‘The Great Indoors’ Review: Joel McHale Is Back, and Among the Millennials

The young target audience might not find much to laugh about in this CBS sitcom

the great indoors

Remember when people were just getting used to the term “millennial?” Now that the concept has caught on in pop culture it seems as though the debate about the generations is at an all-time high – especially on television. These days streaming services, YouTube stars and even the recent season of “Survivor” all explore the stereotypical way of millennial thinking.

In the case of incoming Joel McHale comedy “The Great Indoors,” that thinking is exposed in full force. The CBS series revolves around a Gen X man named Jack who has made his living for an outdoors magazine by trekking on wild adventures and writing about them. However when the magazine has to cut its travel budget Jack is forced to head up a younger team of millennials in the office instead, with the typical fish-out-of-water hilarity ensuing.

The millennials in question here are social media addicts who don’t get out in the world, expect to have promotions handed to them and are easily offended. While there may be some hidden truths in the intended comedy, the scenes often come across as judgemental and ill-conceived; although CBS is known to target an older audience it’s pretty much eliminating any viewers younger than 30 in its bid to showcase them.

Perhaps that’s because it seems as though this show fails to capture the actual millennial way of thinking, and instead relies on a curmudgeonly point of view that assumes their obliviousness. In real life this is a generation that loves to travel and explore the world, which makes the initial setup ring false. Furthermore their social media expertise is something companies are relying on more and more, which makes them invaluable members of a company like this.

If that feels a little nit-picky, the premise is also pretty familiar: it’s how Tim Allen got himself back on television with the Friday night comedy “Last Man Standing.” When his character’s travel budget was slashed he was forced to work in an actual office environment and acclimatize to the female way of life around him both there and at home. Swap out female for millennial and there are quite a few similarities in the pilots.

For his part McHale does what he can with the multi-camera format. Fans used to seeing the actor on single cams like “Community” and on “The Soup” will be impressed with the zest he brings to the role, which is clearly a showcase for him. As a result the supporting cast doesn’t exactly have much impact in the pilot, although there are a couple of stronger scenes featuring Jack’s boss Roland, played by Stephen Fry.

Luckily for “The Great Indoors” has a great lead-in thanks to “The Big Bang Theory,” but it’s doubtful the series will do as well in the long run as the family-friendly comedy “Life in Pieces” did in that same slot last year. The show just alienates too much of its potential audience; an audience that by the show’s own admission is easily offended, and probably won’t stick around once it realizes it’s the butt of some ill-conceived jokes.

“The Great Outdoors” debuts Thursday at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.