"MYOB" is a half-hour television show that's supposed to be funny, but it's not a sitcom. At least not according to creator/executive producer Don Roos, who seems to have adapted the movie "The Opposite of Sex" (which he wrote) for television.
"I didn't want to do a sitcom. I wanted to do a small, 30-minute independent movie every week," Roos said in a recent interview with TV critics. "This is a response to sitcoms in a way. They just don't appeal to me. It's also a really, really, really hard forum. And it's very, very theatrical and more like a play, and I didn't have any experience in that at all. I only had experience in writing film and film television."Roos, who apparently fancies himself somewhat of an auteur, decries television sitcom convention while, at the same time, loading his show with them. "MYOB" (Mind Your Own Business), which premieres Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on NBC-Ch. 5, opens by mocking all the pretty people and problems that populate shows like "Dawson's Creek" and "Beverly Hills, 90210."
"Have you ever seen teenage skin like this? These kids have never picked at anything," says Riley, the show's main character and narrator. Who, by the way, turns out to be a gorgeous blonde with perfect skin who is surrounded by similarly attractive, non-acne-afflicted people.
The use of a narrator who talks directly to the audience is certainly nothing new, either. Nor is "MYOB's" obsession with popular culture.
(The first couple of episodes contain references to a plethora of TV shows, including those mentioned above, as well as "Ally McBeal," "Freaks and Geeks," "Friends," "Frasier" and "Law & Order." All of which it puts down in one way or another.)
At the same time it's attacking popular entertainment on TV, "MYOB" is seeking to be cool by referencing it. At one point, Riley says to the audience, "We don't have time to go into that -- not with all the ads for 'Just Shoot Me' they want to squeeze in here. Which is why I would have preferred cable, but, whatever."
The premise of "MYOB" has 16-year-old Riley (Katharine Towne), in search of her birth mother, connecting with the woman who may be her aunt Opal (Lauren Graham), who also happens to be the high school principal in a small northern California town.
"I was hoping for 'Melrose Place,' but it was more like 'Green Acres.' With more pigs," Riley says.
And Roos' extremely negative attitude pervades the show, which is set almost entirely in that high school.
"I think high school is a horrible, horrible place filled with horrible peers," Roos said. "I mean, did anybody have a good time in high school? It's really suspect to have a good time in high school."
The producers describe Riley as "sarcastic and street-smart." A more accurate description might be insufferable teen from hell. When she startles a man into a fatal heart attack and is asked why she didn't call for help, Riley replies, "He didn't fall on me."
And the character is the most unbearable sitcom convention of all -- the kid who is far wiser than the adults.
Roos has injected his attitude into the show ("This show is very personal to me," he insisted), and it's not a pretty picture. There's no laugh track, but there are moments when viewers are apparently expected to stand up and applaud just how clever the show is. (Which it's not.)
"MYOB" is a nasty show with a superior attitude that condescends to viewers.
"One of the things that we wanted to do in this show . . . is that not everybody has to get the jokes, which is kind of different than a lot of shows where you want as many people as possible to understand everything or to know what the character is talking about," Roos said. "In this show, some things are gotten by 100 percent of the audience and other things are gotten only maybe by 10 (percent) or 15 percent of the audience. And that's OK, because there's a lot of stuff spilling out at an audience. So we're trying not to make sure the show is completely understandable by everybody."
With the obvious insinuation that Roos and his team are just so much smarter than the 85 percent to 90 percent of us poor dumb viewers who won't get all the jokes.
And, his protestations notwithstanding, Roos exudes the attitude that he's somehow condescending to do TV.
"It's a chance to reach a huge audience every week and with a show with a voice-over that doesn't necessarily have to be tied exactly to the plot. It's a great platform just to run my mouth to a large audience and an audience that's there every week," he said, with unrealistic optimism. "Movies are very hit-and-miss. 'The Opposite of Sex,' my first movie, only reached, like, $6 million domestically, and that's not that many people that actually saw it. Some of the other movies that I've written have been more successful, but TV is a huge audience, and that's a great opportunity for a writer."
It's a show that Roos designed so that "characters say things because the character needs to say them for their own internal reasons and their own subtext and not just to get a laugh."
He needn't have worried about anyone laughing too much.
Oddly enough, Roos himself seems to be aware that "MYOB" doesn't live up to its own pretensions. He gives Riley a monologue at the end of the pilot episode to say, "You know, I bet you were hoping this wasn't going to be the typical TV show. But, I mean, come on! It's the whole fish-out-of-water, 'Odd Couple,' unrequited love, combo platter you get most every night on every channel. So you don't wanna watch? That's OK. 'Law & Order's' bound to be on somewhere."
And a "Law & Order" rerun would be far more watchable than an original episode of "MYOB."
Not that this is going to be around for long. Graham has already been announced as one of the stars of the WB's fall series "Gilmore Girls" -- which means she can't come back to "MYOB." Which obviously means that NBC isn't going to be making more of "MYOB."