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Ground Floor: TV Review

TBS Ground Floor TV Still - H 2013
TBS

The Bottom Line

An "Upstairs, Downstairs" attempt to make the rich and educated fall for the, well, opposite, the show succeeds with a likable cast and some good jokes and manages to overcome the premise and the laugh track. It's not revolutionary, but it was never meant to be. 

Airdate

Thursdays at 10 p.m. on TBS, beginning Nov. 14

Cast

John C. McGinley, Skylar Astin, Briga Heelan, Alexis Knapp, James Earl, Rene Gube

Created by

Bill Lawrence, Greg Malins

From "Scrubs" and "Cougar Town" creator Bill Lawrence comes a new TBS comedy that, despite the laugh track and the not-quite-there premise, could give the channel its best comedy yet.

For a channel that uses the slogan "Very Funny," it's not like TBS has had many funny comedies that weren't hits elsewhere before being snatched up in syndication. But Ground Floor, while not groundbreaking in any way, may change that.

Ground Floor is the latest sitcom from Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) and Greg Malins (2 Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother), a sitcom that wedges a romantic comedy into an Upstairs, Downstairs premise.

One thing worthy of mention: Ground Floor features two actors from last year's hit a cappella comedy Pitch Perfect. It also shares certain thematic elements with ABC's Super Fun Night, which stars more famous Pitch Perfect castmember Rebel Wilson -- but Ground Floor is actually funnier.

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Lawrence said that he and Malins wrote the two-part pilot to Ground Floor because they both like multicam series. The assumption here is they both like the rhythm of the laughs and not the presence of the mandatory laugh track. Ahem. The duo does manage to make the two-episode pilot work despite drawbacks that go beyond the laugh track and the concept: suit-wearing money manager Brody (Skylar Astin, Pitch Perfect) from the top floors falls for the under-educated Jenny (Briga Heelan, Cougar Town), who works in "building support," which is housed in the basement.

Why this would be a big deal makes little sense unless you're into entitlement. Nobody in building support has gone beyond high school, except for the strangely overconfident and blunt Mark (stand-up comic Rory Scovel), called "Harvard" by his co-workers because he did two years of community college. And while the Harvard character works great – because he hates Brody and thinks the two are competing for Jenny – the flimsy premise doesn't really jell. Building support just seems like an underground office, since Jenny and Tori (Alexis Knapp, Pitch Perfect) wear a lot of short skirts and high heels, while Harvard and Derrick (James Earl, Glee) get nowhere near jumpsuits and work boots.

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It's like Ground Floor wanted to be The IT Crowd but that concept was already taken so they went with building maintenance and then, because they needed to show off the insanely carved bodies of Heelan and Knapp, it was changed to "building support."

Not that it matters, ultimately. We're only supposed to buy that those on the upper floor shouldn't mix with those on the bottom floor, a mandate put forth by Brody's boss Mr. Mansfield (the always great John C. McGinley), who obviously can't stop Brody and Jenny getting together.

Luckily for Ground Floor, the cast (which also includes Rene Gube as Mike, an upper-floor co-worker of Brody) overcomes the premise. When the jokes are hit and miss, McGinley and Scovel can easily salvage them. While the chemistry between Astin and Heelan isn't really palpable, both characters grow on you after a couple of episodes and everybody else in the cast also manages to elevate the material whenever it falters.

If you don't share Lawrence's enthusiasm for the multicam genre, Ground Floor might not be for you. But it's already a lot funnier than a horde of other freshman comedies on the broadcast networks, so it looks like TBS is starting to up its game. Now all Ground Floor needs is for Super Fun Night to tank and Rebel Wilson to reunite with her Pitch Perfect pals and truly solidify this potential-filled series.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com