Thank God You're Here, NBC

I'm amused that the TV show Thank God You're Here claims originality for being an improvisational comedy. Improv has been a theater exercise for ages; it's been a stable of Christopher Guest films; it's the focus of the British and American shows Whose Line Is It Anyway? and a large part of Reno 911! Too bad Thank God You're Here isn't as funny as the rest of these; except for some of the theater classes.

Thank God You're Here is structured as a prizeless game show. Four celebrities each perform in sketches, but they don't know anything about the sketch they'll be in -- except for their costume and that they'll be greeted with someone saying "Thank God you're here." The celebrities then perform together in one sketch at the end. Dave Foley acts as a judge (meaning he presses a button to end the sketches and never says anything critical or negative), and David Alan Grier is the host with the most -- the most dull patter, that is. (He also pops up in a few sketches, getting laughs and applause for just showing up.) At the end Foley picks a winner, and that person gets a small glass trophy.

These weaknesses could be forgivable if the show was more creative. Alas, the setups are very predictable. When Brian Cranston is dressed as a rocker, his set is -- a rock studio! Jason Alexander gets outfitted as someone from Star Trek, and his set is -- a Star Trek-like starship! When the four players are dressed as vikings, they wind up in -- a viking hall! Where's the creativity or sense of silliness? Why not have an astronaut in a fast food joint, or a football player in the British parliament?

The celebrities have varying degrees of quality. Wayne Knight did a great job as a medical con man ("There's traditional medicine and alternative medicine. My product is an alternative to medicine") and Jennifer Coolidge was fun as a ditzy beauty pageant contestant. By contrast, Jason Alexander disappointed as he seemed to pause before every line; and if it does nothing else, Thank God You're Here reminds us that Tom Green should never be allowed on camera again. The supporting actors for the sketches are decent, but it's as if they are forbidden to be funny: All they do is ask open questions and pauses for the celebrities to fill in the blank. Instead of a wonderful comic blend, it's like a live-action rendition of Mad Libs.

I doubt Thank God You're Here will last long. No big loss.

Overall Grade: C-

Reviewed by James Lynch

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