"Michael & Michael Have Issues" is a show within a show within a show. The two leads, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter, play themselves introducing sketches of a show which follow them writing/creating sketches which they later appear in. If you don't understand what the hell is going, don't worry, just tell your friends it's "meta" and they'll leave you alone. Suffice to say it's intentionally uncomfortable both in its relationship to the audience and its humor, but the show is much less awkward and edgy than the pair's former projects.
"Stella" starred the Michaels and David Wain, the comedian who recently wrote and directed "Role Models," and ran on Comedy Central from June to August of 2005. It followed the three men's odd, jobless lives as roommates. They always wore suits and they always fought (an obvious pattern in their work.) Before that the three of them (and eight other comedians) appeared in "The State" on MTV, which ran for two years in the mid-90s. it featured inbred brothers who hit themselves on the head, monkey torture gags, and people claiming to have slept with each others' grandmothers. While both shows had short runs, they gained an eager cult following which led to DVD releases and Web deals for both.
The style of "Michael & Michael" is similar to these previous comedies in that it's made up of sketches, and has the self-absorbed neurotic humor that excuses the inexcusable behavior of the main characters, but it's dialed down, probably to appeal to a broader audience. While I smiled my way through the first episode, I didn't laugh at loud as I had at almost every episode of "Stella." Here's what other reviewers had to say:
Joanna Weiss of the "Boston Globe" praised the duo's obvious chemistry saying, "Black and Showalter work together perfectly...each part - and each person - makes the other one funnier."
Robert Lloyd of the "LA Times" had mixed reactions to the show writing, "Practically speaking, the mix of sketch and story lets them not invest too heavily in either, and 'Michael & Michael' is pretty consistently amusing in a low-boil way while rarely breaking into brilliance."
Brian Lowry of "Variety" had a kinder take: "Although there's nothing new in the formula, the two half-hours screened sporadically prove very funny, transforming little skirmishes between the leads into wry comic highlights."
Randee Dawn of the "Hollywood Reporter" had the harshest words for the show saying, "In the end, despite frenetic jump cuts and abrupt scene changes and attempts to goose along the 'story,' the 21 minutes devoted to actual 'MMHI' content feels like twice that...For now, 'MMHI"s real issue is that it's likely to be just another in a string of missed opportunities."
Heather Havrilesky of Salon agreed, "...most of what "Michael & Michael" has to offer is pretty simple and silly, the kind of childish lunacy that can incite chuckles but is only mildly amusing if you're not in the mood."
Brianna Snyder, writing for the "Hartford Advocate," came at it from the comedy nerd point-of-view, placing the men in context of their careers and the scene at large:
"The genius of this comedy is that there are lots of layers, and you don't necessarily need to get into those layers to laugh. It's both simple and complex. With "Michael and Michael Have Issues," they've made arguably perfect comedy for the Comedy Central audience, which is basically everyone."
All in all it's a tepid response for such a well-respected pair. Tell us what you think after the show airs tonight in the comments section!