The pilot of The Great Indoors opens with a joke about emotional support animals. The episode contains several jokes about trophies given out just for trying. It makes fun of podcasts and websites and Twitter. CBS’s new sitcom, which premieres on Thursday, is generational condescension incarnate. If it were a man, it’d pat you on the head and call you “sweetheart” before showing you out the door and retreating to a cloud of cigar smoke in his corner office.
The joke of The Great Indoors is that young people are fucking idiots. The show finds many, many ways to say that in its 20-minute pilot, a regurgitated laundry-list of complaints about millennials we’ve been hearing for literally decades.
Joel McHale stars as Jack Gordon, an intrepid reporter for an outdoor adventure magazine who’s summoned back to the main office in Chicago when the mag goes digital-only. He’s pegged to head up the digital division (why a writer and not an editor would be chosen for this job is beyond this journalist), which is populated by a group of twentysomethings that Jack charmingly refers to as the “digital daycare division.”
Jack is none too impressed with his new staff: Clark (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the “online content curator”; Emma (Christine Ko), the “social influencer”; and Mason (Shaun Brown), the “digital conversation specialist.” Jack’s British boomer boss, Roland (Stephen Fry?!), spends most of his time drinking Scotch in his office, but it’s the team of goo-goo-gah-gah millennials out in the bullpen who are lazy and entitled.
When Emma finds out Jack will oversee the digital division, she complains she was passed over for a promotion: “What do I have to do, I’ve been here eight weeks!” Considering how common it is for women — not even just young women — to be passed over for promotions in favor of white guys with far less experience or expertise, this line is stunningly, cluelessly insulting.
Then, the young’uns go hush-hush when Jack describes Out as a “gay magazine”; they assume he’s using “gay” as a pejorative term (nimrods that they are, none of these journalists have even heard of the magazine). Jack explains that it really is a gay magazine. “Ask Mason,” he offers, making a horrifyingly inappropriate reference to the sexual identity of the lower-ranking colleague he’s just met.
Later, he goes to his local watering hole, where the bartender, Eddie (Chris Williams), brags about raising the price on PBR to lure idiot millennials to the bar. Fed up with the “stupid twentysomethings” he’s been unjustly forced to work with, Jack says he’s started “faxing” his resume out to other employers. To be clear, this man is in his 40s, not his 80s.
The bartender appears to be on the verge of complimenting this much-maligned cohort, telling Jack, “They’re smarter than you think they are.” They hustle, he says, and earn a lot of money (HAHAHAHAHAHA!), which makes him feel totally justified in charging mucho dinero for “ironic Spam sandwiches.”
At this point I’d like to insert this entire paragraph from a 2014 Pew Research Center post on generational inequality:
Today’s young also have the unhappy distinction of being the first generation in modern history to have a lower standard of living than their parents’ generation had at the same stage of the life cycle. Despite collecting more college diplomas than any generation in history, Millennials lag behind their same-aged counterparts of yesteryear on virtually all key indicators of economic well-being — including employment, income, wealth, debt and poverty. Half a century ago, the old were by far the poorest age group in America. Today it is the young.
Not that The Great Indoors cares about any of these facts. It’s too enamored with its story about a middle-aged white guy with a shitty attitude who is promoted to a position for which he is totally unfit — and yet is still a sympathetic character, because look at all these proverbial diapers he has to change! The show clearly believes it’s “speaking truth to power,” when it’s really spewing harmful cliches to the powerless.
The pilot’s ending is perhaps the most infuriating part. Jack storms out of the office after being dragged into HR for getting into an argument about podcasts with Clark that leaves his co-worker in tears (because millennial men are pussies). But Clark finds him at the bar and ends up apologizing to him: “I don’t know why I have a podcast,” he admits. “I have nothing important to say. But you do!” Then, he informs Jack that it wasn’t Roland who wanted him back in the office, but Roland’s fetching daughter, Brooke (Susannah Fielding), whom Jack slept with once after getting hammered at a work event. Yeah, dudes: Jack is that good.
It’s hard to imagine a writer with so few creative juices left in him that he can’t fathom that a person under 40 might have something important to say. That’s clearly what creator Mike Gibbons, who wrote the pilot, believes. The Great Indoors wants you to know that real men like Jack have the balls to be offensive, and that’s why we need them.