"Growing Up and Getting Out" Lacks Humor, Despite A Funny Cast
This shouldn't have to be said, by me or by somebody who actually has some clue what he's talking about, but casting funny people in your video does not, as if by sprinkling a magical comic elixir, make your video funny. Case in point: "Growing Up and Getting Out," the "funny" series/sweepstakes rolled out by KFC and Comedy Central to promote the chain's new McNuggety foodstuffs.
The series features the great Dave Koechner, playing a variation on his clueless, blustery oaf from Anchorman and pretty much every movie, TV show and web series ever made. Hell, his appearance here doesn't even represent the guy's first dip in the grubhouse-chain branded-video pool. Months ago, he projected the same blithe inappropriateness in "Always Open," a branded series for Denny's.
In "Always Open," however, the creators had the good sense to let Koechner riff with abandon - which, if nothing else, gave us one of the more authentic Yeti impressions committed to semi-celluloid. In "Growing Up and Getting Out," Koechner gets shoehorned into the role of Weird Dad In Weird Marriage (to Weird Mom, played by equally reliable funnyperson Mo Collins), whose weirdness batters and bemuses his straight-laced son.
KFC and Comedy Central try to give "Growing Up and Getting Out" a topical sheen, citing a statistic at the start of the series about college grads moving back in with their parents. Along those lines, they invite those grads to share their living-at-home tales - because, you know, every unemployed, overeducated 20-something is totally eager to trumpet the ego-deflating, true-adulthood-postponing hilarity of his plight. There's a comic backdrop for you.
(Apropos of nothing, here's what I might have shared when I was relegated to living at home during my post-schooling sit-about: "My mom and dad are loving and supportive. There are always clean towels in the bathroom. I crave death's icy embrace.")
Anyway, son Michael returns home from school with pal Rob in tow, only to find that Weird Dad has converted his old bedroom into a "thinking room." Sister Sarah yips about her perfect SAT scores, Weird Parents recall Michael's fixations on rubber sheets and Paula Abdul, and Rob munches on an omnipresent box of KFC Bites. It doesn't sound all that funny, and it plays less funny than it sounds.
Part of the problem is that "Growing Up and Getting Out" is proudly, stridently meta. The characters note the presence of the smarmy narrator/host, while Rob wink-winks his way through his prop Bites ("Does anyone want a bite? They're really good"). That's a real problem, and it's compounded by KFC's seeming inability to trust the series to work promotional magic on its own, as witnessed by the turbo-annoying tactic of affixing a traditional KFC Bites commercial to the start of each ep.
I don't know if there's an easy solution here, as clearly it's not economically feasible to funny-test series of this ilk on focus groups. Perhaps the folks who produce them should refrain from wearing their viral aspirations on their sleeves, so to speak, and ratchet down the heavens-this-is-chucklesome puffery a few notches? There's something to be said for allowing your viewers some small sense of discovery, rather than instructing them that copious volumes of whimsy will soon be administered.