TV Review: 'Welcome to the Captain'
You may like a lot of the stars, but laughs are few and far between
While CBS' ads may have concentrated on the more recognizable supporting players, "Welcome to the Captain" is the story of Josh (Fran Kranz), who has suffered from writers block since his short film won an Oscar. On the verge of ditching Los Angeles and moving back to New York, Josh hears that an apartment has opened up in the El Capitan apartment in Hollywood, home to his buddy Marty ( Chris Klein) and an assortment of wannabes, has-beens and never-weres.
The formula is mighty familiar. As played by relative newcomer Kranz, Josh is a bland Everyman. He's the audience's wide-eyed proxy as he meets the wacky residents of "The Captain," a crew that includes a voracious '80s primetime soap star ( Raquel Welch), a former sitcom writer who likes to be called "Uncle Saul" (Jeffrey Tambor), a ditzy aspiring actress (Valerie Azlynn), the glad-handling bellhop (Al Madrigal) and the acupuncturist-in-training who may be the girl of his dreams (Joanna Garcia). It's a little "Fawlty Towers," a little "The Love Boat," a little "Grand Hotel."
That last reference is to a 1932 classic about an expensive Berlin hotel where, as one character puts it, "People come, people go. Nothing ever happens." The same is true, unfortunately, of "Welcome to the Captain."
Best known for appealingly mainstream feature scripts like "Meet the Parents" and "Zoolander," creator John Hamburg can't quite decide if he wants the show to be outlandish and wacky or relatable and naturalistic. The show is shot, for example, as a single-camera sitcom, but the setup-punchline rhythm is so conventional that going multi-camera, complete with a studio audience or laughtrack might have helped push the desired chuckles. Beyond a couple exterior scenes that make decent use of Los Angeles locales, nothing in "Welcome to the Captain" would have been diminished be being shot on a set.
The top-notch cast is stymied by characters who, at least through two episodes, show no indication of transcending stereotype. The always welcome Tambor works hard to turn Uncle Saul into more than just a busybody burnout, but most of the cast is just playing variation on familiar roles. While it's nice to see Welch acting and looking great at 67, she isn't asked to do much more than look great at 67. Azlynn does the bubble-headed actress thing previously (most memorably as Piper on "Joe Schmo 2") and with better material. Working hardest of all is Madrigal, deserves better than a broad caricature who wouldn't have been out of place in a '70s sitcom.
Because "Welcome to the Captain" is entering CBS' Monday comedy block, it has to have a cut-rate version of Neil Patrick Harris' Barney. While "HIMYM" and even "Rules of Engagement" cast against type with Harris and David Spade, "Captain" goes with Klein as the suit-wearing ladies man, a bland choice made only slightly amusing by the actor's unexplained gesticulating.
Garcia is the cast's most appealing element, since her quirks are minimal and she only has to be cute with Kranz.
With its cast and multi-demo potential, I guess I can see why CBS would have picked up "Welcome to the Captain," but it doesn't feel like a very good match with the rest of the network's comedies. Hardly awful, but completely forgettable, I wonder if we would have seen "Welcome" at all, if not for the strike.