The Premise

A new anthology series tackling guns, social justice, revenge, fame & social media almost hangs together.

Writer / performer B.J. Novak (The Office) has a bold pitch with his new anthology series The Premise.

Described as a fearlessly ambitious new series it uses comedy to engage with the biggest issues of our era through character-driven stories.

There are 5 x half hour episodes tackling guns, social justice, revenge, fame, social media with a roll-call of talent: Ben Platt, Tracee Ellis Ross, Lola Kirke, Lucas Hedges, Kaitlyn Dever, Jon Bernthaland, Daniel Dae Kim, and even the late Ed Asner.

The results are a mixed bag of tales that raise thoughtful questions, playful performances and flashes of ideas yearning to become Black Mirror plots but never quite matching its bite.

In “Social Justice Sex” tape Ben Platt (The Politician) plays Ethan, a white, woke, twenty-something who proudly insists that he protests, donates and marches for Black Live Matter campaigns. One day when he is filming himself having sex his camera captures a black man Darren (Jermaine Fowler) being accused of police brutality. But young lawyer Eve (Ayo Edebiri) -who has never tried a case- is determined to get Darren justice, if only she can convince Ethan to admit his sex tape as court evidence.

But Ethan will find his white commitment to the brotherhood is directly linked to his personal embarrassment in having explicit videos become public.

Ben Platt gets all the good scenes here as Ethan becomes morally challenged in a plot that wouldn’t be out of place on The Good Fight or even an episode of Boston Legal. Which is not to say it need be overlooked.

In “Moment of Silence” Chase (Jon Bernthal) lands a job as a PR director at the National Gun Lobby. But he is also a grieving father having lost his 5 year old daughter to gun violence. While he shoots up in the basement gun range and plays violent videos with co-worker Aaron (Boyd Holbrook) what are his real motives? Bernthal helps create an ominous feeling us this story unfolds, watch out for Transparent‘s Amy Landecker and a cameo from Beau Bridges.

Other episodes to come include “The Ballad of Jesse Wheeler,” “The Commenter” and “Butt Plug”, with B.J. Novak credit as writer on all 5.

The comedy is dark and fleeting, not that there’s anything wrong with that, and there are moments of insight in what is a snack-friendly watch. Anything that has Ed Asner in the cast gets my respect, but I’m yet to view that episode.

This could be one where the performers ultimately had more fun in star turns than what the audience experiences and only some of the parts are greater than the whole.

The Premise screens 9pm Friday September 17 on FOX Showcase and Binge.

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