TIME celebrities

Real Housewives of New Jersey Star Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison

White Party Hosted By Dina Manzo And Teresa Giudice
Mike Pont—Getty Images Tevevision Personality Teresa Giudice attends the White Party hosted by Dina Manzo and Teresa Giudice at Woodbury Country Club on July 21, 2014 in Woodbury, New York.

Teresa Giudice was found guilty of fraud

Teresa Giudice, star of Real Housewives of New Jersey was sentenced Thursday to 15 months in prison. She and her husband Joe Giudice, who was also sentenced, pled not guilty to 39 counts that included bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud.

Giudice asked the judge for no jail time. She stated in court that she is nothing like the intemperate character viewers see on the Bravo reality TV show, calling it “little more than a carefully crafted fiction, engineered by Bravo TV through scripted lines and clever editing,” TMZ reports.

Joe Giudice was also sentenced to 41 months in prison and order to pay $414,588 in restitution. He will also be placed under supervision for two years after prison.

Giudice had argued that her four children would be left alone were both she and her husband imprisoned, but the judge allowed their sentences to be carried out consecutively so that their children would be looked after.




TIME Video Games

An Hour’s Worth of Bloodborne Gameplay That’s Kind of Amazing

An alpha tester just uploaded an hour's worth of high-definition video of grueling hack-and-slash Bloodborne gameplay.

I care too much about coming to From Software’s Bloodborne fresh to play it in alpha. Or beta. Or anything short of gold.

But if you want to watch some dude in a cape and tricorn run around clobbering things in the employ of a game engine that looks really, really slick, the series of just released Bloodborne alpha-play videos above–four in all–are a treat.

Yes, there’s a Bloodborne alpha. It’s transpiring as I type this, and no, you can’t play it, since the signing-up period’s past. But this is arguably better, since it’s not really spoiling anything. What makes a game a game is playing it, after all, and this is just peering over someone’s shoulder.

If you’ve played Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls or Dark Souls II but paid little attention to Bloodborne, you’ll notice the DNA in these videos immediately. The interfaces are all but identical, as is the ebb and flow of combat. Even the way enemies die feels the same, though the animations and detail level are an order of magnitude greater.

Check out that creepy obese monstrosity just after 15:20. Notice how eerily lifelike it is when it moves. The Souls games are notorious for being some of the most difficult in recent memory, but at this level of fidelity, Bloodborne‘s adding “downright terrifying” to the mix.

Each video runs about 15 minutes: The initial one is of this fellow playing as Bloodborne‘s “standard” class. That’s followed by a video playing as the Kirkhammer class (Dark Souls meets Thor), a third involves crows and a freaky mini-boss, and the fourth is a full-on boss battle (with the dreaded “cleric beast”) that’s rather impressive.

Bloodborne arrives for PlayStation 4 (it’s exclusive) on February 6 next year.

TIME movies

Luke Wilson: How I Made My Award-Winning Short Film Satellite Beach

The actor opens up on writing, co-directing and starring in an evocative new short film

In the fall of 2012, the actor Luke Wilson and a small film crew trailed the Space Shuttle Endeavor as it moved through the Los Angeles streets to the California Science Center. Wilson, along with his brother Andrew, shot largely improvised footage of a character named Warren Flowers (played by Wilson) who believes he is in charge of the shuttle’s journey; the footage became a 20-minute evocative short film called Satellite Beach (now available to purchase online). For Wilson, the experience allowed him the chance to make a film in a different way and to explore space travel, a subject he says he finds compelling.

A hit at festivals, where it’s snapped up a string of awards, Satellite Beach is an unusual film, and one that deftly twists the viewer’s expectations while showcasing what it was like to drive a space shuttle through LA’s busy streets.

Wilson spoke with TIME about how this project materialized, how it challenged him as an actor, and why it’s set him and Andrew up to direct an upcoming feature film.

TIME: Where did you get the inspiration for this short film?

Luke Wilson: There was an article on Sunday in the LA Times about the man who was in charge of the moving of the Space Shuttle Endeavor. He said a couple of interesting things, like that he went to bed thinking about it and he woke up thinking about it. He drove the route almost daily. He was obsessed with it. I thought it would be interesting to do a guy that thought he was in charge of it, but turns out not to be.

So did the people moving the shuttle know you were making this movie around them?

We just filmed here and there. There would be people that didn’t notice me; there would people who thought I was an official. And then there would be people that recognized me. If I was going to ask guys to move on a roof or something, I’d say, “We’re doing a little movie. Do you guys mind if I ask you to get down from there?” Everybody was into it. It reminded me of going to the Rose Bowl Parade as a kid, where we were in these parts of the city, and everyone was in a good mood, and there was a going-with-the-flow attitude.

Did you write the story beforehand, or just improvise as you went?

I worked it out all as I did it. I had the idea for a few scenes, and had the idea of how it would start and what would going on — knowing that gradually this guy would unravel, and people would see him unravel. Initially, the ending was supposed to be a gala at the California Science Center, and you think this guy is in charge until the end, when he can’t get into the gala. And then the transporter that moved the space shuttle broke down the first night, and they had to fix it. I always knew there were would be voiceover, and the voiceover would be dictated by the shots that we got.

That’s an interesting way to make a movie.

Yeah, it is. Not that it hasn’t been done, but I certainly hadn’t done it. And I’d always been interested in certain filmmakers or actors like Dennis Hopper, making experimental films. Or even Andy Warhol. I liked the idea of doing something off-the-cuff. When you’ve worked on a bunch of projects that have been stuck in development or waiting you think, “Gosh, someday I’d really like to make a movie my way” — which I still haven’t gotten to do, but we did get to make this short in this way. But it definitely came about from trying to emulate people I’d read about over the years.

You had directed previously, right?

Yeah, I had directed The Wendell Baker Story. It was this movie I’d written about ten years ago. My brother Andrew and I directed it together like we did with Satellite Beach. I’m not one of those actors who’s hell-bent on directing. It just seemed like a way to cut out the middle man. It’s hard enough to make a movie and we had a limited amount of time, so I didn’t want to have to be explaining to a director what I was trying to do.

As an actor, what’s exciting about being in a short film that’s largely improvised?

I found it really nerve-wracking! And I’m surprised we didn’t get arrested, frankly, as close as we were to the shuttle. We were asking people to move and going up to police and jumping over barricades. When they moved it across the Manchester Bridge they were filming a Super Bowl commercial, and I walked right into the middle of that. I went up to the mayor dressed as the character. I was definitely on edge the whole time, which I think helped. I was waiting to be put in the back of a squad car.

Did it feel like you were playing out some childhood fantasy about space travel at all?

It did. Just growing up, The Right Stuff was a big book and then a big movie. For me and the few friends who made [the movie], it was a huge deal to be around the space shuttle. Everybody was incredibly excited to see it and to be that close to it. It was the kind of thing where we were all elbowing each other and high-fiving each other. Also, getting to get to go Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That, too, was incredible. Just getting to be on that land that is so historic and iconic. We saw the Apollo launch pad. It kept changing the project — to think it just started with an idea from the newspaper and then it became this movie.

You’re also in The Skeleton Twins right now. What compelled you about that role?

I was a big fan of both Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. It was one of those particularly strong SNL classes. I really liked their characters and I knew, having worked with Will Ferrell, that I love working with SNL actors. I watched SNL every Saturday night growing up. My dad would get us revved up when it was coming on in the ‘70s. So I still feel that way about the show and the people on it.

How does that role play into where you want to be in your career overall?

I always admire people that have a set plan. I really don’t. I like to work because I always feel like I’m learning something and I always feel like I’m meeting somebody, whether it’s an actor or a crew member, who I want to work with again. I don’t really have a set plan and I don’t know that you can have a set plan unless you’re Brad Pitt, where you can pick and do exactly what you want.

Do you have more movies upcoming?

I have this movie called Ride, which Helen Hunt directed. And then I have this movie called Prison Love that I wrote. We’re going to be doing it in the next few months, that Owen [Wilson] is going to be in. I will be directing it with Andrew, my brother. That will be fun to try and do that again, obviously on a larger scale than Satellite Beach — although I feel like Satellite Beach was helpful in terms of directing.

Is there a director you’ve worked with who has inspired how you want to do it?

Wes Anderson, for sure. I’ve also always liked what I’ve read about Clint Eastwood as a director. He’s not walking around shouting into a megaphone and wearing an ascot. I like the idea of it being a workmanlike job, and that you are a part of a team. Even though you’re in charge, you want people to feel free to contribute.

Wait — have you worked with a director who wore an ascot on set?

I don’t think so, but I’ve definitely worked with a few directors where I’ve found myself not listening to their direction. I was just imagining them wearing the ascot.

TIME movies

Watch the First Trailer for Pixar’s Inside Out

Bill Hader and Amy Poehler lend their voices to the animated film

Pixar movies have ventured under the sea, into the air and through outer space. Now, they’re turning inward.

Its upcoming film Inside Out will delve inside the head of an 11-year-old girl who struggles to understand her emotions as she navigates a new school. Her personified emotions — Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) — operate a mission control center inside her mind.

Inside Out is set to hit theaters on June 19, 2015, almost two years after Pixar’s last film, Monsters University.

TIME Television

How to Get Away With Hashtags: When Viewers and Networks Collide on Twitter

ABC Viola Davis stars in ABC's How to Get Away With Murder

Is it #HowToGetAwayWithMurder or #HTGAWM? (And other TV hashtag conundrums)

While viewers watched the twisty and turny premiere of How to Get Away With Murder last Thursday, iPhones in hand, they had many important thoughts to share with the Twitterverse about the newest Shonda Rhimes-produced show to hit primetime. (Like puns, and the realization that a familiar looking actor was Dean Thomas in Harry Potter). But while carefully crafting 140-character commentary, a wave of social media panic came billowing in:

In case you’re counting, which every live tweeter is, #HowToGetAwayWithMurder is a whopping 23 characters long — leaving significantly less room for commentary. And while the acronym #HTGAWM is less cumbersome, “it looks like a mouthful of gobbledygook,” as author and prolific TV tweeter Jennifer Weiner tells TIME.

Twitter has reinvigorated the act of watching live television, and active social viewers want to make sure they are seeing relevant tweets (and that their relevant tweets are being seen) under one, consistent hashtag conversation. But when multiple hashtags are trending: What do you use? Shonda Rhimes tweeted #HowToGetAwayWithMurder; her production company ShondaLand tweeted #HTGAWM; and writer/creator Peter Nowalk sometimes used both! (31 characters!)

“The official hashtag is #HowToGetAwayWithMurder,” ABC Entertainment executive director of digital strategy Ben Blatt says, clarifying confusion for those tuning in to Thursday’s second episode. “Even knowing that it was on the longer side, we felt that it served the purpose of getting people to understand that this was a new show, and we wanted to brand the actual title.”

And it makes sense. Viewers aren’t familiar enough with the product to have a nickname or abbreviation resonate. While HTGAWM is reminiscent of How I Met Your Mother’s now nostalgic HIMYM — that show’s ascent to popularity predated Twitter, so the acronym was getting typed into text messages long before Twitter text boxes.

Blatt notes that even though promo material touts the longer hashtag, ABC went into its marketing decision with the knowledge that it will “probably end up with an abbreviated version” based on online habits.

ABC gave TIME statistics from Twitter showing that while 141,139 tweets employed #HowToGetAwayWithMurder, almost 50,000 used #HTGAWM — without any official promotion.

“We are going to start testing that more, and if we see that fans are using it, we’re going to pivot,” Blatt says. “That’s going to inform what we start doing for weeks two and three.”

Networks have learned to be malleable when it comes to official hashtags. According to Adam Zeller, VP of social media for Bravo and Oxygen Media, while the social, marketing, and editorial team decide based on consensus what official hashtag “feels right” before a new show airs: “Immediately after the premiere we will look at data and decide if it worked — and if not, we will change it to what the fans want to use.”

One of Zeller’s most surprising hashtag changes was for the show The People’s Couch, a reality show where viewers literally watch strangers watching television. (Yes, really). While Bravo decided to use #PeoplesCouch as a hashtag, displaying it on the screen throughout the broadcast, 95% of the audience independently decided to tweet using #ThePeoplesCouch — foregoing three precious characters.

Obviously, the official hashtag on-air and in promotions changed accordingly. A similar shift occurred when fans preferred #RHOM to the original suggested #RHOMIA for Real Housewives of Miami. With Oxygen’s Tuesday premiere of Nail’d It, a show about nail art, Zeller says, the team has flipped between using the branded #NaildIt versus #NailedIt.

“The pros for #NailedIt is that it’s already a huge hashtag on Twitter,” he says, and so the show might get greater discovery by people who happened to stumble on the popular hashtag. For that reason, Oxygen decided to go with the “e” version, reserving the right to change it when people gain more familiarity with the program.

But even though, according to ABC and Bravo/Oxygen, networks want to work with viewers for consistency, hashtags frequently cause chaos online.

During the SyFy’s premiere of Sharknado 2: The Second One — a television event literally created for Twitter — live tweeters were confused because while the the movie itself touted the #Sharknado2 hashtag onscreen during the broadcast, Sharknado’s official twitter account tweeted using #SharknadoTheSecondOne, creating a conflicting trending topic.

