TV Review: FX’s ‘The Comedians’

Billy Crystal and Josh Gad play fictional versions of themselves, unhappily paired in a comedy show together (The Billy and Josh Show), in the new FX comedy The Comedians. The series, partially filmed in mockumentary style, is an adaptation of Swedish SVT series Ulveson & Herngren. The 13-episode first season premieres Thursday night at 10 p.m. The following are reviews from TV critics around the web, compiled by B&C.

“Despite two versatile comic performers at the center, The Comedians comes across as the most cutting showbiz satire of 1991. [...] Today, it's a fairly soft, and extremely predictable, lampooning of the industry, and the neurotics who populate it.”
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix

“The two stars of The Comedians are mighty good. The premise they’re given to work with, though, has its limits. [...] But Mr. Crystal and Mr. Gad play it gamely, and the proceedings are enlivened by an enjoyable collection of guest stars, like Steven Weber, Joe Torre and Mel Brooks.”
Neil Genzlinger, New York Times

“Oddly conservative but for its basic-cable language, The Comedians is a strangely mixed bag, which works or doesn't work from moment to moment and from mode to mode. [...] And yet there is something solid and satisfying in the relationship between the two leads that becomes clearer as the show goes on.”
Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times

“In the end, I’m left watching The Comedians like the chagrinned FX executives watching the development of The Billy and Josh Show, looking at a project that had every advantage–the stars, the behind-the-scenes talent (including director Larry Charles), numerous celebrity cameos–but somehow never managed to gel. In that way, at least, life imitates the art that’s imitating life.”
James Poniewozik, Time

“Directed by Larry Charles (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld), this faux documentary starring Billy Crystal and Josh Gad as ‘themselves’ is, during its first two episodes, almost unbearable, on purpose. It becomes more relaxed, lively, and confident in its third and fourth episodes, tamping down its theater-of-pain tendencies without losing them and generating relief along with some big laughs.”
Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture

“Dotted with celebrity cameos, the customary exaggerated Hollywood insecurities and an underlying commentary on the generational divide, the show generates enough solid laughs to overcome its arid patches.”
Brian Lowry, Variety

“There’s the finicky stars, the put-upon staff, and the less-than-helpful assistant; clips of the show-within-the-show give a glimpse of what’s produced in all of this chaos. The Comedians starts out well enough, but it lacks the creativity and unique tone of its most successful antecedents.”
Kate Kulzick, A.V. Club

“A mockumentary almost as lame as the ill-conceived skit-comedy show whose creation it purports to depict, The Comedians offers Billy Crystal and Josh Gad as a comic team thrown together by producers who couldn't care less if they have chemistry so long as they hit the right demographic targets.”
John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter