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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘American Auto’ On NBC, Where Ana Gasteyer Plays The Clueless CEO Of A Troubled Car Company




Stream It Or Skip It: ‘American Auto’ On NBC, Where Ana Gasteyer Plays The Clueless CEO Of A Troubled Car Company

Workplace comedies are an age-old format in television, but since The Office, the current iteration of them have settled into a particular format. The dumb boss, the normal worker who is driven crazy by his/her inept coworkers; the office romance; the idiot guy who somehow still has a job; the bold assistant. The shows that work take a great cast and move beyond these cliches. But, like many comedies, sometimes it takes time to find its footing. NBC’s new sitcom American Auto is one of those shows. Is it good enough to watch while it finds its way?

Opening Shot: Payne Motors headquarters in Detroit. Sadie (Harriet Dyer) starts to introduce new CEO Katherine Hastings (Ana Gasteyer) to the gathered executives but Katherine cuts her off.

The Gist: Katherine is not only Payne’s first female CEO, but she’s the first person outside of the Payne family to have the job. Her background isn’t in cars, though; it’s in pharmaceuticals. During her first meeting with her top execs, she just wants to get down to business. Wesley (Jon Barinholtz), who is only a top exec because his last name is Payne, basically spends the meeting making offhanded remarks about Katherine’s ability to lead.

Cyrus (Michael B. Washington), the company’s lead engineer, introduces the Ponderosa, a self-driving car that Katherine will introduce later that day. Katherine is immediately put off by the name, because it sounds like “ponderous.” Cyrus assures her it’s the highest-tech car the company has ever made. But when she gets in the car on the test track, it hits Jack (Tye White), a factory worker who was out on the test track; Cyrus, who is Black, acknowledges that the AI has trouble with dark skin tones. Now they have to figure out what to feature on the Ponderosa that isn’t the “racist” self-driving feature.

Sadie has her own problems; she prides herself in being a professional, but she slept with Jack after a retirement party a few weeks prior, and now things are weird between them. Jack is willing to consider a transfer to make things less uncomfortable, but when Katherine includes Jack in the planning of a new Ponderosa prototype, Jack inadvertently tells everyone about Sadie’s Ferrari bedsheets and car-shaped showerhead. Their secret is out, and Katherine seems to be just fine with it, telling the two of them “don’t bang” as she helps him Frankenstein a prototype from parts they all stole from employees’ cars in the parking lot.

Katherine puts her executive assistant Dori (X Mayo) in charge of the presentation’s lights and music, despite her telling her boss that the most technical thing she uses is “my vibrator.” With Sadie’s help, Katherine BSes her way through the presentation; in the aftermath, they sit on the floor of the executive suite, drink Champagne, and watch their stock price plummet. While Katherine thinks things are salvageable, Sadie finds out that Katherine promoted Jack to get a “working class perspective” in the executive ranks.

American Auto
Photo: Greg Gayne/NBC

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? American Auto has the same feel as Superstore, the previous show Justin Spitzer created. It’s not a mockumentary, but it has Superstore‘s fly-on-the-wall style, with shaky cameras and rapid dialogue.

Our Take: American Auto is a pretty straightforward workplace comedy, with characters that don’t deviate much from what we’ve seen in the recent past. Sadie is the one who has her head on straight and is constantly frustrated by what’s going on around her. Katherine is an auto CEO who doesn’t even know how to drive. Cyrus is the smartest guy in the room, and he knows it, but he has his own issues; in the second episode, he knows an awful lot about the behavior of serial killers. Elliot (Humphrey Ker), the company’s lead attorney, is basically a tall doofus.

In reality, a company like Payne Motors shouldn’t exist; in the long history of inept sitcom corporations, Payne seems to be one of the most inept we’ve ever seen. It’s that over-the-top ineptness, which includes the fact that its new CEO is semi-clueless, that takes us out of enjoying the show as much as we should. There are plenty of funny character-based situations, and the cast is displaying good chemistry in the first two episodes. But the “been there, done that” feeling of American Auto is pervasive, even if the first two episodes have some funny moments.

The beats we see so far feel rote, like with Jack and Sadie’s will-they-won’t-they, and with Barinholtz’s one-note office idiot character that’s reminiscent of the one that his brother Ike played on The Mindy Project. Even X Mayo’s Dori feels like she’s close cousins with Retta’s character Donna in Parks And Rec. We think Spitzer can shape these characters over the first season into a group that’s more distinctive, and there’s enough character-driven laughs in both episodes to give us hope that the show will find its way. But viewers may not stick around long enough for that to happen.

Sex and Skin: Besides Sadie and Jack talking about their night together, there’s nothing.

Parting Shot: Katherine tells Sadie that Jack has been hired to work in the corporate offices. “I guess we’ll be seeing each other occasionally. This’ll be fun,” Jack tells a shocked Sadie.

Sleeper Star: Michael B. Washington’s character Cyrus is the most fully-realized character in the first two episodes, and he tends to have some of the funniest lines, like when he describes the piecemeal Ponderosa to Katherine, evoking both Bjork and Blossom in the same sentence.

Most Pilot-y Line: Katherine compares the self-driving car to a Roomba. Cyrus tries to explain the technology, then thinks otherwise and agrees. That’s one of those over-the-top lines from Katherine that makes us wonder how she got chosen as CEO to begin with.

Our Call: STREAM IT. There’s enough promise to American Auto to keep us watching when it starts its regular timeslot in January. But the show really needs to get beyond workplace comedy archetypes if it’s really going to shine.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company and elsewhere.

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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