Early season ratings have suggested that maybe viewers aren’t excited by shows with complicated and difficult-to-explain premises. For those audiences, might I suggest I Pity the Fool, the high-concept new motivational series from Mr. T.
TV Land has sent out two episodes of I Pity the Fool, which premieres on Wednesday (Oct. 11) at 10 p.m. ET and it’s a relief to say that the show delivers exactly what it promises: In 30-minute doses, Mr. T goes from pitying fools to teaching fools some basic coping strategies that might prevent them from being fools in the future.
As he puts it, "I ain’t no shrink, but I don’t shrink away from no challenge neither. I’m just teachin’ fools some basic rules."
In the first episode finds Mr. T Visiting a car dealership. General Manager Scott Perlstein has written to Mr. T saying that the dealership is plagued by slow sales. He blames the tyrannical control of the owner, his father-in-law, as well as a staff of apparently untrustworthy salesmen.
Enjoying the realm of automotive symbolism, Mr. T puts his goal simply, "You know what I’m gonna put in the tank? I’m gonna fill it up with motivation."
First, Mr. T scouts the dealership, making early first impressions ("Mr. T’s not against making money, but something told me this guy might be going a bit too far to get it") before announcing his challenge: He wants the dealership to sell 20 cars in 48 hours. But he won’t just be watching them.
"I’m gonna come in with my suit, with my tie on and I’m gonna to learn from you guys and I’m gonna try to sell a car myself! Alright! Alright! Alright! Are you with me? Yeah yeah yeah! Sell! Sell! Sell!"
The next day, Mr. T shows up in a charcoal pin-striped suit with high-cut Converse and he begins cold calling. He also tries teaching one particularly sleazy salesman the importance of customer relations. The scene in which he browbeats the salesman over $35 dollars may be the new season’s funniest moment thus far.
Mr. T is an endlessly quotable cheerleader and it’s hard to see any reason why he’s any less trustworthy a therapist than Dr. Phil. He uses a mixture of common sense and self-help jargon and his advice to force the dysfunctional father-in-law and son to "co-listen" reduces both men to tears.
"Two things I knew were working: The windshield wipers in on Scott’s eyes and the radiator on Mr. Nemet’s heart. If you want to polish your relationship and make it glisten, all you really have to do is learn to listen."
Neither a straight-forward reality show, nor a straight-forward comedy, I Pity the Fool is a bizarre enough spectacle that I couldn’t turn away. I mean, every moment may feel staged, but the guy ends every episode with a poem explaining what viewers should have learned from the experience.
I don’t pity the fool who decides not to tune in. Me, I’ll be watching The Nine. But anybody who doubts the T? Oh yes. Worthy of pity.