MTV premieres two new millennially focused series and while I’m not either series’ target audience, they offer a peek in to a world that is complex and convoluted and incredibly frustrated. Both Mary + Jane and Loosely Exactly Nicole have moments of brilliance, but I was struck by an overwhelming sense of “Meh” after watching several episodes of each. I certainly wouldn’t tune in, I doubt I’d set my DVR, but if I was sick and the remote control was 1 inch out of my reach — M’kay, I would watch. But I’m not sure this is what the show’s producers had in mind when they were pitching the series — “People will watch if they are physically unable to change the channel.”
In Mary + Jane, Paige (Jessica Rothe) and Jordan (Scout Durwood) are entrepreneurs — well, actually, they’re ganja-preneurs, since they run a marijuana delivery service. They spend their days baked and trying new, half-baked plans on getting ahead in the competitive and barely-legal industry of weed delivery. And while the two women struggle with the challenges of running a small online business, a “mostly legal prescription delivery service,” explains Durwood, they’re also navigating life in L.A.’s hipster community, and falling prey to banal millennial B.S. (insert my “I’m too old for this” yawn).
It’s no surprise that the pot-centric series is executive produced by ganja aficionado Snoop Dogg, who also penned the series’ smokin’ theme song. The show’s EP Deborah Kaplan hints that the series will have cameos from a few famous friends, including Seth Green, Missy Pyle, Andy Daly and Leonard Roberts, and teases that Dogg will make an appearance this season, but reveals, “He does not play himself. He plays a very, very special person. You have to watch all the way to the end to see him. You don’t know when he’s going to appear.”
Take a peek at Mary + Jane
Durwood told the Television Critics Association that Mary + Jane is the most fun she’s ever had working on a project and in regards to the state of women in comedy, “I think women in comedy are so what’s up right now, and that’s fantastic as a woman in comedy, so it’s nice to see a show where the women who are telling the jokes got to tell real jokes about real life, not necessarily about their boyfriends and stuff like that.” The series offers some great moments of physical comedy, and the so-millennial-it-hurts restaurants the women eat at made me laugh out loud. It’s like they raided Bill Heder’s Stefon bit, which I adored. Discovering the Easter egg-like places where Paige and Jordan dine almost makes the show worth watching. Almost.
In Loosely, Exactly Nicole comedian Nicole Byer plays a fictionalized version of herself — a comedian struggling to find success in L.A. as a plus-size black woman. If you think you’ve seen this trope before — a young twenty-something who should have a head on her shoulders, but actually has her head up her ass — you have. But this time, instead of meaningful looks and drinking coffee out of mugs with two hands, the series plops from ridiculous commercial auditions to scenes of disharmony with Nicole’s Gay BFF Devin (Jacob Wysocki), and her gal-pal Veronica (Jen D’Angelo), who actually has a job. It’s hard not to cheer for Byer — an unabashed and unashamed woman who honestly talks about wigs, weed and weight — but it’s actually more fun to watch Nicole’s character fail than hope that she succeeds.
Check out a clip
“When you meet Nicole, within about four minutes, you want to work with her right away. She is a very unique person. She’s hilarious,” said executive producer Christian Lander at this summer’s Television Critics Association Press Tour. “Nicole sometimes forgets to pay taxes, loses her passport, and things like that.” Byer was a standout on MTV’s comedy series Girl Code and shone on FOX’s short-lived late-night comedy series, Party Over Here, so it’s fitting that her talents finally warrant her own series. Sadly, this is the series. It’s got its moments, but I can’t get too excited about people lying directionless on a couch. And while the plot is ripped from her life, I know that Byer has had to hustle for her success, so her character’s lack of drive feels inauthentic to the bright woman it represents.
In the series pilot, her character hopes that her career rises enough to play the quirky friend of Emma Stone, and perhaps Byer should play those roles until a project comes around to give her something to do that’s worthy of her talent. Or at least until someone can write bits that aren’t verbatim rehashes of her skits from UCB.
And while I am bored by her character’s laziness, I applaud Byer’s willingness to give her character a frankness that is missing in female roles. She’s unapologetically sexual, even hypersexual, and plus-sized sexuality isn’t often presented on TV. So bravo for that. Byer was as frank with TCA members as she is on the ripped-from-her-diary reality of the series, saying, “Anything I wish I hadn’t shared? No. I’m okay. Life is fun. I have made a lot of mistakes, and they’re funny. So I’m happy to share them. Also, that crew saw so much of me. I’m like naked in a bunch of things.”
Mary + Jane > MTV > Mondays at 10pm, beginning Sept. 5
Loosely Exactly Nicole > MTV > Mondays at 10:30pm ET/PT, beginning Sept. 5.
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