Hit Or Miss: NBC's New Comedy 'Sunnyside'

Fall 2019: Tis’ the season for new television programming! Beginning on September 26th, NBC will be premiering the show ‘Sunnyside’, co-created by Kal Penn (Harold And Kumar, How I Met Your Mother) and Matt Murray (SNL, The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine). The show will fill out the Thursday evening time slot at 9:30pst, appearing just after “The Good Place”. Before doing a preliminary reading about the show’s intents and purposes, a blind viewing was necessary.

The trailer begins with two very brief establishing shots that identify the location and the show’s namesake: the Sunnyside neighborhood of Queens, New York City. Without much information, we are thrust into a nameless bar and introduced to the diverse cast beginning with Kal Penn as Garret Modi. Modi is tasked with aiding a group of people successfully walk the path to American citizenship. A young Moldovan man played by comic Moses Storm introduces us to the cast: Diana Maria Riva (The West Wing, Man With A Plan, Dead To Me) as the hardworking Dominican Griselda, Samba Schutte (The Tiger Hunter) as the nerdy Ethiopian Hakim, comic Joel Kim Booster and Poppy Liu (Mercy Mistress) as the exceedingly wealthy Jun Hao and Mei lin, and lastly Tudor Petrut (The Graduates) as the unnamed Eastern-European man.

It must be said that none of these cast members, except for Kal Penn, are named in the trailer. In fact, most of these actors will be new faces on network primetime television. The trailer makes sure to highlight the executive producer Mike Shure (The Office, Parks and Recreation, The Good Place), hoping to insert itself into the lineage of Shure’s other highly successful television series. The tagline of the show is “A comedy that brings out the American in all of us.” This seems to suggest that the show hopes that the viewers will identify with its characters’ path to citizenship and if it strikes the right chord, they will come out the other side feeling national pride. The reality of immigration in our country has been divisive to say the least. It is clear from the trailer that the showrunners hope to place themselves adjacent to this conversation while remaining lighthearted. It should be stated that this is an analysis of something implicit, but does the trailer successfully communicate its purpose?

The structure of the trailer is very simple, maybe too simple. The trailer contains eleven jokes. Each joke is flanked by an annoying musical cue that can be described as a dynamic fade that ends in a whooshing sound. This makes it abundantly clear when a punchline is about to occur. This type of trailer structure measures its success by the effectiveness of its jokes and not much else. Small insights about a few select characters are given, but oddly no information is given about Kal Penn’s character. According to the available synopsis under the video, Garret Modi is a former New York City councilmen who found himself swept up in the glitz and glamour only to end up losing his job after a public intoxication incident. He now lives with his sister and begins to offer his expertise to a group of immigrants looking to gain American citizenship. This is a significant piece of information to leave out, but somewhat understandably, the showrunners opted to showcase the shows ability to be funny.

To be clear, it is hard to judge the viability of a TV show solely based on a trailer. Having said this, the showrunners must be aware that a trailer is a unique opportunity to engage with potential audience members before the show premiers. The trailer has over 4 million views. A quick glance at the like-ratio and comment section paints a polarizing picture. For anyone who has visited the Youtube comment section, it is clear how awful things get fairly quickly. This comment section is no exception, but the common denominator seems to be the anticipated failure of this show.

Sunnyside will premiere after Schur’s currently successful show, The Good Place and before the consistently popular Law & Order Special: Victims Unit. This is certainly an opportune primetime placement that will likely guarantee a substantial audience. If you are like me and the trailer didn’t do much for you, consider this: Sunnyside, should it live up to its premise, has the potential to be a thoughtful, funny, and timely show about a funny group of immigrants on their way to American citizenship. It has the capacity to draw from the diverse community of Sunnyside to create compelling and hilarious scenes. Many of the actors will be fresh new faces who have cut their teeth in showbusiness to arrive on this new primetime show. This show receives a tentative “Hit” while fully acknowledging the lackluster trailer. There is certainly a high degree of skepticism about Sunnyside based on the trailer, but above all, audiences can be hopeful to find a topical and lighthearted comedy.