As TIME writer Nolan Feeney sarcastically gripes: “It really hurts my #brand.” But seriously, the warring hashtags do prove problematic.

“You want your tweets to be accessible, you want them to be read by people, you want to feel like we’re all watching this together — that’s the whole point,” says Weiner. “But then when you find out that there’s more than one hashtag going on, it’s like, you’re in the club, and you’re having a good time and then you realize that there’s another party going on. And maybe they’re having more fun with it and maybe they’re not. Maybe you should be at that party.”

Weiner primarily faces this dilemma when deciding whether or not to use “The” while livetweeting The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Although ABC officially pushes #TheBachelor — that’s what’s tweeted by Chris Harrison and written in translucent letters intermittently through broadcasts — a large contingent of #BachelorNation tweets under #Bachelor.

“It’s three characters,” says Weiner, who switches between the two hashtags in spite of the resulting whiplash. “If Michelle Money shows up in a really terrible outfit, you have no room. Sometimes you need every single one of those characters to describe what’s going on and how crazy it is.”

“I think that we do succumb to the reality that fans will sometimes go off on their own,” Blatt says. But even though networks are open to change sometimes, ABC won’t budge on #TheBachelor brand, which has proven successful in spite of discrepancies.

Even if #HowToGetAwayWithMurder shifts to #HTGAWM or something else entirely (ABC probably doesn’t want the #Murder brand), viewers may still face warring trending topics. Official hashtags do not always dictate trends.

“I think that we need to appeal to Twitter,” Weiner says. “Because there is pain going on. People are suffering. People are confused. Let’s fix this. Let’s make it better.”

TIME Television

So How Bad Is the Bad Judge in Bad Judge, Really?

Bad Judge - Season Pilot
John Fleenor—NBC John Ducey as Tom and Kate Walsh as Rebecca -in NBC's Bad Judge.

A detailed analysis of the bad judge's infractions

This article contains spoilers. Click here to reveal them.

If NBC’s Bad Judge, premiering tonight, were a different kind of show, its main character would already be in jail. (That would be a show worth watching.) In the first two episodes, Kate Walsh, who plays the Hon. Rebecca Wright, does a lot of bad things, but then she also rescues at-risk youth. Wright isn’t as bad as the Bad Teacher that starred Cameron Diaz, but she’s definitely badder than the Bad Teacher that aired on CBS. The show’s not quite Bad Santa, but it’s way less lovable than Bad News Bears — while trying to pretend it’s not mugging just as hard.

In the first episode, Judge Wright commits the following offenses:

-She wears jean shorts to work

-She drives (and defends driving!) a van emblazoned with a racist mural

-She uses a probably illegally obtained handicap pass

-She has sex on her desk

-She has sex on her desk during work hours

-She bribes the child of parents she sent to prison

-She threatens to “cut” a 12-year-old bully

-She teaches the aforementioned child to sucker-punch the aforementioned bully

-She gives a lenient sentence to an admitted bigamist and probable sociopath

-She brings a child to a bar at 10 p.m.

Sensing a pattern? Bad Judge, like many of the Bads before it — comedies alltreats Wright’s misbehavior with air quotes. If she weren’t already fundamentally together, who would be there to give tough love to the Lohan-lite actresses who land before her? Wright is free and fun and learning about life and herself. She doesn’t care about niceties. She cares about justice. (We know that she cares because she has to keep denying that she does.)

Walsh, at least, is having a blast where she can, burping and drugging and sending a courtroom full of paparazzi to lock-up. Too bad her show mistakes saying something outrageous with saying something funny. And all that misbehavior can’t cover over a lot of Sitcom 101 hi-jinks, including: a black sidekick, a cute colleague, a blowhard colleague, and a put-upon boss. The gold standard for this type of thing is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which is a show that actually is insane. Bad Judge is just wasted potential: if she didn’t have to be so good, Rebecca Wright would actually be pretty good at being bad.

TIME Books

Harvest Boon: 7 Great Fall Books

A month of reaping great reads

  • Fragrant: The Secret Life Of Scent

    by Mandy Aftel

    A perfumer by profession, Aftel offers a combination history-slash-recipe book-slash-meditation in Fragrant. Instructions for homemade “Coca-Cola” and flower-infused chocolate, among other aromatic concoctions, are woven through scent-based sections: Cinnamon, Mint, Frankincense, Ambergris and Jasmine.

  • Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

    by Neil Patrick Harris

    Life is anything but linear in Harris’ whimsical take on the celebrity memoir. Written in the second person, the book uses a hopscotching format that invites the reader to jump around the text (“To kill someone, turn to page 165″). “You” are Harris, careering through a highlight reel of your past, from childhood to Doogie Howser to the arrival of your own kids via surrogate, with contributions from celebrity pals.

  • Lila: A Novel

    by Marilynne Robinson

    Robinson completes a trilogy of Midwestern novels that began with Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, and which she followed with Home in 2008. Where Gilead told the story of John Ames, an Iowa preacher–and Home concurrently recounted that of his best friend–Lila brings us the tale of Ames’ much younger wife, who struggles from a hardscrabble youth to a quiet Christian life and eventual hard-won contentment with Ames.

  • The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms The Way We Think, Feel, And Buy

    by Joel Beckerman with Tyler Gray

    Beckerman, a composer who specializes in “sonic branding” (he created AT&T’s four-note tune), combines experience and science to explain how we process sound. Using familiar examples from the sizzle of a Chili’s fajita to Apple’s soothing boot-up tone, The Sonic Boom will alter how you hear the world.


  • De Niro: A Life

    by Shawn Levy

    Levy, the biographer of his share of Hollywood heavyweights (Rat Pack Confidential; Paul Newman: A Life), takes on the iconic but deeply private actor in nearly 600 pages. Levy paints a detailed portrait of De Niro’s career and life, from his early days working with Martin Scorsese to the serious family matter, a son’s bipolar disorder, that drew him to his role in Silver Linings Playbook.

  • Breaking In: The Rise Of Sonia Sotomayor And The Politics Of Justice

    by Joan Biskupic

    A veteran Supreme Court reporter charts Sotomayor’s evolution from a poor Puerto Rican girl living in the Bronx to the first Latina Justice on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s sense of ethnic identity, Biskupic argues, may be as important a legacy as the Justice’s legal contributions.

  • Glass Jaw: A Manifesto For Defending Fragile Reputations In An Age Of Instant Scandal

    by Eric Dezenhall

    In this primer on modern scandal, Dezenhall, a crisis PR manager, explores reputational disaster in the social-media age. The author uses his expertise to examine high-profile fiascoes (Paula Deen, Tiger Woods, the Susan G. Komen Foundation–Planned Parenthood fight) and how they might have been avoided. There is, he posits, such a thing as bad publicity.

TIME Internet

Every Day Is Throwback Thursday: The Weaponized Nostalgia of the Internet

Illustration by Oliver Munday for TIME

Wanna feel old? The answer, according to more and more of the news and social media, is yes.

I was inspired to write my column in this week’s print TIME (subscription required) last month, after my various online newsfeeds began filling up with remembrances and celebrations of Friends‘ 20th anniversary. Just a few months after they had filled up with remembrances and celebrations–of Friends‘ 10th anniversary.

Did a decade pass so quickly without your noticing it? Had you experienced head trauma?

No, the anniversary in May was of Friends’ last episode, in 2004; the anniversary in September was of its first episode, in 1994. Its legacy had not changed in four months; no one had uncovered shocking new evidence as to whether Ross and Rachel were, in fact, “on a break.” But we once again needed to share the 20 Greatest Friends Celebrity Cameos and 27 Friends Couples, Ranked. Welcome to the age of perpetual nostalgia.

News outlets have always loved the convenience of anniversaries, of course; we’re in the middle of experiencing the 50th birthday of everything that happened in the ’60s. But lately we’ve been buried in “Wanna Feel Old?” listicles and “___ Turns 20″ features. (Some of them, I fully admit, written by me.)

A lot of this material is aimed at millennials (see the outpouring of love for cultural landmark Saved By the Bell), but I wouldn’t want to overstate this as a generational phenomenon. My own people, Gen Xers, grew up on Happy Days and gave the world the Schoolhouse Rock Live! musical. Premature nostalgia may just be our general way of dealing with our society’s extended nether-zone between childhood and independent adulthood.

Whatever the explanation, though, online sharing and social media have positively weaponized nostalgia. Remembrances–#TBT, “23 Things ’90s Kids Understand”–do well on them, and the media business has learned desperately to give Facebook what it wants. And Facebook wants to remember: with its baby pictures and chronological timelines and personalized Your Life in Review videos, it’s basically a supercharged “Remember when?” machine.

