When making a good sitcom, there are a ton of things to consider. But great writing is usually very necessary, along with a talented cast of actors who know how to milk a situation for its entire comedic effect.
Sometimes, pinpoint accuracy with joke writing isn't even exactly needed. Look at Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David. The show's generally ad-libbed with a lot of situations pre-mapped out beforehand, and the actors involved are put in scenarios where they have to be on top of their game to milk said situation.
Then there are shows that critics seem to hate, like Pretty Smart, but why is that the case?
Why do all critics seem to hate 'Pretty Smart'?
The Chicago Sun-Times was particularly excoriating of the show: "Welcome to Pretty Smart! And the use of exclamation point is apropos here because this sweet-natured but deeply unfunny show has episodes with titles such as, 'Guess What?! Claire’s Sister Is Coming!,' 'Yikes! Grant Asked Chelsea for a Favor!,' and 'OMG! Jayden’s Mom Is Back!' It’s almost as if the showrunners are aiming for a satire of a sitcom — but there’s nothing about the plot points, the dialogue, or the acting styles to indicate that."
The show seems like a parody of a sitcom with extremely tired character tropes — the moronic hunk, the lame smart girl, the ditzy and happy pretty girl, an over-the-top social media star, and the hippie.
Remember all that talk about a compelling script with great jokes? Well, Pretty Smart doesn't really have that.
Here's an example joke from the show's pilot.
While Grant, the resident personal trainer hunk in the series, is banging out some bicep curls in the living room, he has the following exchange with Claire (the space cadet character):
Claire: “I can’t believe Chelsea is moving to L.A.! It’s so exciting!”
Grant: “And because you’re excited, I’m excited. And that’s really exciting.”
Cue the laugh track.
Where exactly is the joke?
And this seems to be the main problem with 'Pretty Smart' — it's a byproduct of the worst consequence of social media.
If you browse any social media platform, it's filled with a bunch of Influencers who are loudly speaking directly into a camera, flaunting, unchallenged, and showing how perfect their lives are.
Even their "imperfections" are commented on in a way that distances them from any type of reproach, the "oh I'm just saying this about myself, but I don't really think that" feeling.
And in Pretty Smart, all of the performances can basically be boiled down to this same "look at me!" disease that's plaguing social media. You've got a bunch of people who aren't really interested in offering a take or specific commentary about themselves living in a situation. No matter what their dialogue is, what they're really saying is, "Look at me! Look at me! Look at how great I am!"
Like Curb Your Enthusiasm or a great interview with say, Norm Macdonald, there's a sense that the person is solely trying to be funny to help make a situation better because the situation calls for it. Funny is funny. Someone isn't "trying" to be funny, but instead, they're trying to honestly say something funny by commenting on a situation honestly.
Judging from the reviews Pretty Smart is receiving in its first season, it doesn't look like the cast and crew are going for that at all. This could ultimately be chalked up to "growing pains" as there are some shows that always take a while before they hit their stride. Take a look at New Girl, for instance, which really got better with time. It's not the first seasons were bad, but all of the actors luxuriated into their characters the more the show went on, and then you saw everyone really having fun.
There are many other things that seem to grind viewers' gears — the fact that the characters live in a house that's well outside of their means (Los Angeles ain't cheap, it's the Friends conundrum all over again) and that everyone "punches down" on one of the characters in mean ways.
But mostly, it's just because it doesn't seem very funny. However, there are some people tweeting that they really, really want a second season of the show. So there may very well be a Season 2.