‘Those Who Can’t’ Review: TruTV Takes Promising First Scripted-Comedy Step

Comedian cast executes well, but show breaks no new ground

For everyone who has ever suspected that teachers are just as messed up as the students they teach, this may be the comedy for you. Originally an Amazon test pilot, “Those Who Can’t” debuts with a bit of a revamp on TruTV Thursday night, proving that teachers really aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be.

Much like the kid who was bullied in high school and then grows up to be a cop, these three teachers (played here by Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl and Ben Roy), are completely out of their element and utterly tripping on their power. If they actually have any at all.

The debut episode pits the trio against a bully who doesn’t recognize their authority, calling them out in public, showing up to vandalize their houses and openly mocking them at every given opportunity. It seems as though the trio can’t catch a break from these kids, and quickly hatch an ill-conceived, drug-related plan in order to exact revenge.

That revenge (fittingly) doesn’t go as planned, and the teachers quickly find themselves back on the bottom of the barrel. It’s a comedic unveiling that all goes pretty much according to plan, making the situational laughs predictable and somewhat sparse.

Where the show manages to save itself is in the comedians’ delivery. Given the comics’ background — Cayton-Holland, Orvedahl and Roy have been performing together as the Grawlix since 2011 — it comes as no surprise that they know how to play off each other and push on one other’s strengths. While the characters sometimes border on cartoonish, they also manage to showcase an underdog quality that will have the audiences rooting for them anyway, and they’re somewhat grounded by the rest of the cast, including librarian Abbey Logan (Maria Thayer). Her addition as a main player allows the guys to celebrate the occasional win. It’s also fun to see a female teacher stoop to their level in a clever twist on the typical female-librarian type.

TruTV certainly seems to have faith in the project at least, having renewed it for a second season ahead of premiere. It’s never a bad idea to give a comedy extra time to grow its legs given how much it can benefit from the overall tone of a show, but it certainly seems like a gamble given that this is the cabler’s first scripted comedy. How a new audience will respond is anyone’s guess.

The real test for the show’s longevity though will be in how the team is able to update the tired school-comedy clichés (bullies and the like) in a relevant way to make “Those Who Can’t” feel fresh and relevant. Character sketches will certainly push a show a ways on their own, but at a certain point they become more gimmicky than funny and that’s when a strong story needs to come in and save the day. Sadly the pilot doesn’t have much of that — but with two seasons to work on the concept, there’s definite room for improvement.

“Those Who Can’t” debuts tonight at 10:30 p.m. on TruTV.