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Review: What the Hell Just Happened on 'What Just Happened with Fred Savage'?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 1, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 1, 2019 |


A new show created and written by Fred Savage called What Just Happened with Fred Savage debuted last night, and if you’d never heard anything about the series before going in, you might have been confused.

So the series, hosted by Fred Savage, is a real aftershow for a fictional television show called The Flare based on a series of books by author T.J. Whitford, who is not a real person. Savage plays himself, as the host, along with co-host, Taylor Tomlinson, also playing herself. Kevin Zegers, the star of the fictional The Flare, appears as his first guest, and Rob Lowe — a real person — also appears as a superfan of The Flare, which again is a show that does not exist.

The reaction to the series on Twitter I will say is … mixed? And by that, I mean, viewers either loved it more than anything they’ve ever seen in their lives, or they immediately turned it off.

In fact, I may be the only person who falls somewhere in the middle. I like the idea of the show, but at least in its opening episode, I don’t think it truly maximized its potential or worked as effectively as I might have liked as a cutting parody of Chris Hardwick (upon whose after shows What Just Happened is clearly modeled). Yes: Fred Savage is unreasonably excited about a television series unworthy of that level of excitement (the show opens with a real clip of the last minute of the fake show, and it is bad), and he’s definitely somewhat insecure and likes to make everything about himself (characteristics synonymous with Chris Hardwick).

But it also veers a little too far into the wacky but not particularly funny, such as an extended segment in which Savage tries to break onto the property of The Flare star Helen Mirren to interview her, only to realize that he’s not actually at Helen Mirren’s house. The show also goes a little too far even for a Hardwickian-like aftershow when Fred Savage interviews Rob Lowe while mimicking the conditions of The Flare, which is to say during a “monsoon” in a blow-up boat while assistants are throwing cups of water on them.

It’s very dumb, but it’s also kind of smart, but it’s not yet smart enough to make up for how dumb it is, if that makes any sense. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK. We’re talking about a real aftershow for a show that doesn’t exist featuring real actors playing fictional versions of themselves but who are also promoting very real shows in which the real versions of the fictional real actors are starring in. It’s a lot, but I’m going to give it a couple of more episodes, because What Just Happened is definitely a trainwreck, but I can’t tell yet if it is an amazing trainwreck or a disastrous one.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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