Those of you reading this in the archives won’t care, but for anyone who catches things when posted, this review was so late because due to my posting schedule it would have been Tuesday when it finally went up and I didn’t want to wait. With that….the review.
Anyone whose read enough of this site probably assumes that something like The Great Indoors would go under my radar. And usually you’d be right. I do love a good sitcom now and then but it’s not something I write about. However, I was curious about the premise; that being old versus young, with “young” being portrayed by the generation known as Millennials and some day I won’t need spell check to spell that right. This isn’t that day. I don’t know it was coincidence or sneaky on CBS’s part, but how Millennials (it doesn’t count if I just copy from earlier) are looked at by the current generation is sometimes insulting…although how they’re treated is kind of mock worthy. Yeah, I don’t get the whole “trophy just for trying” thing either. That’s what stickers are for and stickers are fun.
But I’ve seen Millennials that I’m friends with via the reviewing community complain about some of the stereotypes, and these people don’t fall under that stereotype. You know, always on their phones (and let’s face, news reports of Pokemon Go players walking off a bridge doesn’t help that impression), easily getting their feeling hurt, being lazy…it is kind of insulting. And it’s not like this is anything new. Mike Rutherford of Mike And The Mechanics once wrote “every generation blames the one before” (guess where and you might win a sticker) and while that’s true every generation also looks down on the new kids on the block (including New Kids On The Block) and you can bet that’s true for Millennials and whomever takes their place. I wonder what they’ll be called and at what point the next generation begins? Are my cousin’s kids the next generation? Are some of them Millennials? At what point does the generation gap actually start?
If you look at ads like the one above The Great Indoors seems to be poised to take that generation gap and make a comedy about it; again, nothing new. And I was wondering where that would fall? On the one hand you have The Big Bang Theory, which usually appears to be making fun of geeks, just with lovable characters. On the other, the most recent version of Survivor features Generation X going up against Millennials, and you don’t get to be on Survivor without ditching the cell phones and working your backside off. Thus comes the question of where on this scale The Great Indoors ultimately falls.
The show follows Jack Gordon, a reporter and explorer who gets out to the mountains or faraway isles and reports on the great adventures he has. Now he’s been called in to bring his life lessons to a trio of twenty-somethings whose ideas of “outdoors” is going down to Starbucks. The team consists of Clark, who idolizes Jack but has never followed in his footsteps–just his boots, Mason, who likes to put penis pictures on Clark’s smart devices and really showed little else in the show, and Emma, who…follows all those stereotypes to be honest. His was brought in by his boss, Roland, who has been forced to bring the magazine they work for off the shelves and completely online. Aiding is his daughter Brooke, who had a brief affair with Jack. Finally, there’s Esther, the woman at the admittance desk who needs to bring her emotional support animal to work.
Oddly I couldn’t find anyone on Twitter or Facebook talking about the show. Considering all of the postings I’ve seen about the mischaracterization of Millennials and Gen X vs. Millennials is the theme this show is being promoted on I would have sworn they would have looked into it to see if they’re getting as poorly represented as Big Bang Theory, which featured a fake movie called “Serial Ape-ist” and sending someone like Penny to a comic convention or similar geek event seems to be about “let’s laugh at the geeks who have never seen a pretty girl in a comic store because they apparently don’t go to the one I do where I have seen a number of pretty girls looking to buy comics”. So I guess it’s up to me, part of the so-call Generation X (I think), to go into it. I laughed quite a few times, I can tell you that.
The show is told from Jack’s point of view, and Joel McHale does a good job of playing an outdoorsman dealing with a group of kids whose adventuring probably involves Minecraft or something. He has some growth to do, since he immediately writes the kids off, including his fan Clark, before learning why he was brought out of the field to coach these kids. He’s a good guy who is just used to how he’s lived and has to deal with something as new to him as life is to these three young people.
With Jack as the focus we don’t learn much about the kids, so let’s make this quick. Clark (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is the only one with any real interest in Jack’s “world”. He runs a podcast but has no focus, he buys a pair of boots because Jack wore them, and he may be the only one who comes close to belonging here. That’s something I don’t get. Emma (Christine Ko) and Mason (Shaun Brown) don’t really seem interested in the outdoors, especially Emma, who gets bad that she hasn’t been promoted in the six weeks she’s worked here. Mason kind of jokes around but at least may be serious about writing. Emma’s my least favorite because she really doesn’t belong here. I’m sure they could find some to handle the social media end who actually cares about the magazine’s topic. It’s like asking me to write about dating tips. Like they say, “write what you know”, or at least what you know of.
My favorite character however is Stephen Fry’s Roland. Like Jack, Roland has climbed the highest peaks and traveled dangerous territory, and now runs a magazine about it, needing his daughter Brooke (Susannah Felding) to handle this new web-only format. His a bit scatter-brained but not to the point of the usual comic buffoon, like for example Arthur Carlson on WKRP In Cincinnati and you can believe he can run a magazine. Brooke has a history with Jack, which may or may not come into play since she’s engaged but it’s been a long engagement, but she does believe in him and his ability to get the others to actually care about wildlife and adventures. She’s the one thing I was really hoping this show had, a bridge between the computer crowd and the explorer. With everybody over their heads, she’s very important to making this formula work.
As for the pilot itself, it was very funny. I laughed at how out of touch both “sides” are, from Jack’s outdated website (including a dancing baby that Mason notes is now old enough to have its own baby) to the younger writers wanting to write about what to do if a bear attacks you and you can’t break out the bear repellent. (Jack’s answer: “you die”.) It’s about Jack seeing the kids in a better light and the kids discovering Jack’s passion for what the magazine writes about.
In the final analysis, does The Great Indoors make fun of Millennials? Maybe a bit, but not in the mean-spirited way as Big Bang Theory sometimes does, intentionally or not. And it’s not like it doesn’t take shots at the older generation whose idea of regular computer use is Solitaire and Mindsweeper. And I found myself laughing and enjoying the characters. (Yes, even Emma in her own way.) Time will tell if it gets as insulting as the aforementioned show that airs before it, but it may be worth checking out just to see how these characters interact. Hopefully it’ll be good.