MTV’s CollegeHumor Show Stumbles With Sitcom Cliches

Like most folks in online video, I was rooting for The CollegeHumor Show‘s MTV debut to be awesome — the same way you root for your hometown team while watching a sports game, even if you’re not totally sure what sport you’re watching. The new half-hour show morphs the popular Hardly Working shorts produced by the comedy web site into a traditional half-hour sitcom structure (a main storyline and subplots which coalesce in the end), broken up with familiar interstitials that previously ran online. It’s a technically tight package, with a unique look and feel that should make it stand out in the MTV line-up.

But it would have been good if the show had also been funny.

Well, funnier. In the first episode, Rival Site, the CollegeHumor gang loses employee Patrick to its rival web site, and only a game of beer pong will bring him back from that corporate wasteland. If none of that sounds particularly original, you’re totally right — off the top of my head I can think of at least one Newsradio episode that did the “losing an employee in a poker game” thing, and how many Saved By the Bell conflicts were resolved by some sort of competition?

Beer pong might be new, but really the narrative here is just old sitcom tropes appropriated for the college-aged audience. And the writers also missed an opportunity to compare the content of to that on CollegeHumor, which would have been potentially fun — not to mention giving newcomers to the brand an understanding of what the hell actually is.

It’s all deeply disappointing, given how many of CollegeHumor’s web shorts rank as fantastic examples of fresh and creative online content. And the integration of that previously existing online content (the first episode includes Honest College Ad and Awkward Rap) could be much less ham-fisted — instead of just seguing into a sketch when the actors drop one-word triggers like “college” or “awkward,” the show could make some minor effort to incorporate them into the narrative. Hell, the show is about a COMEDY WEB SITE THAT MAKES COMEDY SHORTS! You could actually show the interstitials within that context — say, leave them playing on a computer monitor while one of the employees runs off to gape at Amir’s antics.

Speaking of which (that is how you do a segue), with the exception of Amir (Amir Blumenfeld), whose innocent gaze and Satanic grin have made him the iconic face of the web site, the half-hour format makes it clear that none of the other personalities on the show have been developed beyond the surface level. Sarah (Sarah Schneider) sometimes gets some interesting material, but she’s pretty much only memorable as “the girl” — which, nope, is not enough to make her a fully realized character.

Since its premiere last night, the Internet has been to quick to jump up and down on the show and I myself would have preferred a stronger debut, but the fact remains that CollegeHumor’s previous works are enough to make me watch again. If only because it’s awesome to see that when presented with a cable TV budget (a distinct improvement over Internet budgets), they chose to blow it on Ping-Pong balls and a taco truck. I can’t help but admit I’m intrigued to see what comes next.

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