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NBC's 'I Feel Bad' Needs a Good Deal of Improvement
September 19, 2018  | By Ed Bark
 

We live in times when psyches are raw, friendships are being tested, and rubbing someone the wrong way is a clear and present danger. 

A show titled I Feel Bad (on NBC, Wednesday, at 10 p.m. ET), even if it’s a comedy, seems to be stating the obvious or even rubbing it in. It’s akin to naming a restaurant Dysentery or a department store, Raw Deal. Maybe we don’t want to go there. Still, I guess the title of this NBC newcomer is more inviting than I Feel Bad All Day: Every Day. About Everything. That’s the book it’s based on.

Dividing its time between a chaotic home and a carefree video game company, I Feel Bad is centered on an Indian wife/mom who’s constantly vexed and likes telling viewers about this via her narrative voice. Sarayu Blue (top) stars as Emet, with Amy Poehler the principal executive producer. NBC has heavily promoted the show and is sneak-premiering it with back-to-back episodes on Wednesday, Sept. 19th after the season finale of summertime’s most popular series, America’s Got Talent. So that’s a vote of confidence, even if I Feel Bad so far isn’t all that good based on the three half-hours made available for review.

It’s been hard to miss the promotional clip in which Emet is shown waking from an erotic dream before telling her husband, David (Paul Adelstein, left), that she’s OK with him having one, too. In the same clip, Emet is then slapped on her behind by her father, Sonny (Brian George), who mistakes her for his wife, Maya (Madhur Jaffrey). 

As the premiere episode further unfolds, Emet asks a quartet of nerds at her workplace, “I’m still do-able, right?”

“Yes, you have a nice face,” replies one of ‘em before another compares her to a pizza that’s not great but still good enough because, after all, it’s pizza.

“When did nerds get so damn picky?” she bristles.

The first episode has four nerds, but one of them is subtracted after that. This leaves rotund Norman (Zach Cherry), the very British Chewy (James Buckley) and pasty-faced Griff (Johnny Pemberton). I Feel Bad spends a surprising amount of time with them, including a lame Episode 3 caper in which they plot a mission to gain access to the workplace rooftop -- where the cool kids supposedly gather.

Back home, Emet is beset with a prototypically cranky and condescending mom who ends some of her sentences with “man” and sees her daughter as an all-around failure. It gets worse in Episodes 2 and 3 when a busted pipe in their condo prompts Maya and go-along/get-along Sonny to move in for a while.

Emet and David also have three kids, one of them still an infant. They’re otherwise bringing up plus-sized son Louie (Rahm Braslaw, right) and stick-thin, strong-willed Lily (Lily Rose Silver, right). Mom and dad so far don’t seem to care at all about Louie’s diet, whether he’s mainlining ice cream or swilling Log Cabin syrup from the bottle in Episode 3. But in today’s society or on today’s television, raising undue questions about this can be seen as body-shaming. So never mind.

Episode 2, subtitled “I Get Sick of Being Needed,” finds Emet clinging to her daily and therapeutic 20 minutes of downtime in what she calls a “reclining pig” position. But when even this proves to be impossible, she takes refuge in a neighbor’s well-appointed house while they’re traveling and she’s bringing their packages inside and “re-agitating” the compost. 

I Feel Bad has appealing leads in the two younger parents, but is still trying to find a solid footing for itself amid some amusing moments now and then. The workplace segments take up too much of the show without rising above being a minor annoyance. And the domestic tribulations have a shopworn feel. Intrusive in-laws and balky kids are nothing new on the sitcom front, and the writing and situations aren’t sharp enough yet to serve as saving graces.

All of this and the title itself at this point are working against I Feel Bad, which on Oct. 4th will move to its regular Thursday 9:30 p.m. ET slot following Will & Grace. NBC couldn’t provide much cushier treatment. Otherwise not all is well and good.

 
 
 
 
 
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