Stranger Than Fiction, Funnier Than Reality

Comedians playing fictional versions of themselves on scripted television is nothing new — just ask Lucille Ball or Jerry Seinfeld — but it’s certainly a hot trend right now.

Apr 22, 2015 at 9:54 am
click to enlarge Billy Crystal and Josh Gad in The Comedians
Billy Crystal and Josh Gad in The Comedians

Comedians playing fictional versions of themselves on scripted television is nothing new — just ask Lucille Ball or Jerry Seinfeld — but it’s certainly a hot trend right now. Louis C.K.’s Louie is a prime example, but there’s also Abbi and Ilana of Broad City, Matt LeBlanc in Episodes, Marc Maron in Maron and Jim Jefferies in Legit, or even Seth Rogen, James Franco and friends in apocalyptic comedy This Is the End. 

New on the bandwagon are Billy Crystal and Josh Gad in The Comedians (10 p.m. Thursdays, FX). The premise is recognizable: A rising star and a veteran comic are forced to reconcile their various differences (from age to comedy style) to work together. The series opens with Billy pitching a show — starring him — to FX. The network passes but agrees to work with him if he’ll sign on to a sketch comedy show with Josh Gad. Despite their inflated egos and shared resentment, they need each other — Billy benefits from the jolt of youth while Josh’s credibility increases with the longtime star. And for FX, it’s a package deal, so they don’t really have a choice.

The show might be a tad cliché if the real Josh and Billy weren’t so hilariously spot-on. The best part for me is that I would never watch The Billy and Josh Show, the show portrayed on The Comedians, but I love watching them make it. Meta.

This week, Billy and Josh are both nominated for the same award and decide to walk the red carpet together.


Saving My Tomorrow: Part Three (Premiere, 7:30 p.m., HBO) – Perfect viewing for Earth Day, this latest installment of the six-part environmental series features songs, science and tips from the American Museum of Natural History on how to help clean up the planet.

Modern Family (9 p.m., ABC) – Jay joins Cam’s bowling league for a game, not realizing all the men are gay. Mitchell and Gloria go clubbing with Haley to prove they aren’t old.

Blackish (9:30 p.m., ABC) – Dre feels his street cred is questioned when he gets passed over for Charlie for a big “urban” account.


Lip Sync Battle (10 p.m., Spike) – Mike Tyson takes on Terry Crews. Sure, why not?

Louie (10:30 p.m., FX) – Louie catches up with an old friend.


VICE (11 p.m., HBO) – Alabama’s strict anti-immigration legislation; post-earthquake Haiti still faces rampant poverty despite billions of dollars in relief aid.


Orphan Black (9 p.m., BBC America) – Castor comes after the clones to retrieve original tissue samples; Helena is examined.


Game of Thrones (9 p.m., HBO) – Margaery hopes the third time’s a charm as she marries the very young and impressionable King Tommen. Hopefully Ser Pounce is the ring bearer! Elsewhere, Tyrion and Varys cross the Long Bridge of Volantis. 

The Last Man on Earth (9:30 p.m., Fox) – Poor


Tandy. He lost his wife, he lost his name and now he risks losing his title as the gang has a new election for president.

Mad Men (10 p.m., AMC) – Holy puberty! Nothing could prepare me for 18-year-old Glen. So many emotions! This week’s episode title, “Time & Life,” could refer to SC&P’s office (located in the Time-Life building) or maybe it’s just the most vague description of what Mad Men is all about.

Silicon Valley (10 p.m., HBO) – Richard considers Gavin’s proposal and meets with a billionaire.

Veep (10:30 p.m., HBO) – The crew tries to find someone to blame for a data breach; Catherine wants to back an anti-bullying effort; Selina hosts the annual White House Easter Egg Roll and reads to children.


RuPaul’s Drag Race (9 p.m., Logo) – Is this season finally starting to turn around? Trixie is back, the library is open and it’s a John Waters challenge (and he’s a guest judge)!


Inside Amy Schumer (10:30 p.m., Comedy Central) – Amy removes her makeup, goes to a gentlemen’s club and dates a rapper.

CONTACT JAC KERN: [email protected] or @jackern