March 9, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere TV Review: “Champions”


CHAMPIONS:  Thursday 9:30PM on NBC – Change the Channel

As this season’s NBC comedies go, CHAMPIONS is less rancid than AP Bio, but “harmless” isn’t much of a recommendation for a sitcom.  Despite the fact that the series was created by Mindy Kaling and Charlie Grandy, its pilot is all set-up, in the traditional way of a multi-camera comedy circa 1990.

Vince (Anders Holm) is an undistinguished Brooklyn guy who runs the family gym (called Champions) with his lunkhead brother Matthew (Andy Favreau), and the purported help of Ruby (Fortune Feinster), who does cute sitcom things like use Vince’s shower and razor.  Vince also has a girlfriend, Britney (Mouzam Makkaar) who he doesn’t particularly care about.  Vince is dissatisfied with his life, and he’s just about to sell the gym and move away to start a new life… when old high school flame Priya (Kaling, in a guest star role) shows up with 15-year old Michael (JJ Totah), the son Vince never knew he had.  As the contrivance gods would have it, Michael’s dream of attending Brooklyn’s performing arts high school is about to fall apart because the dean who recruited him has been fired (after a “Jared from Subway” sting, hahaha), so Michael needs somewhere to live.  After about 15 minutes of denial, Vince gives in to the inevitable.

The pilot, directed by Michael Spiller, sets up each character in the broadest possible way.  Michael is so gay that he’s practically a one-man touring company of The Boys In the Band:  within the pilot, he calls himself “Miguel Blanchett Almodover,” and name-checks Real Housewives, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Les Miserables (twice), before winding up the episode by singing a Freddie Mercury song in, it goes without saying, a Broadway-veteran belting voice.  It seems fair to wonder just where progressive acceptance becomes stereotype.  Matthew is dumb enough to make a bag of rocks look intellectual.  Vince is selfish and inconsiderate, right up until the script requires him to be caring and generous.

Grandy and Kaling know how to put a sitcom script together, and the low-velocity one-liners hum along, but Champions is tiresome by the second commercial break.  It’s been given the maximum possible chance of success with a lead-in from the very compatible Will & Grace, and perhaps it will eke out enough viewers to ensure a run.  There’s nothing here, though, to suggest that the title will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."