Return of the Mac premieres April 12, 8:30pm on Pop.
As only two episodes were available for critics to screen, we decided to provide individual episode reviews.
Episode 1, “New Kid on the Talk”
On April 12th, the Pop network (née TV Guide Channel) is launching two new properties
assembled from the wreckage of the 1990s. One focuses on former child stars (Hollywood
Darlings), while the other focuses on a New Kid on the Block. This show, Return of the Mac, is the latter, starring Joey McIntyre and produced by Donnie “The Other” Wahlberg.
The show centers around Joey McIntyre playing a fictionalized version of himself whose
career has decayed to the point of being a token celebrity on those celebrity competition shows. As he prepares backstage for his “Trapeze from Hell” act with Allison Janney (who does not make an appearance on the show) on the fictional show Celebricircus 3, he begins to question his recent career moves. When he witnesses Rachel Ray (who does not make an appearance on the show) wreck her motorcycle off-screen, he confirms with his manager Alex that he’s ready to leave hosting and celebrity spots behind in order to go back to being a real actor. The show’s name dropping of celebrities who aren’t actually on the show is puzzling, as Rachel Ray and Allison Janney aren’t exactly A-list. Why not instead rely on celebrities who are willing to be on the show? I’m sure Hollywood Darlings wouldn’t mind loaning out Jaleel White for a thirty-second spot.
Joey is trying to convince his manager and anyone who will listen to let him pursue his
detective drama—which seems like it wouldn’t be too hard of a task, considering Chris
O’Donnell managed to land a gig on one of those NCIS spinoffs—all while trying to maintain his co-parenting duties with his wife, who is trying to get back into the fashion industry. Joey’s incompetent manager gets him an interview at the Comfy network (“It’s like HBO, but for women!”), but fails to tell him that they want him to do a late night talk show instead of an acting gig. Joey considers what it would mean for him as a parent, and turns the job down.
After meeting with January Jones (who does actually make an appearance on the
show), and talking to his wife, Joey comes to the conclusion that he made a big mistake. That although the job may not be the right job, it could be what sets him on the right path.
The episode ends with him receiving a gift basket from the network, except instead of it
being addressed to him, it’s addressed to Joey Lawrence. We discover along with our Joey that perhaps the network’s enthusiasm to work with him isn’t quite what it seems. This kind of reversal is exactly what’s missing from its sister show Hollywood Darlings. Having actual consequences with actual things at stake (relationships, obligations, a fledgling career, etc.) is what helps this show stand on its own and not feel like a cheap cash grab. It’s not enough to just watch people you’re familiar with exist in a vacuum on TV. With Return of the Mac, it feels like you’re getting a comical glimpse into the life of that guy from New Kids on the Block.
Episode grade: B
Episode 2, “The Other Joey”
Seeing a “previously on” in this day and age seems a bit jarring. It’s like seeing a pay
phone in a way. Sure, they still serve a function, but aren’t they unnecessary by now? Most people carry a phone on their person, and so if you don’t have one, you could easily borrow one to place your emergency call. You could then open up their web browser and read a quick plot recap of the previous week’s episode of Return of the Mac, or possibly even scroll up the episode itself. (Though please make sure that the owner of the phone has unlimited data before streaming any videos on it.)
Once we get past watching clips from last week, we find Joey McIntyre and his
incompetent manager Alex discussing his new talk show outside a coffee shop when, wouldn’t you know it, Joey Lawrence pulls up in his BMW i8 and begins self promoting. Lawrence, for whatever reason, seems to get off on belittling McIntyre, somehow spinning his own third place finish on Dancing with the Stars as a a career highlight while diminishing McIntyre’s same accomplishment.
After some back-and-forth, Lawrence reveals to McIntyre that the reason his name was
on the gift basket is because he was offered the show first, but then turned it down. This leads to an awkward meeting with the Comfy executives when McIntyre expresses his lack of enthusiasm for receiving “sloppy seconds”, to which one exec replies, “Better to be sloppy seconds than chafing firsts.” This did not seem to alleviate McIntyre’s insecurities.
Neither of these actors are all that relevant in 2017, but the show doesn’t pretend that
they are. There is no pretense that Joey McIntyre is in high demand. There is no pretense that Joey Lawrence is in high demand. Although Lawrence brags to McIntyre about getting a new scripted series on a “big boy” network, it has some bizarre premise that would scare even Rob Schneider away. These men are both struggling to maintain relevance, and they’re fighting amongst themselves for scraps tossed to them by people who don’t know what they are doing.
It’s that struggle that causes this show to work. You empathize with McIntyre as his
loyalty to his manager causes him to settle for jobs that don’t fulfill his artistic needs. You pity Joey Lawrence when he chooses to debase himself on the internet so that people talk about him. The amount of pathos in this show has me constantly asking myself, “Wait a minute, aren’t I watching a show starring that guy from New Kids on the Block?”
Episode grade: B+