhood backward bar.

But what I was impressed about was the Bocce game. Now, if that game would have in fact been depicted, ABBY’S could have turned into a show that focuses on specific events at the bar, adventures that turn into comedic situations, situations that remove ABBY’S from being a sitcom at a bar and instead turns into a show about friends doing hilarious and always different things in every episode. Essentially what HAPPY ENDINGS became as soon as that show found itself midway through the first season, and then in the second. What NEW GIRL was when the writers managed to bring all the characters together for a day of awesomeness. If ABBY’S turns into that very soon, I might be happy to watch this show, but until then this is just another generic sitcom. Hell, I wish to see an episode in which the patrons come up with another cocktail, and during all of the 21 minutes they try to mix up everything they can, HELL’S KITCHEN style. This is what the show can be, and this is how I would have pitched it to the network, while also promising them to focus on the characters every once in a while. So that viewers know them after two episodes.

Best part of the episode: Damn, Abby really made Bill feel like a winner, by pushing how much of a loser he was – that was actually hilarious and a great message. You can be the worst in something, but still be celebrated as the best.
Worst part of the show: The episode jumped past the Bocce game. Booooo!
Weirdest part of the episode: How can a privileged white man, who potentially grew up in a country club, not know how to play Bocce, and confuse the game for backyard baseball? Bill is so white…
Player of the episode: Everyone in the bar survived Skip taking off his shoe and sock, so they all win the award.

Abby’s (“Pilot”)

Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: March 28, 2019 (NBC)
Nielsen ratings information: 2.597 million viewers, 0.52/3 with Adults 18-49

The question that should be Most 2019 than any other questions (besides why is Donald Trump still in office) is: Why do multi-camera sitcoms still exist, and why do they employ a live audience, which mostly sounds out of the box anyway? While I appreciate the fact that ABBY’S is a multicam sitcom with an exterior setting, it’s not like it’s going to change comedy television forever, or did it make tis particular show especially unique. Multicam sitcoms are a time of the past though, but for some reason they are also a time of the future for the conservative-leaning networks, unable to fully thrive for the future in their business models or even in the scripted department, which begs the question whether broadcast networks are on life support, and we all don’t know it. It’s more evident with sitcoms, and at one point it will be visible and becoming more obvious when you look at the hour-long dramas.

Now, ABBY’S does have the opportunity to change the comedy television market though. You might not remember it, but NBC has already tried to change it at least a little bit with UNDATEABLE: turning a sitcom into live programming. SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and sports programming make for an entertaining spectacle for 90 minutes or more, because you know that those shows only exist because they are live. What I would like to know is whether broadcast television can expand the live model to scripted programming as well – not just the aforementioned programming, as well as the annual live musical (in addition to the live adaptation of A FEW GOOD MEN, which I have been waiting for ever since NBC announced it seemingly millennia ago), but also with other weekly programming. UNDATEABLE showed what it could look like, and when you d that just a little more often, it could become a regular thought with viewers, and suddenly it’s turning into appointment television as well. NBC could try to repeat the live performances of UNBREAKABLE with ABBY’S, which is essentially fitting, because both shows are extremely similar in premise and setup. And when you turn live programming into live programming with a proper and interesting narrative, maybe there might in fact be a change in TV on the horizon – before life support for the broadcast network gets switched off and we suddenly find ourselves in cable and streaming television only.

Rule number 109 should be: No mugs should be larger than your head.

And ABBY’S seriously needs a dose of uniqueness, because after the first 21 minutes there is absolutely nothing that would make me want to tune into the next episode a week from now. Maybe Natalie Morales will convince me to do so, as she is one of the actresses out there I would continue to follow the career of, even if they managed to hammer out some weird shows or films (I still can’t quite get over how THE MIDDLEMAN was … not my kind of thing at all), but her show was nothing that got me excited, there were no characters interesting enough to make me wonder what their back stories are, and the actual set of the backyard bar wasn’t at all shed light on, as only one part of it was being depicted all throughout the pilot: the actual bar. Abby’s bar is an exterior set, and the producers didn’t find a way to make all 270 degrees of the set (the other 90 degrees being the side the live audience is, and they shouldn’t really be on camera) visible, let alone count within the narrative?

The only element of back story this pilot actually delivered was Abby’s past as a soldier. There is an opportunity for some serious storytelling here, in which Abby created the backyard bar, because she needed to be around people, or otherwise there might be a mental breakdown in store, as she is battling PTSD with her idea to create a bar from scratch, and have her neighborhood friends around while also making a little cash on the side. Maybe her military past was included in Abby’s story, so the writers have that potential story for future episodes, but why wait with the delivery, when it’s not only the only back story the writers might have thought about, but also the only element making ABBY’S a watchable show in the first place? Before turning into another simple version of UNDATEABLE, in which only the bar patrons are of importance for the writers, why not making sure from the beginning that ABBY’S isn’t just a show about the bar, its owner, and the regulars? At the end of the day though, I am not a writer, I am just a viewer, so my opinions don’t count, right?

The disgust of having to make a Mai Tai for the new co-owner of the unlicensed backyard bar.

Best part of the episode: Yeah, it was the Mai Tai scene at the end. Natalie Morales could have sold that scene for more though, if she would have gotten into the visible disgust of having to make a cocktail for a new patron (and co-partner, apparently). It’s a good thing that a sitcom pilot managed to make me laugh with its final joke – that usually means not everything is silly and bad about it, and there is hope for ABBY’S.
Worst part of the episode: How it began. No introduction, no other forms of exposition (granted, how the bar came to be was told to Bill midway through). I usually hate it when sitcoms start with friendly meet-ups like that. And all sitcoms with a bunch of friends start off like that, and all the time it’s irritating me.
Weirdest part of the episode: The pilot missed explaining to me more about the backyard bar. Like, is Abby buying all the alcohol by herself, or does she have a few contacts who give her a deal? Is she considered an actual bar owner, or does this entire thing happen “in secret?” The entire middle part of the pilot gets into how Abby came to be a backyard bar owner, but the episode forgot about all the logistics. How could that have been excluded from the script?
Player of the episode: The company who made Bill’s phone. It must have been a Nokia brick phone, because it didn’t get damaged during the kick and flight. Phone makers who make indestructible phones are always winners in my book.