Even the best shows take time to hit their stride. Who had high hopes after watching the first episode of The Office, a virtual shot for shot remake of its UK counterpart, defanged for American audiences?
It seems unfair to judge Carpool Karaoke from a single episode, but there isn’t a whole hell of a lot present to give the viewer hope that the series might someday become more than the sum of its parts. The show’s source material is some pretty thin soup, viral segments wherein late night’s most affable and least offensive host sings songs in a moving vehicle with famous people.
Carpool Karaoke: The Series answers the question no one but a few network executives dared ask: what if the premise were stretched to 20 minutes and served up for 20 straight episodes? They gave Triumph the Insult Comic Dog his own show, too, and not even Kenneth from 30 Rock could save it. Turns out the only thing it was good for was for American to poop on.
The first episode comes out the gate with guns blazing, pairing up host James Corden with Will Smith, one of the most broadly likable human beings to ever grace the face of the Earth. They sing a Smith song and then there’s a big reveal with a marching band accompanying the duo on 1999’s “Get Jiggy Wit’ It” (I’m not telling you anything that wasn’t already revealed in the trailer).
The episode then abruptly shifts to Corden’s version of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee — which is to say an otherwise standard interview format, set against the backdrop of a sometimes moving car. Corden’s not the most compelling or insightful interviewer, but at least he’s a professional capable of eliciting an interesting reaction from a guest.
Of course, he’s only on-board for a couple of episodes. Future pairings include the likes of Alicia Keys with John Legend and Miley with Billy Ray Cyrus. Without an an experienced interviewer in the literal driver’s seat, it’s hard to imagine things going this smoothly. Instead, the show’s entire appeal hinges upon something akin to the Battle of the Network Stars-esque premise of famous people performing kooky stunts.
Thankfully, as Variety handily points out, Corden and company have already devised a solution: pranks. They were used to break up the monotony of standalone Carpool Karaoke bits, and they look to be very much in play here, starting with Corden and Smith crashing a wedding in the premiere episode.
Certain guests like Billy Eichner should thrive in that format, coupled with an oddball pairing like the sometimes likable members of Metallica. Though, if Eichner and celebrities hilarious screaming at strangers is your jam (as it should be), there are already 50+ episodes of Billy on the Street out in the world.
As it stands, Carpool Karaoke is five minutes of content aimlessly attempting to fill up 20. Coupled with the dismal Planet of the Apps, an app-focused rehash of ABC’s Shark Tank where developers pitch to disinterested celebs, it’s not a compelling reason to subscribe to Apple Music. Nor is it a very good sign of Apple’s ability to compete on original content with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.