One of the best new shows the TV Blog has seen this year premiered on Fox this past Sunday night on what might rank as one of the sleepiest and otherwise ignored nights of television all year.
The show is called “What Just Happened??! With Fred Savage” and it is a savage send-up of over-hyped “aftershows,” those so-called talk shows that some networks have created to extend fan engagement in the hour or so after a high-profile show has just aired.
Not that there is anything wrong with exploiting fan interest in what just happened on “Breaking Bad” or “The Walking Dead” -- to name two shows that have had aftershow talk shows.
But in this Fox aftershow spoof, the enthusiasm dial is turned up to 11 -- a level representing a degree of manufactured enthusiasm far and above that which might actually exist organically for any show, even among the most diehard fans.
On “What Just Happened??!,” Savage plays himself as the host of just such a talk show. As a matter of fact, he created the show.
The talk show within the show is called “What Just Happened??!” and it exists to discuss and wax enthusiastically about a second fictional show called “The Flare.”
This fictional (as in nonexistent) TV show is a sci-fi thriller of some sort. In Sunday’s premiere of “What Just Happened??!,” viewers saw the final minute or two of the evening’s “Flare” episode, a physical confrontation between two of the show's characters.
When that “show” ended, on came “What Just Happened??!” with host and superfan Savage cheerleading for the show and whipping his show's studio audience into a frenzy. After introducing a co-host, Savage then presided over interview segments with the star of “Flare” and then Rob Lowe.
The Lowe interview was particularly noteworthy because it played like a real interview -- which it was, for the most part. Lowe and Savage are apparently old friends and their conversation about starting their careers as children was more interesting than a slew of interviews on “real” talk shows on television.
In addition, a segment in which Savage sought to pay a surprise visit to the posh home of Dame Helen Mirren, who is also featured in “The Flare” (although not seen at all in “What Just Happened??!” this past Sunday), was flawless, edge-of-your-seat comedy.
In this segment, Savage tried to gain entry into the gated community where Mirren supposedly lives, and found himself in a profanity-laden shouting match with a homeowner who said Mirren does not even live there. This confrontation was so real that it might very well have been real, and not acted.
This entire show is like that. The way it jumps suddenly between reality and fiction can take your breath away. We know the talk show is fake, although some of its segments are real. And we know “The Flare” is fictional, but it plays like many shows that are real. The talk show even has a house band -- the very real California foursome Best Coast.
Even more importantly, “What Just Happened??!” is uproariously funny. It is the sharpest new comedy to appear anywhere this year. Why then is it being buried on Sunday nights in the summer? Who knows.
Hats off to Fred Savage. He has created a brutally honest satire of today's overheated fan culture. “What Just Happened??!” is a show that aims its hostile message directly at the television business -- a case of a show biting the hand that feeds it, and biting it clean off at the wrist.
“What Just Happened??! With Fred Savage” airs Sundays at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on Fox.