By coincidence, my column comes out on the same day as my review of Mulaney, a not-great sitcom from a 32-year-old comedian whose distinguishing feature is its overwhelming sense of nostalgia for the ’90s sitcoms like Seinfeld that it imitates. As I wrote in my review, I am not crazy about the show. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up doing well in the ratings on sheer throwback appeal. Check back in 10 years and see if we’re celebrating its anniversary too.

TIME Television

Neil Patrick Harris Put Guests To Work At His Wedding

They were given tasks when they arrived

Neil Patrick Harris revealed to Seth Meyers on Late Night Wednesday evening that at his wedding to David Burtka in Italy, guests were given special tasks to complete at the ceremony.

Harris said that some people were told to give speeches, some people had readings, and some people were greeters, but no one knew what task they were going to get until they got a clue handed to them. Harris and Burtka also had Elton John and Kelly Clarkson perform at their wedding.


TIME Television

Review: Mulaney Does Its Homework Too Well

Ray Mickshaw/FOX

It has all the components of many classic sitcoms--except a reason to watch it.

Mulaney (Fox, Sundays) seems like something a dutiful student might have produced for his final project in his “Tropes and Themes in the 1990s Sitcom” class.

It hits every item on the syllabus. It’s shot before a live studio audience. There’s the polished young comedian (John Mulaney) that the show is built around. There are the observational-comedy standup bits that he does to introduce each episode. There are the friends and roomies to bounce around jokes, introduce possible romantic tension and bolster said comedian’s questionable acting ability. (As per the chapter on Seinfeld, the optimal size for the social group is four, including one woman and a “Kramer” type.) There’s an eccentric old guy down the hall (Elliott Gould). Heck, he even did the extra credit: there’s also a showbiz-workplace element involving a wacky boss (Martin Short)!

This highly constructed diorama of a show has a lot of superficial elements of classic TV comedy. (Fox may want to make its lower-screen graphics prominent during Mulaney, just so viewers are aware they’re not watching TV Land.) What it doesn’t have is an original voice, organic character relationships or near enough laughs.

It’s not as if Mulaney, a comedian and former Saturday Night Live writer, isn’t funny himself. The standup bits that open the four episodes Fox sent for review prove he is, especially when the babyfaced 32-year-old riffs on not yet feeling like an adult or living with his Catholic-inculcated repression. Visiting a masseuse who asks him to “undress to your comfort level,” he says, “I put on a sweater and a pair of corduroy pants.”

But Mulaney the character (also a 30-ish comic), as played by Mulaney the actor, is distractingly like Mulaney the comedian–he doesn’t act so much as deliver highly mannered standup while sitting down. And the pieces of other sitcoms that have been smooshed together around him feel just as awkward and forced. He and his roomies Jane (Nasim Pedrad) and Motif (Seaton Smith) have a friends-who-don’t-actually-seem-like-friends vibe. Their fourth, small-time pot dealer André (Zack Pearlman), is at least meant to be irritating, but whenever his character arrives at Mulaney’s apartment door–”It’s André!”–he seems to have walked through a sitcom portal from 1992.

Onto this young-folks-figuring-it-out comedy is grafted a workplace sitcom, as Mulaney takes a job as a writer-assistant for vain game-show host Lou Cannon (Martin Short). Short is easily the best thing in the sitcom, and the egocentric old-showbiz Cannon is written straight to his type. But not unlike the Maya Rudolph TV-show subplot written into NBC’s Up All Night a few years ago, his bits don’t really feel like part of the same show, much as Mulaney works to force them together.

There is something charming about Mulaney’s affection for sitcoms past; besides Short and Gould, it guest-casts Penny Marshall (along with Lorraine Bracco) in an upcoming episode as a pot-fancying neighbor. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with Mulaney being the sitcom equivalent of the nice schoolkid who’s the favorite of all the parents. But it hasn’t figured out its own point of view, the thing that tells us we need to watch it rather than the reruns of the sitcoms that it’s honoring.

It’s in John Mulaney’s standup bits, thus far much funnier and authentic-feeling than anything in the scripted parts of Mulaney, that you get a hint of what that might be. There’s a theme in them of the nice guy with the dark turn of mind, self-conscious about his need to please, dealing with the stresses of being a repressed guy in an increasingly un-repressed culture. If Mulaney the sitcom figures out a way to adapt the voice of Mulaney the comic, it could become something more than an homage.

Right now, its problem is summed up by Lou Cannon in the pilot, when Mulaney promises he’ll work hard if only the veteran will give him a chance in showbiz: “That sincerity will take you right to the middle.”

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