The Runway – Your 2017 Pilot Survival Guide: NBC Comedies

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mindy kaling

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Champions

(fka Untitled Charlie Grandy/Mindy Kaling)

Logline: Vince is a charismatic gym owner with no ambition who lives with his younger brother Michael, a gorgeous idiot. Their simple life of women and working out is put on hold when Vince’s teenage son is dropped off on their doorstep by Priya, one of his old high school flings.
Cast: Anders Holm, Andy Favreau, Mouzam Makkar, Nina Wadia, Mindy Kaling
Creators: Charlie Grandy (W / EP), Mindy Kaling (W / EP), Howard Klein (EP), Michael Spiller (D)
Studios: Universal TV, Kaling International, 3 Arts Entertainment

Full disclosure: I was in an improv group with Mindy Kaling in college. I have a crazy amount of respect for her work ethic and her produced material. The Mindy Project is, in my opinion, one of the most underappreciated shows of the past decade. So it’s a little sad we won’t be having any more adventures with Mindy Lahiri after the current season airs on Hulu.

Champions centers on Vince and Matthew. As the logline suggests, Vince is charismatic but lazy, while Matthew is hot but dumb. We know this even before the Cold Open ends, as Vince disarms (both gun-wise and personality-wise) a jilted lover of a woman he slept with, while Matthew confesses to never having read a book.

We’re then introduced to Priya, who has a 15-year-old half-Indian, gay son named Michael. We’re sympathetic to the duo when Michael has to re-audition for his performing arts school admission (due to a “Jared from Subway situation”), followed by the “cool kids” at the school giving Priya crap for being a young mother.

If you read the logline, you’re already one step ahead. You know Act One ends with Vince learning Michael will have to move in with him to stay enrolled at the school (for convenience sake, not an Andrea Zuckerman situation). Act Two proceeds a bit as you would expect. Michael moves in with the slacker bros and starts dropping Les Mis references. Things seem to be going OK until Michael overhears Vince telling a girlfriend that he’ll be sending Michael packing shortly and Michael reveals a secret about Vince. Cut to commercial. Things work themselves out eventually, and our Two and 3/4 Men set-up is complete.

First off, Champions has a lot of solid dialogue, with a good flow to it and the expected creative use of pop culture references. We also have a character in Michael that we haven’t really seen on TV before. It actually opens things up more to have Michael be a teenager than a young kid, as you usually see in this set-up. On the could-be-better side, the character dynamic between Vince and Matthew feels a bit familiar (side note: reading the script, I wish Matthew and Michael’s names didn’t look so visually similar). The beats similarly feel familiar. And the setting of a gym I thought was a detriment to former CBS sitcom How to Be a Gentleman, and could drag this down. Perhaps they can build on the other patrons in the gym in future episodes of Champions, but we didn’t get much from them in this pilot.

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