Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Alex, Inc. is the Optimistic Comedy I Really Hope Succeeds [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: ABC)

A few years ago now — more than I’d like to believe because that means time is moving faster — ABC ran comedies like Trophy Wife, Selfie, and Happy Endings. While the last one was filled with slapstick shenanigans and meta humor, the first two were focused on families and learning to become better people for those around us, respectively. ABC’s current comedy block has family-centric shows that have been highly-praised (notably blackish and Fresh Off the Boat), and now the network is adding one more family-themed series to the mix: Alex, Inc.

I’m going to be totally honest: I started watching this show because I love Zach Braff. An avid Scrubs fan, I used to watch reruns of the series in my college dorm most weeknights before bed. And as a 29-year old, I spend my time on Thursday mornings re-watching the series as I work remotely. Braff’s got a specific brand of comedy in nearly everything that he does — zany, punctuated delivery and that fun oscillation in his voice that sends you straight back to Sacred Heart.

ABC released the first three episodes of Alex, Inc. for review and I can honestly say that this is the comedy I hope succeeds in 2018. It’s sweet and endearing, realistic in its portrayal of marriage and conflict, and just fun. Optimism needs to continue to live on this year; too much of 2017 was filled with bleakness. And this new comedy deserves the chance to shine. This is not the kind of series that will necessarily provide the witty social commentary that some comedies do, but I also don’t need it to be that show. What I needed Alex, Inc. to be was a series that reminded me there is still good and joy and fun in the world — without always having to provide a bottom line.

While I’m not going to break down my review into three separate articles, I’ll do my best to convince you of why you should watch the series by dissecting some of Alex, Inc.’s best elements.


I’m a sucker for a show centered on a solid family structure. And Alex, Inc. brings that to the forefront of the pilot. We begin their story because Alex (Zach Braff) decides to quit his job and start his own podcast company. His wife, Rooni (played by The Good Place’s Tiya Sircar) is supportive of her husband, but their relationship isn’t without stress and pressure from his sudden decision. The thing we learn to be most true about Alex though, besides that he is a dreamer, is that he loves his family. He loves his children. He inspires them, and they — in turn — motivate him. He tells them fantastical stories, and they give him inspirational speeches.

Too often, I feel, television only portrays one side of family life. The children are supposed to learn lessons from their parents and apologize when they do wrong. That’s all well and good, and is definitely an aspect of being a part of a family. However, the fact that Alex, Inc. allows its youngest cast members the chance to play smart, empathetic, encouraging children who end up motivating our protagonist more than nearly anyone else is impressive. The kids aren’t just plot devices in this show — they ARE the show. By the end of the pilot, Ben (played by Elisha Henig) impresses his father with his bravery and boldness. In the show’s second episode, Soraya (played by Audyssie James) has a storyline with her dad that focuses on the promise and importance of being present. And in the third episode, the kids get the chance to explore what it means to embrace their cultural and ethnic heritage and learn about Holi from their grandmother.

Equally important is Alex Inc.’s portrayal of Alex and Rooni’s marriage. It’s easy to romanticize a character like Alex as the protagonist of the series — he’s passionate and idealistic and a dreamer. Those are the reasons Rooni fell in love with him. But as she says throughout the first few episodes, she also is a realist. The couple fights because they get on each other’s nerves and because they make decisions without consulting the other. Rooni tells Alex that she’s upset with him because he’s supposed to be her best friend and he lied to her.

That’s something wonderful about the series already: Television shows are great at portraying the loving relationship between a husband and wife. We all swoon when we get to witness loving scenes and cutesy lines of dialogue. But what about the friendship between a husband and wife? Alex, Inc. makes it a point to not paint either character as completely wrong or completely right — just like real life. Alex messes up and lies, but so does Rooni. Alex has good intentions for the way he handles things and Rooni has valid reasons for making the decisions she does. The first three episodes emphasize the importance of friendship and communication in their marriage, and it’s pretty dang endearing.

(Photo credit: ABC)


We want to see Alex succeed.

When Alex begins his podcast company, he brings aboard a team consisting of his cousin Eddie (played by Michael Imperioli) and Deidre (Hillary Anne Matthews), his former producer to get his company off the ground. Because Alex is so earnest and likable, we want him to do well. It’s interesting because we could easily believe Alex to be an incredibly selfish human being — I mean, he does decide to quit his job without consulting his wife and puts his family into a little bit of a tailspin because of it. Rooni mentions this to him on a few occasions too, and his kids try to adjust to life without a very present dad.

But because the character is played by Zach Braff, a charming and likable actor who’s able to bring whimsy and magic and an ethereal optimism to his roles, we like Alex. I genuinely like him because he’s self-aware enough to recognize that he’s flawed. Though some of his actions are problematic, he feels all-the-more realistic in admitting those flaws and seeking to remedy the damage as best he can. Alex is not an inherently bad character; he is a good guy who is earnest and makes mistakes. But his heart is always in the right place and the one thing we know to be true about him above all else is that while he wants to follow his dreams, he will do anything for his family. Their love is all that matters.

(Also if you were really into Scrubs and miss Zach Braff doing voiceovers on television shows, this is the series to fill that void for you. Just saying.)

Alex, Inc. is a show about following your heart and dreams — about recognizing that there is magic and imagination and an entire world beyond what we believe is possible. And that sometimes your dreams are worth chasing, even if you don’t know where you’ll end up.


I like my comedies to have a dose of realism to them. Though I’m a fan of the slapstick and the absurd, what I love is when shows can find the funny in the ordinary. And Alex, Inc. is one of those shows. It feels familiar because it is familiar — we all fight with our families, have a person whose habits irritate us, and struggle to come up with ideas when we desperately need them. There’s an entire plotline in the third episode where Alex struggles to name his company, and I relate so much to that because as a writer, I struggle to name things on a daily basis. In the same episode, Ben tries to get noticed by the kids in his class (and, of course, a girl) for his Indian heritage... which backfires spectacularly, and leads to a great conversation with Ben and his grandmother.

The humor and heart of the show are so intricately intertwined because they’re so familiar to us. Alex, Inc. is — at its core — a show about what it means to be human and to want the most out of your life.

And because of that, the humor feels just as real as every other part of it.

I hope that Alex, Inc. gets the chance to test its legs and succeed on ABC. Because of the way the show is constructed, I believe it has a shot of falling right into the network’s sweet spot of heartwarming family comedies. If you watch Alex, Inc., I sincerely hope that you find it to be as endearing, sweet, and fun as I did.

Alex, Inc. debuts on ABC on March 28 at 8:30 p.m.


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