The story of “Nobodies” is a pretty simple one: Larry Dorf, Hugh Davidson and Rachel Ramras star as fictional versions of themselves. Making a living as writers for a lowbrow animated series — How lowbrow? Well, it’s called “The Fartlemans” — the group’s dream is to hit it big like fellow Groundlings performers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon (who wrote “The Descendents,” of course) and Stephanie Courtney (“Flo” from the Progressive ads, who has deserved more for a very long time now, but is swimming in it nonetheless.)
To break out of the slump, they’ve wrote a movie called “Mr. First Lady” — presenting the reality of a female POTUS and her husband’s role in the White House — and Melissa McCarthy is up for the starring role.
That’s a key factor here, as Melissa McCarthy is not only the executive producer of the show, she’s a Groundlings alumni and has close ties to Larry, Hugh and Rachel in real life. Though she doesn’t make it onto the show in the first few episodes, the series doesn’t shy away from its EP’s celebrity ties, either: Jason Bateman and Allison Janney’s early appearances are a definite highlight.
Like “Master of None,” “Detroiters,” “Broad City” and “Crashing,” to name a few, the show trades best on its cringeworthy, very relatable, often dark journey toward artistic success and fulfillment. Everyone has dreams, and hopes, and we can all find comfort in both the peaks and valleys of that story — it’s so central as a narrative tool that it can ensure the working range, from subtle to broad comedy, is as wide as possible.
However, for a show about the artistic synergy of its three leads — presumably pitched, bought and shot around that concept — we’re not given a strong sense of chemistry between the three leads: As “Detroiters” and “Broad City” in particular show, that believable bond of friendship and dedication is key to a premise like this — without it, we’re left with filler like “You’re the Worst’s” recent slog of an improv plot.
“Nobodies” isn’t exactly exploring new ground, but as a showcase for these talents it does show promise. The talent, the writing, are there — and with a few tonal tweaks, it would be much easier to discern what’s key to this comedy, to these comedians’ particular sensibilities… And what’s just opening-night throat-clearing.
“Nobodies” premieres Thursday, 10 p.m. ET/PT on TV Land.