“On Air” captures the backstage personal interplay amongst the stars of Weekly Tonight, the hottest comedic variety show in America. It’s funny, informative, ballsy, innovative, and it never shies away from controversial topics. The show stars a young core of twenty-something year olds, made-up of Josh Tilson, the show’s cocky and sarcastic star who is also the co-creator, Melanie Reed, a former child star looking for that big comeback after she went-off the deep end, Jebediah Polumbo, an eccentric and mysterious British comedian that has absolutely no filter, Chris Key, Josh’s underachieving but very talented best friend, and newcomer to the cast, Emma Ricci, who hails from Hollywood royalty and is looking to break out from her family’s shadow. Producing the show is Carl Norman, a manipulative shark that discovered Josh while Josh was doing an open mic night.
When the”On Air” begins, Weekly Tonight, now heading into its third season, is on top of the world. Nothing seems to be going wrong, that is, until Carl gets fired after being accused of sexual harassment. The cast is stunned and thrown into a whirlwind as a new producer, Richard Dyer, is hired almost immediately. Dyer is a very physically-fit, masculine yet flamboyant family man (pretty much the polar-opposite of Carl). Richard quickly wins the majority of cast and crew over with his charm, good looks, and down-to-earth personality, all with the exception of Josh, who still feels a sense of loyalty towards Carl.
Josh, with assistance from Chris, is determined to help Carl in anyway he can, even if it means proving Carl’s innocence. This occurs while Richard tries to win Josh over throughout the pilot. Elsewhere, Melanie (a mega-liberal and women’s rights advocate) and Polumbo (a mega-conservative) tackle the controversial topic of sexual harassment, and whether we should believe the accusers, wait for a trial, etc. (an angle meant to actually start a dialogue amongst all viewers watching who share differing beliefs). While this is occurring, Emma, who proves to be the most level-headed and responsible member of the group, helps the network executive’s son, Alan Pattinson, whom none of the cast and crew respect, become an authority figure with presence.
The pilot is meant to be a two parter, with the first episode being what I described above, and the second episode having the characters plots be intertwined, where they somehow find themselves in the same place, i.e., trapped inside the basement of the woman who accused Carl.
Directed by Ryan Conway and Jack Corbett (USA)