by Dane Youssef
"Good Morning, Miami " was briefly part of the "Thursday Night Must-See TV lineup." Very briefly. It was knocked off the first-class menu pretty fast, moved to Tuesday night. It did help to get a lot of people become recognizable faces and names--even pin-up idols. Such as the likes of Mark Feuerstein, Ashley Williams and Constance Zimmer.
Created and co-written by the creators of "Will and Grace" David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, "GMM" was their response to NBC asking them to make another hit. As a weekly television episodic romantic comedy, "GMM" managed to make something of a fan-base--mostly with young women. Critics roasted it to ash, but there were a legion of fans that still had considerable love for it. But nearly every soul was on the same page when it came to two of the female comic relief characters, a nun played by Brooke Dillman and Tessie Santiago, two invaluable talents. Anyone can see that--even here. But these stock cartoon characters they have to play could stop Eddie Murphy cold. The weather nun, the Hispanic caricature co-anchor and the dirty old grandma weren't great... or perhaps even very good. But by season two, they were gone on a rail. So then did the show have a chance?
It's not what's on the show that's the problem now. It's what's not there. "Good Morning, Miami's current biggest problem is its generic, bland and flavorless. Isn't that the worst thing a comedy can be? That any kind of TV sit-com can be? Feuerstein (TV's "Loving" and "Caroline in the City" and the films "Woman on Top" and "What Women Want") as Jake is not terrible by any means, just bland and flat--like Feuerstein was in his first lead "Conrad Bloom."
Mark is at times, not interesting enough to hate. He's not awful, you don't feel irritation watching him---just indifference. He's effective and perfectly cast when he plays the too-young, too-wide-eyed, too-youthful, too-excited love interests ("Caroline in the City," "West Wing" and "Once and Again"), as well as sidekicks ("What Women Want" and "Woman on Top") and lawyers ("Rules of Engagement," "Murder by Media," "West Wing")--and he's very effective there, which explains why NBC continues to employ him.
But as a lead, he's stilted and uncharismatic. He's charming and has some nice physically expressive comedic moments, but he doesn't have the tall stature or confidence to carry a whole show. Not a bad actor, just not a lead actor.
Ashley Williams (TV's "As the World Turns" and "Dawson's Creek") seems to suffer from the same problems. I love her personally, but her Dylan character just leaves me feeling heavy disinterest.
She smiles, delivers a scripted on-liner, but not much more. People clamored the adorable little girl charm Ashley gave the show (when she just smiled) but her character is window dressing and plot device. Becoming wise, stupid and smiling whenever the plot requires her to. All Ashley is allowed to bring to her character is a sweet grin.
No wonder the viewers (the few fans of the show) seem to clamor for Penny. Constance Zimmer ("Warm Blooded Killers" and TV's "My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star"), well at least, she gets more to do and say as the lazy, worthless, dead-weight secretary is "WTF is that?!" clothing.
We've seen this character in almost every workplace sit-com ever made (TV's "Suddenly Susan," "NewsRadio," "The Larry Sanders Show," etc). Pretty much every time a sit-com or sit-com-like movie sets foot in an office building, we'll run into one of these characters.
It's as if Kohan, Mutchnick and NBC was scraping the bottom of the bin and found all this stuff and just tried to assemble a show out of what was left.
That worked with Max & David when they put the magnificent "Will & Grace" together, but not here. Not at all. Not remotely.
"GMM" just takes the scrap clichés' and assembles them, never at any point making any kind of attempt to re-vitalize them. Were Max & David exhausted and/or too busy from "W&G"? Or did they just not care?
The Penny character, although as unoriginal as it gets, is at least able to give the show some much-needed life and color. I looked her up here on IMDb and read that she is one of the older cast-members on the show. She hasn't had a great deal of work and fame, sadly. "GMM" is her break-out. That's good. She's been waiting a while. Too long, I think. It's about time. She has her own fan-site now. She's waited long enough for it.
The foppish, boorish blowhard of an anchorman, well-played by Lecshter, also has some nice moments. As Gavin Stone, he's the very epitome of the conceited jack-ass. Leschter makes his character spew insulting banter and insults like a machine and smiles a phony grin like he's trying to sell you a used car on cylinder blocks.
When he butts heads with Jake, it's funny, but "GMM" never takes real advantage of that. Like a lot of it's promise and potential, it squanders it, taking the cheapest and easiest shots imaginable. Shooting itself in the foot and trying to jerk us back and forth like a arcade game joystick---without any real skill or style.
Instead of having the characters all tear into each other (which would be really funny and entertaining), they all just tear into Jake. They all push him over and steamroller over just him. While something like that could, once again, be funny---it's not here because Jake is just too easy a target. He's a sitting duck. He's just a big push-over. It's funny to take away a character's dignity if he has it. But if just no challenge, it's just not funny. It's just bullying. And comes off as kind of cruel. Humiliating Jake is basically just like shooting dead fish in a shot-glass.
It might be funny to give Jake some more edge. Some more banter. More one-liners. More put-downs. He doesn't humiliate himself without a fight. Give him some dignity. That's why it's much funnier and better when Gavin and Penny get hoisted by their you-know-whats. It's just more entertaining to watch all the air get let out.
What lurks beneath Penny's nasty, hostile and badly-dressed surface? Who is the real Gavin? In-jokes about the secret of Frank's sexuality have existed since the beginning? What's there? There's so much potential for a great series and it jumps and dodges all the potential for a better show. Why?
The relationships, the unrequited love, the workplace war-zone, the relationship between Jake & Penny? Frank's sexuality? And more. The opportunity is here for another gold-mine like "W&G." But it's unmined for some reason. Why?
Perhaps because with "W&G," Max & David were striking it out on their won. They were making their mark. Now that they're at the top, they're afraid to rock the boat. Afraid to say something significant. Or maybe it's NBC that wants to play it safe?
"Miami" is literally a bad show with potential that needs some re-making.... about a bad show with potential that needs some re-making. What is this? Irony? Is this deliberate? Are they being self-consciously glib? Maybe this is an in-joke, they're trying to make "Miami" three-dimensional. If only the show had come out just a few years later when 3-D was being updated, reborn coming back into style.
The cast mostly seems ideal. I just wish they were all at the service of a show that's just better. "GMM" plays like all the left-over clichés' "W&G" didn't want to bother with. Is that the real problem? Lack of inspiration and imagination? Or nerve? Is "GMM" just too scared? Or... lazy?
--For TV show producers at NBC and in Miami, Florida, Dane Youssef