Truth be told, it’s hard to find a redeeming quality in NBC’s latest sitcom. Originally titled “People Are Talking,” the series premiere of DJ Nash’s “Truth Be Told” completely missed the mark. Dominated by clichés, the dry script is further suffocated by the stiff actors’ attempts to deliver what could only be interpreted as “comedy” with the help of an overused laugh track. While “Best friends. Real talk. Uncensored” may be the show’s slogan, viewers should utilize their uncensored, real talk and warn their best friends to stay far, far away.
Mitch (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, “Saved by the Bell”) and Russell (Tone Bell, “Bad Judge”) are best friends and neighbors. Paired with Mitch’s wife Tracy (Vanessa Lachey, “Disaster Movie”) and Russell’s wife Angie (Bresha Webb, “The American Mall”), the multi-racial couples pass commentary on race and ethnicity as they go about their daily encounters. For these characters, a trip to pick up Chinese food immediately leads to questioning the authenticity of the waitress’s Chinese accent. Though the show advertises an outlet for candid and witty dialogue, the premiere falls short on both fronts, as the characters shy away from any controversial comments as soon as a sensitive topic is breached.
The sitcom attempts to use Mitch and Russell’s dynamic friendship to challenge everyday racism, but rather than encouraging their confrontations to become a social norm, their frank remarks are instead coined as “uncensored.” For example, when a valet assumes that a luxurious sports car belongs to Mitch, who is white, (though it actually belongs to Russell, who is African American), Mitch takes the opportunity to point out the valet’s inadvertent mistake. However, instead of delivering a witty comment to this effect, Mitch aggressively accuses the man of being a racist, to which the valet responds that it was actually the John Mayer CD that tipped him off. The friends awkwardly shy away, the laugh track plays and the show quickly moves on to a completely unrelated scene, contradicting the original premise of “real talk.”
The script continues to barely scratch the surface of various stereotypes, as weak punchlines are delivered about stealing their Jewish neighbors’ “ethnically ambiguous” babysitter on a Friday night. Clearly, the cultural remarks on racism and religion are supposed to offer comedic relief, but they are instead overused and often tasteless. Without any original humor or insight, the script falls flat and fails to follow a clear direction. Every scene seems to touch on a different stereotype, and there are at least three discrete storylines within the first episode alone. Not only does jumping from topic to topic lose the viewer’s interest in the cluttered plot, but it fails to establish any emotional connection between the characters. Even Mitch and Russell, whose bromance is at the center of the sitcom, severely lack chemistry and depth.
Perhaps the most disappointing flaw in “Truth Be Told” is the abundance of tropes that plague the premiere’s plotline. Looking through a significant other’s texts and hiring a hot babysitter have been the premises of one too many comedies already, like “Friends” and “How I Met Your Mother.” The audience has seen both these scenarios play out before, and there are no surprises this time around either. Moreover, for both plots to be crowded into a single episode gives the impression that the writers don’t have anything new to say from the beginning.
From the stilted acting to the cringe-worthy jokes, Friday night’s premiere of “Truth Be Told” was disappointing in every way. The 22-minute episode seemed to drag on as each failed attempt at comedy felt more uncomfortable than the last. In order to recover post-viewing, watching a classic episode of “Friends” is the perfect way to remember what an enjoyable experience a sitcom can be.