Champions S01 Movie Review
Champions S01 Movie Review Metadata
NBC only green-lighted three comedies this year and unfortunately the only quality series released remains Will & Grace, a show with a built-in audience after being off the air for over a decade (see our review of A.P. Bio to see why that comedy won’t graduate to a second season).
Fresh off the series finale of The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling writes, produces, and stars (at least in a recurring role) in Champions, a new comedy series built around Vince (Workaholic‘s Anders Holm), his dimwitted brother Matthew (Andy Favreau), and Vince’s gay teenage son Michael (J.J. Totah) that he meets for the first time in the pilot.
Vince runs the Brooklyn Champions Athletic Club, a failing gym that he and Matthew inherited from their father. A former high school star who lost his scholarship after lighting up a joint at a gas station and causing an explosion, Vince stumbles through life dreaming of escaping it all while Matthew hopes nothing ever changes as he can “handle anything as long as he and his brother are physically together”. Cue the drama when Vince decides to sell the gym and move to Florida without informing his girlfriend Brittany (Mouzam Makkar) and his brother because he’s tired of letting people down his entire life.
It is only when the papers are signed that Vince’s ex-girlfriend Priya (Mindy Kaling) re-enters his life along with their teenage son, Michael. With Vince living in New York, Priya figures it’s a perfect place to leave Michael so that he can attend a prestigious academy to pursue acting. Why a woman who didn’t trust a guy to help raise their son would leave him with a stranger in a big city is never quite explained (Kaling’s recurring role is the real reason).
Like A.P. Bio, Champions struggles to find laughs, relying on lame jokes about “Jared from Subway”, who a character’s favorite housewife is (because only gay people apparently watch The Real Housewives), and how the gym “gets their water from Flint”. What Champions offers unlike its fellow new arrival, however, is heart and a potential breakout role for Totah.
Based on the first three episodes available for review, it would do Totah well to study Sean Hayes’ flamboyant Jack on Will & Grace. Hayes’ gay character effectively balances funny and endearing compared to Totah’s Michael who becomes increasingly annoying and written as a stereotype in future episodes. For the writers, it would be encouraging if Vince and Matthew weren’t painted as morons every step of the way.
Acting and writing aside, credit NBC for casting Kaling and Makkar, both of Indian descent and Totah who is of Palestinian, Irish, Italian and Lebanese ancestry doesn’t label himself as LGBTQ. At a time when diversity is front and center, NBC scores points at least for being inclusive.