The Comedians

FX’s new series The Comedians stars Billy Crystal in his first regular role on a TV series since his gig on Saturday Night Live nearly 30 years ago.

The mockumentary storyline, based on the Swedish series Ulveson & Herngren, captures the behind-the-scenes follies of a comedy series starring Crystal and comedian Josh Grad playing fictional caricatures of themselves. Initially, Crystal pitches a fictional FX network on a one-man comedy sketch series, but producers believe that the paring of the veteran comedian with the younger, up-and-coming Grad would work better for reaching young viewers.

Clearly, though, the two comedians don’t mesh and have differing views on how the Billy & Josh Show should develop. An awkward first meeting over dinner between the two co-stars sets the stage for what becomes a constant battle for control of the show’s identity.

The pilot begins with the taping of the fictional show’s first episode, in which Grad and the show’s producer (executive producer Larry Charles playing himself) change the last few lines of the skit, unbeknownst to Crystal, who proceeds to throw a tantrum and fires Charles. The next day Crystal apologies for his spur-of-the-moment actions to Charles, who believes all is well and that he’s going to get his job back. Crystal, however, informs him that he’s still fi red, but he doesn’t want any hard feeling between them.

Witnessing — and often contributing to — the give and take between Crystal and Grad are several supporting characters including the show’s neurotic producer (Stephanie Weir), and Crystal’s annoyingly inept PA (Megan Ferguson).

While Crystal and Grad play off one another well in several scenes, including a post-dinner battle of comedic one-liners surrounding their less-than-successful first encounter, the laughs are too few and too far between, which may keep viewers from wanting to see more of the Crystal/Grad duo in future episodes.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.