Netflix’s ‘The Fix’ Offers A Simple Fix for American Comedy Television

Ali Goldstein for Netflix

Towards the end of the first episode of Netflix’s new comedy panel The fix, guest panelist Nikki glaser embarks on a hilarious self-analysis of her pornography preferences. Having already spent much of the half-hour program denouncing social media with another panelist Catherine ryan, Glaser happily demonstrates just how much of an oversharer she is. Once the pornographic searches for the phrase “girl walking through the warehouse scared” enter the conversation, however, all bets are off.

“Remember when I asked the question about excessive sharing earlier? That’s a problem for you!” exclaims host Jimmy Carr before not asking a consistent follow-up question. “So you look at this stuff and you’re very … you wouldn’t … I … no!”

Carr, Glaser, Ryan, fellow panelists DL Hughley and Michael Ian Black and the studio audience quickly lose their minds. The resulting collective laughter is as loud as it is infectious, and it’s one of the funniest things American television has produced all year. Yet what makes it so unique is the fact that it all comes from an incredibly simple source that, for too long, American entertainment has refrained from exploring in detail – the modern British panel format.

Like IQ, 8 out of 10 cats, Make fun of the week, Would i lie to you? and countless other programs that are currently broadcasting still new episodes, The fix follows a simple plan. A show host and a handful of comedians come together to riff on a predetermined topic for half an hour in front of a live studio audience. Sometimes there are some quirky gadgets or additions, but for the most part these shows are mostly focused on the gamers featured and their constant efforts to outdo themselves.

American television has already explored this. Hell, the panel format was literally created by the birth of radio and television in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the earliest and most successful shows were quiz programs comprised of quiz hosts, judges and participants. (Modern equivalents include Peril! and Wheel of Fortune.) Less competitive games, famous contestants, and intentional comedy all entered the mix soon after, but by the time the ’60s began, panels were no longer in vogue among American audiences.

They followed a similar trajectory in the UK, but a sudden resurgence in the 90s brought them back. Today, comedy shows have become a dominant force on British television, but they remain a curiosity across the Atlantic. The most recent (and successful) iteration of the format in America was that of Comedy Central. @midnight, which lasted for four seasons until it was canceled in 2017. Aside from that fluke, most American attempts to reinvigorate the panel have failed.

Enter The fix. According to Netflix, the series follows Carr, Hughley, Ryan and two guest comedians to debate and discuss the biggest challenges the world faces today. The two teams are then tasked with coming up with potential solutions (albeit mostly comical) to the chosen topic. The public votes for their favorite and that’s it. There is no prize money, the vote makes virtually no sense and the point of it all is to have a good laugh for about 30 minutes at a time.

The inclusion of UK data journalist Mona Chalabi, whose segments offer the audience hard numbers to help them better understand the episode’s theme, is a great addition to the festivities. Then as The daily show, patriotic act and other more comical forms of “infotainment”, The fixviewers could actually learn something. But again, that’s not the point.

The whole reason for all of this is to give a group of comedians the chance, whether with prepared material or improvised riffs, to make people laugh. Judged on this single metric, The fix excels in adapting the now predominantly British comedy show format for American consumption. Hopefully Netflix subscribers who are fans of Hughley, Carr, Ryan, one of the guest panelists, or the format itself will give it a go and see this for themselves.

The fix is now streaming on Netflix.

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