What the hell happened to Paul Reiser? Just over a decade ago, he was making more than a million dollars an episode for “Mad About You.” But his recent comeback, “The Paul Reiser Show,” was canceled after just two episodes. Adding insult to injury, news of the show’s poor ratings and cancellation was met with an almost joyful response from the Internet, as if people were relishing in Reiser’s failure. Honestly, what the hell happened here?
Reiser made a name for himself performing stand-up during the 1980’s, and appearing in films such as Diner, Beverly Hills Cop and Aliens. For two seasons, he also starred on “My Two Dads,” a show about two men jointly raising the daughter of a dead slut they both used to bang. But Reiser’s biggest role was that of Paul Buchman on “Mad About You.” Co-starring Helen Hunt, the show ran for seven seasons, which in sitcom years, is 49 seasons. The success allowed him to write two best-selling books, “Couplehood” and “Babyhood,” and when the show went off the air in 1999, he was a multimillionaire and a household name, just like OJ Simpson or Osama bin Laden.
So, what did Paul do after the show ended? Jack shit. Sure, there was his role in One Night at McCool’s, and that movie he made with Colombo. But honestly, for most of the last decade, his IMDB page is almost empty. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with that. After making a million per episode, there’s not a lot of incentive to go and work. But if you’re going to take a decade off, you can’t be surprised when you lose your clout.
But “Mad About You” was still one of the most popular shows of the 1990’s. Even a decade later, you’d think that would guarantee Reiser’s new show at least enough interest to last a full season. Christ, even Jerry Seinfeld’s abortion, “The Marriage Ref,” is still on the air thanks to the comedian’s name being listed in the producer credits. What gives? The problem is the audience.
Who was watching “Mad About You” to begin with? Lonely single women and couples. This was even referenced in an episode of “Seinfeld,” in which George Costanza was forced to watch the show instead of the Mets game in order to appease his fiancée. It’s a well known fact that not once in the history of the show did a man willingly tune in for an entire episode. You can look that up. And it’s no accident that the show is now reruns on the Oxygen Network.
Twelve years later, where are all the “Mad About You Fans.” Well, right off the bat, at least half of the married couples watching got divorced. This means the newly single men are now free to spend their time watching Internet porn instead of sitcoms, and the now-divorced women can’t look at Paul Reiser’s face without the painful reminder of a happier time when they weren’t overweight and someone still loved them. Of the remaining fans, at least an eighth are dead or in a nursing home. Not to mention, despite the cast’s high salaries, ratings were already falling off for the last season, indicating that perhaps the show had already worn out its welcome.
Now, of the remaining couples who might still have fond memories of “Mad About You,” how many of them are going to appreciate a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” styled show? If you answered zero, you are correct. And the audience that finds “Curb Your Enthusiasm” appealing already associates Paul Reiser with schmaltzy couples shit like “Mad About You.” As such, they viewed his new show’s format as a ripoff. Even a guest appearance by Larry David couldn’t convince them otherwise, which, right or wrong, helps explain the backlash.
So, to sum it all up, Reiser waited too long to cash in on his former glory, and chose to reinvent himself in a way that alienated both previous fans and potential new viewers. Either that, or NBC just effed up the marketing. One or the other. But on the bright side for Reiser, he can still buy and sell all our asses a thousand times over, so good for him.