Hope You Feel Better
The Big Picture
Mr Corman is not a very good comedy and it’s not a very good drama either. To top it all off, the main protagonist just isn’t very likable. Despite the charisma of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mr Corman is a lavishly produced, laborious journey through self-loathing.
Split across 10 episodes, Mr Corman grabs the tried and tested trope of a nobody down on his luck and lamenting his past choices. This protagonist happens to be a fifth grade teacher called Josh Corman. Earlier in his life he was in a happy relationship, ready to start a band and conquer the world. Along the way though Josh dipped out and settled for teaching instead.
Josh’s life is mundane, and we see all of this in painstaking detail across the 10 episodes. Failed first dates, pointless therapy sessions and a litany of mean-spirited jabs at American society.
Alongside Josh’s day to day grind are a number of supporting characters. Josh’s sister Beth comes and goes, Josh’s Mum and step-Dad Larry arrive for a visit every now and then, while one episode introduces Megan, Josh’s ex girlfriend. There’s even a brief respite in episode 4 to explore Josh’s roommate Victor, who’s desperate to connect with his daughter Gabi.
On paper, there’s enough here to make for a decent little dramedy but the execution feels akin to giving a hyperactive child a whole bag of skittles. The show struggles to stick to one single narrative thread long enough to actually make this a worthwhile journey. Instead, it sporadically bounces between different ideas, making for a really unsatisfying watch.
There are visible time jumps between some episodes too, as one shows Josh stood up at a club by an art teacher. What happened? Is she ok? Did she intentionally blank him? Well, keep questioning because Mr Corman won’t tell you as it rockets through more episodes. This is one example but the show is littered with moments just like this. At least, the episodes that actually have some plot development do.
The episodes themselves vary in length between 20-30 minutes but honestly, almost every chapter feels like it’s over an hour long. The pacing is so sluggish and the awkward encounters between characters somehow feels both overly scripted and ad-libbed.
Between the forced bites of social exposition (“Hey, isn’t American healthcare really awful?” “What about that global virus, eh?”) are numerous rambles that go absolutely nowhere. I get that this makes the conversations flow a lot more realistically but it honestly just feels like a chore to watch.
It’s not helped by the fact that Josh just isn’t a likable guy. He’s selfish, meanspirited, judgmental and angry at the world. He refuses to take responsibility for his actions and blames everyone else.
While some of the reasoning for that is made clear over the season, it’s not enough to forgive the misery he instils on everyone around him during the first 8 episodes or so.
In one chapter he makes his ex girlfriend cry and doesn’t bat an eyelid following a funeral. Another time he ironically calls out his Mother for failing to see Larry is manipulating her. This comes off the back of him forcing her to make him dinner every night while he self-isolates in his old bedroom. These moments are not just reserved to one or two episodes though – this is a recurring thread throughout the season.
Now, if the show had actually portrayed Corman as a guy willing to change and buck up his ideas then it could make for a fascinating character study. Instead, the show waits until there’s FIFTEEN MINUTES left of the final episode before seeing him change. It’s sudden, abrupt and feels completely crowbarred into the story.
It’s perhaps made worse by the fact that there’s an entire episode dedicated to showing how ingrained this behaviour is to Josh’s persona. In one of the more creative chapters, Josh cycles through a number of alternate timelines. From a rich businessman to working in an office, every single one of these timelines either shows Josh as miserable or insufferable. And sometimes both.
The creative threads here are actually quite well-done, although they jar with the tone of the show at times. Across the season Josh ends up experiencing a number of different daydreams and hallucinations (minus one where his friend Dax is the instigator) ranging from musical numbers through to that aforementioned flight into alternate timelines. Some work quite well but others just feel weird and fantastical for the sake of it.
Mr Corman is unfortunately not a show to remember. It doesn’t hold up to any of this year’s best comedies and it’s nowhere near dramatic enough to make for a good drama.
Instead, this rabble of loosely connected ideas forms into a polarizing show that you’ll either love for its honesty in depicting an unlikable, self-loathing character or hate for its inability to actually turn that into a compelling show with a good plot. For us, we fall squarely into the latter category.
Mr Corman releases Friday 6th August 2021 on Apple TV+
Verdict - 3/10