Given that the first word in Comedy Central’s name is “comedy,” it would be safe to assume the network’s stock-in-trade is being funny. Comedy Central’s flagship shows — “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report” and “South Park” — certainly deliver on that promise, but “Secret Girlfriend,” the network’s latest addition, doesn’t encourage laughter so much as it encourages hitting your head with a lead pipe repeatedly to forget what you just saw.
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“Secret Girlfriend” is an adaption of an online video series from AtomicWedgieTV.com. It follows three 20-somethings and their tribulations as single guys. The show’s big hook is that you’re part of the group — the entire show is shot from a first-person perspective, with all of the characters directly addressing you via the camera.
The show’s Apatow-like promos unabashedly aim at its target demographic, with generous amounts of flatly written masturbation and sex jokes. But the show doesn’t do anything beyond this empty premise.
A lightweight plot runs through each episode — the pilot has “You” going out on a beer run for your friends after a breakup, meeting romantic interest Jessica (Sara Fletcher, “Redearth88”) and watching friends Sam (Michael Blaiklock, “Fired Up!”) and Phil (relative newcomer Derek Miller) film viral videos, all while dealing with your psychotic, nymphomaniac ex-girlfriend (Alexis Krause, “The Singles Table”).
Krause notwithstanding, the cast does the best it can with the meager material it has been given. There’s something appealingly stupid about Sam and Phil’s faux-viral videos — the pilot has them filming videos like “Toaster Head” and “Fork Head,” where Phil gets beaten in the head with, respectively, a toaster and a fork. Still, Fletcher is a surprisingly strong presence onscreen.
Among the show’s numerous problems, though, is that it feels like “Secret Girlfriend” was predicated on nothing much beyond having an excuse to watch a parade of cleavage and scantily clad females on basic cable every week. The guys’ leering point of view toward the opposite gender makes Tucker Max look like Gloria Steinem — the girls who aren’t strippers, models or models who happen to be stripping exist solely for “You” and your friends to either have sex with or talk about having sex with.
It’s not helped by the first-person conceit, which doesn’t bring much to the viewing experience besides the occasional bout of nausea. The show still feels like a standard sitcom that just happens to be filmed in first-person and the gimmick kills the show’s half-hearted attempts at building a narrative.
Admittedly, the characters are all already thinly written stereotypes and episodes are basically a series of loosely strung together vignettes. The problem is, “You” never respond to anything the other characters do or say. Having the characters do nothing besides continually react to “You” makes the show’s attempts at characterization and plot fall flat.
But really, trying to pick apart something like “Secret Girlfriend” misses the point, or the lack thereof. “Secret Girlfriend” isn’t a show so much as it’s a loosely assembled video collage of breasts, extended shots of female behinds and dick jokes, with something barely resembling a plot tying all of this together. That being said, it’s easy to see why Comedy Central picked the show up, but considering the end product, “Secret Girlfriend” would have been better off staying online.