Cheers to ‘Abby’s,’ a new NBC bar show

The Tribune (SLO) - - What's Inside - BY KATE FELD­MAN

Wel­come to Abby’s, where … ev­ery­body knows your name?

No, wait, that can’t be right.

The new­est show from ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Michael Schur (“Brook­lyn Nine-Nine,” “The Good Place), about an il­le­gal back­yard bar in San Diego, looks a lot like “Cheers” – a group of friends, brought to­gether by cheap drinks and me­diocre com­pany.

But the com­par­i­son, while easy, isn’t par­tic- ularly fair to “Abby’s.” Shows have done bar set­tings be­fore, to vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess. “Cheers” doesn’t hold the mo­nop­oly, even if it does hold the stan­dard.

“(The com­par­i­son is) hard to avoid, and in a nice way, it’s so hard to avoid that you don’t have to do any­thing,” showrun­ner Josh Mal­muth told the Daily News.

“The way I’ve thought about it is that I’m just go­ing to make this show irrespective of what ‘Cheers’ has done or did.”

Where the mul­ti­cam sit­com stands out most, though, is in its pro­duc­tion: The se­ries is shot out­doors in Los An­ge­les, in the back­yard of one of the “Des­per­ate Housewives” houses, in front of a live au­di­ence. The cast and crew work around their en­vi­ron­ment, around air­plane noises and nat­u­ral light and once, a skunk.

The au­di­ence, too, can work with or against them.

“It changes the en­ergy,” Natalie Mo­rales, who stars as the tit­u­lar Abby, a no-non­sense ex-Ma­rine who lives and dies by her bar, told The News. “It’s in­stant feed­back, but it’s also some­thing we’re all do­ing to­gether.”

Mo­rales, who has made a name for her­self on shows like “Tro­phy Wife,” “The News­room” and “Parks and Recre­ation,” fi­nally gets a wellde­served star­ring role (her sec­ond, of­fi­cially, af­ter the barely watched 2008 “The Mid­dle­man”), not just be­cause of her comedic tal­ent, but be­cause the South Florida na­tive will be the first Cuban lead in a com­edy since Desi Ar­naz on “I Love Lucy,” which pre­miered al­most 70 years ago.

In a TV land­scape where net­work heads talk about show­ing di­ver­sity and draw­ing new au­di­ences, it rarely trans­lates onto the cam­era.

“It’s nice to feel like you’re enough,” Mo­rales said of her role.

Along­side bar owner Abby are a mis­fit cast of char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing Fred (Neil Flynn), a reg­u­lar who hates change; Beth (Jes­sica Chaffin), the next-door neigh­bor who needs a break from her fam­ily; Rosie (Kimia Beh­poor­nia), the bar man­ager; James (Leonard Ouzts), the cow­ardly bouncer; and Bill (Nel­son Franklin), the new land­lord first look­ing to fix, then to fit in.

“There’s a part in one of the episodes where Neil Flynn gives this speech about how we’re pretty deeply di­vided as a coun­try and the only thing we can agree on is drink­ing al­co­hol,” Mal­muth told The News.

“That’s a joke, of course, but it feels like we’re in a very frac­tious, some­times bru­tally di­vided time. We want the show to be about a place

MO­RALES, WHO HAS MADE A NAME FOR HER­SELF ON SHOWS LIKE “TRO­PHY WIFE,” “THE NEWS­ROOM” AND “PARKS AND RECRE­ATION,” FI­NALLY GETS A WELL-DE­SERVED STAR­RING ROLE NOT JUST BE­CAUSE OF HER COMEDIC TAL­ENT, BUT BE­CAUSE THE SOUTH FLORIDA NA­TIVE WILL BE THE FIRST CUBAN LEAD IN A COM­EDY SINCE DESI AR­NAZ ON “I LOVE LUCY,” WHICH PRE­MIERED AL­MOST 70 YEARS AGO.

where peo­ple can go and spend time and en­joy each other’s com­pany, a shared un­der­stand­ing. Abby’s is this place where ev­ery­body wants to go to where you feel like you’re with your friends, with your fam­ily, and you can block out ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing in the out­side world.”

“Abby’s” isn’t as deep as that, at least not through the three episodes pro­vided to crit­ics. And that’s a wel­come re­lief; not ev­ery­thing has to take on the world around us, nor should it. This show, in par­tic­u­lar, just wants to be a old­fash­ioned hang­out com­edy.

“I re­mem­ber that Chan­dler Bing gets his TV Guides as “Chanan­dler Bong” and Ben from ‘Parks and Rec’ loves cal­zones,” Mo­rales told The News. “I want this to be like hang­ing out with your friends for half an hour.”

“Abby’s” isn’t as funny as it thinks it is – or as it should be – and it’ll al­most cer­tainly never com­pete with “Friends,” but it’s am­bi­tious, and I’ll drink to that.

“Abby’s” pre­mieres at 9:30 p.m. Thurs­day on NBC.

NBC TNS

Natalie Mo­rales and Neil Flynn star in NBC’s “Abby’s.”

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