From Head of the Class to Family Ties, all the formulas were there. The Will Ferrell-produced Big Lake was a parody of an entire generation of television. While this was successful on some levels, the show wasn't pitch-perfect.
Two episodes of Big Lake were aired last night on Comedy Central and it was the kind of show that was cringe-worthy for the first five minutes because it wasn't what you expected it to be. The laugh track came almost immediately, and rather than seeing a familiar Horation Sanz or Chris Parnell (which you might have been prepared for if you'd been watching the ads) you were greeted with the unknown face of Chris Gethard.
Gethard plays Josh Franklin, a young man just relocating from the city back into his parents place after losing millions in the Wall Street crash. He vows to pay his father a sum upwards of 300,000 dollars that he owes, but until this happens he needs to get reacquainted with a suburban lifestyle.
It wasn't until almost halfway in that you are able to possibly grasp that this isn't Two and a Half Men or The Big Bang Theory... this is more an SNL routine poking fun at a whole collection of twenty-something minute sitcoms that we've all seen before. Once you realize this the two SNL alums you've been waiting for show up as Josh's best friend Glenn (Sanz) and his favorite History teacher Mr. Henkel (Parnell)
The sitcom formulas set the tone of the show on fast-forward. The laugh tracks are short. By the second episode the inane dialog of a dramatic moment on Growing Pains is mixed with the absurd ideas in a comedy improv showcase at a pace much faster than a speeding bullet. It's hard at this point to say that it works, the speed can be exhausting with not enough of a payoff. The verging on annoying attention to parody worked for a show like Married With Children... but this show is not reaching out to the same crowd. What crowd Big Lake is reaching out to? It's still hard to say. The show is not as crass as an Archer or an Always Sunny, it's not as in-depth as an Arrested Development or Weeds, but it's certainly thumbing it's nose at formulaic evolutions like say, I don't know, Rules of Engagement (They're flipping you off David Spade!).
This show still needs more time for a real decision on whether it's worth warming up to. Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz are great, but half the show is the 80s inspired family angle, which could be a harder sell. This portion mixes in some subtleties from Malcom in the Middle and That Seventies Show which seem too broaden the show awkwardly. Regardless, it was a good decision to air this one without the competition from a new NBC Thursday night lineup. One should at least give Big Lake a chance if for no other reason than there's not much else on.