Joel McHale aims to improve you with his new book and sitcom
Joel McHale wants you to know he isn’t waging war on millennials. On his new CBS sitcom, “The Great Indoors,” he plays Jack, a globe-trotting wildlife correspondent for an outdoor magazine who is called back to its Chicago headquarters to be the desk-bound boss to a team of 20-somethings staffing the magazine’s website.
To them, an exciting expedition is recovering a password, while, for out-of-touch, digitally challenged Jack, a killer dating app is the nearest singles bar. Mediating this culture clash is Roland, the magazine’s founder and a legendary outdoorsman played by Stephen Fry, and Roland’s daughter Brooke (Susannah Fielding), an old flame of Jack’s to whom he now has to report.
That’s all pretty clear. But “The Great Indoors,” airing Thursday at 8:30 p.m. EDT, premiered last week on a wave of misunderstanding. Consider the aggrieved reporter at this summer’s Television Critics Association conference, who during the “Great Indoors” session told its producers and stars, “You come out here and you are, like, ‘Ha-ha. Millennials are so sensitive and PC,’” then wailed, “That’s so negative!”
And consider some early reviews of the show, which McHale, during a recent interview, addresses with a wry smile: “They say we’re making fun of millennials. But the show is about THREE generations, all working together! Everyone’s making fun of EVERYONE! “I find it funny that people are getting upset,” he says, “especially millennials upset for being portrayed as sensitive.”
McHale has a rapid-fire, snark-marinated delivery, as anyone knows from his 12-year run as host of E! network’s “The Soup.” Or as anyone will rediscover after picking up his waggish new memoir-and-selfhelp-guide, “Thanks for the Money - How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). It comes with illustrations, quizzes, listicles and cheeky footnotes.
His reason for writing it, he drolly explains in its opening pages, is to pay for improvements to his home swimming pool, which, to his shame, initially lacked a deep end. Was there any other reason he put pen to paper?
“A Jacuzzi,” he replies, then corrects himself: “Hot tub; Jacuzzi is a brand.” Perhaps reflecting his certainty the book will sell, the hot tub installation and pool-deepening are already taken care of, as the book (spoiler alert!) indicates in its final paragraphs.
Very shrewd: A new TV series and a new book arriving in sync - “or, as they say in the Old West, sime-yu-tay-nee-ussly,” McHale drawls with a look of satisfaction. “We put it all together into one huge scrumptious wedding buffet.”
And, for the very last time, people: He doesn’t hate millennials! That’s just a sad misconception.
And not the first one. Consider “Community” (his cult comedy hit that aired five seasons on NBC, then another on Yahoo, from 2009 to 20015). It was first greeted by some critics, says McHale, “as ‘just a bunch of reference humor with people sitting around a table.’ Yeah, that’s the FIRST episode! But don’t worry! There will be others and they’ll be about other things.”
Another misunderstanding: People thinking that the characters he plays reflect his own life. When he was playing Jeff Winger on “Community,” he says, “People were like, ‘That’s just you.’ Well, I’m married with kids. Jeff Winger is a womanizing narcissistic lawyer who’s stuck at a community college. So, no, that’s NOT me.”
On “The Great Indoors,” the character Jack “obviously LOOKS like me and SOUNDS like me. But some of the CLOTHES ...” He shakes his head dismissively. Besides, he’s far more tech-savvy than his character, even though he knows it’s getting harder to keep up: “When I look at the Top 10 songs on iTunes, I’m like, ‘Oh, I recognize ONE.’”
But what do you expect from a guy who’s turning 45 this month? “Now that I have two children and I am very busy, I miss a lot of stuff,” he admits. “I have a pile of video games I want to play. I just got ‘Battlefield 1’ that I REALLY want to play. So I guess in that sense I’m right there with the kids.”
Maybe too much so. “I do that thing where I’ll meet someone and I go, ‘It seems like we’re the same age.’ And they’re like, ‘No, Joel: I’m 22! I was born when you met your wife!’ And I’m like, ‘Oh. Right. I’m not in my 20s anymore.’” No, not for a while. But that doesn’t mean he’s got a grudge against people who are. — AP
In this Oct. 28, 2016 photo, actor and author Joel McHale poses for a portrait in New York to promote his book, “Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be.” — AP