Facing Long Odds, Paul Reiser Tries for a Comeback

It’s been more than a decade since Paul Reiser had a network TV show. But with the April 14 launch of The Paul Reiser Show, the comic returns to his prior home on NBC. Of course, that home has changed a lot.  
 
Mad About You, the sitcom in which Reiser starred for much of the 1990s, was part of a “Must-See” lineup that helped catapult NBC to the top of the ratings. More recently, the network has fallen on hard times—and to fourth place. Add to that decline a series of executive shuffles and Comcast’s recent acquisition of the network, and what you get is an NBC that Reiser barely recognizes. “Only the peacock and the walls look familiar,” he told Adweek.
 
But not only NBC has changed. Over the past 10 years, the TV landscape as a whole has changed. Fractured, actually. And, whereas a show like Mad About You drew anywhere from 13 to 15 million viewers in its heyday, most of NBC’s current comedies draw fewer than 7 million.
 
Reiser’s OK with that. “I don’t need it to be the biggest hit,” he said of the new show. “But I’m confident there are five to ten million people who will relate to it.”
 
The comic better hope that’s true. He’s publicly optimistic about how the network has handled his new show, saying that new entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt “responded” to the show when he came in, and adding, “Sometimes, new regimes don’t like to go with old projects. But logic prevailed.”
 
But the rosy picture that Reiser paints is at odds with what appears to be a network that actually lacks confidence in The Paul Reiser Show. After being delayed for some time, it was slotted in as a replacement for Perfect Couples, its premiere announced less than a month in advance. That leaves NBC with little time in which to promote the seven episodes that have been shot. And the show won’t have much of a chance to build an audience before NBC announces its fall lineup.
 
Shot single-camera style, the series stars Reiser as, well, Reiser—a guy who once had a TV show, who’s now happily married, with children, and finds himself at the center of an odd group of friends.  
 
If the show’s premise sounds somewhat similar to HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, then it should come as no surprise that Curb star Larry David appears in the first episode of Reiser’s show. And though Reiser said the former Seinfeld producer was happy to participate, in typical style, David had his own demands. “He said he wasn’t going to learn any lines,” Reiser joked.
 
Reiser wrote the pilot himself. The six subsequent episodes he wrote with writing partner Jonathan Shapiro. Both serve as executive producers on the series, from Warner Bros. TV.