The Random Years

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The Random Years
An image of the New York City skyline with the words "The Random Years" superimposed over it.
Title card
GenreSitcom
Created by
  • Michael Lisbe
  • Nate Reger
Written by
  • Maisha Closson
  • Jonathan M. Goldstein
  • Michael Lisbe
  • Michael Markowitz
  • John Peaslee
  • Judd Pillot
  • Nate Reger
Directed by
Starring
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes7 (3 unaired) (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
  • John Peaslee
  • Judd Pillot
Producer(s)
  • Dan Dugan
  • Mary Fukuto
  • Jonathan M. Goldstein
Editor(s)
  • Harold McKenzie
  • Sharon Silverman
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)
DistributorCBS Television Distribution
Release
Original networkUPN
Picture format480i/576i (4:3 SDTV)
Audio formatStereo
Original releaseMarch 5 (2002-03-05) –
March 19, 2002 (2002-03-19)

The Random Years is an American television sitcom created by Nate Reger and Michael Lisbe which aired on United Paramount Network (UPN) from March 5 to 19, 2002. The series follows three childhood friends who share a New York City apartment, and their female neighbor. Storylines focus on their lives after graduating from college. Reger and Lisbe's experiences in New York City inspired the series.

The show, developed under the working title Life as We Know It, was produced by Big Phone Productions in association with Paramount Television. It was shown as a mid-season replacement, alongside the dramedy As If, to fill the timeslot previously occupied by the science fiction television show Roswell. The Random Years was commercially unsuccessful, and was canceled after three weeks. Seven episodes were produced, but only four aired. Critical response to the series was mixed, though some critics had positive comments about the cast. The series is not available on any digital platform.

Premise and characters[edit]

The four characters from the show as they appear in a publicity photo
The main characters of the series from left to right: Casey Parker, Alex Barnes, Wiseman, and Todd Mitchell.

The Random Years revolves around three men in their early twenties—Alex Barnes (Will Friedle), Wiseman (Joshua Ackerman), and Todd Mitchell (Sean Murray)—who have been friends since elementary school.[1] While sharing a loft apartment in Chinatown, Manhattan, they attempt to navigate life after graduating from college.[1][2] Storylines also focus on their bad dates.[3][4]

Alex is a rock music researcher for Music Week magazine, and dreams of becoming a music critic.[1][5] He is characterized as lovesick.[2] Following his mother's suggestion, the eccentric Wiseman works as a dental technician but has no interest in becoming a dentist.[5][2] Unemployed during the show,[1] Todd relies on "schemes to get what he needs".[5] He is also shown as having an obsession with Star Wars.[5]

Casey Parker (Natalia Cigliuti) helps Alex with his music website.[1] Portrayed as ambitious,[1][6] she works at a temp job while attending the New York University Stern School of Business.[5] In the second episode, she becomes the men's neighbor,[2][7] with assistance from Alex.[1] Steve (Winston J. Rochas), the building superintendent, had used the apartment to store his brother's stolen goods.[1] Casey enjoys watching Antiques Roadshow,[5] and he and Alex play a form of strip poker based on the show.[4] Alex, Wiseman, and Todd each want to date Casey.[8]

Production and broadcast history[edit]

Nate Reger and his writing partner Mike Lisbe created The Random Years based on their experiences living in New York City after graduating from college.[6][8] Developed under the working title Life as We Know It, Big Phone Productions, in association with Paramount Television, produced the show.[8] Judd Pillot and John Peaslee were the show's executive producers.[9]

Prior to production, Friedle was scheduled to star in The WB sitcom Off Centre, but was replaced by Eddie Kaye Thomas at "the last moment". While discussing the casting changes, Friedle said, "I'm on the show that I really wanted to be on. And I'm doing what I really wanted to do". Murray had agreed to participate in The Random Years since David Lynch was originally attached to the series as a director. Murray described himself as a Lynch "fanatic".[10]

In January 2002, the United Paramount Network (UPN) organized panels on its then-upcoming programs, which involved their writers and cast members. The Random Years was one of the shows discussed. Television executive Les Moonves said the programs were scheduled for spring and summer releases. During the presentation, the Chicago Tribune's Steve Johnson wrote that The Random Years was another "conventional sitcom about still more New Yorkers in their early 20s".[11] Scott Sandell of the Los Angeles Times compared the show's premise to the sitcom Seinfeld due to their shared focus on "nothing". He likened Wiseman to Cosmo Kramer, a character from Seinfeld.[3] Television critics have described The Random Years as a buddy comedy.[1][12]

Premiering alongside the dramedy As If, The Random Years was broadcast on Tuesday nights at 9 pm EST;[13] the pilot episode was watched by 1.4 million viewers.[14] The series had a TV 14 parental rating, indicating that it was "unsuitable for children under 14 years of age".[15] UPN aired As If and The Random Years as mid-season replacements to occupy the timeslot previously filled by science fiction television show Roswell.[16] The Random Years was one of the lowest-performing shows tracked by Nielsen Holdings, and it was canceled after three weeks. Seven episodes were filmed, though only four were aired.[13] According to TV Guide, The Random Years is not available on any digital platform.[17]

Episodes[edit]

Credits taken from Richard Irvin's 2016 book Forgotten Laughs: An Episode Guide to 150 TV Sitcoms You Probably Never Saw:[8]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUS viewers
(millions)
1"Pilot"Lee Shallat ChemelMike Lisbe and Nate RegerMarch 5, 2002 (2002-03-05)1.4[14]
Alex Barnes hires Casey Parker as a temp worker for his music website in order to have time to meet with his old girlfriend, Megan. At the same time, Wiseman seduces a woman at a local laundromat by using "sexy sheets". While on a double-date at a restaurant, Alex and Wiseman discover unflattering traits about their dates. Megan has lied about her past, while Wiseman's date has trouble controlling her temper. Alex ends both dates by pretending to have an allergic reaction. Meanwhile, Todd Mitchell and Casey bond over their shared love for Antiques Roadshow; they create a version of strip poker inspired by the show; Todd loses the game.
2"Don't Make Me Have Sex in the Hamptons"Matthew DiamondMike Lisbe and Nate RegerMarch 12, 2002 (2002-03-12)
After his music website crashes, Alex works at a music magazine as an assistant to a rock critic. At the same time, he has difficulty breaking up with his new girlfriend, Melissa, after he finds her to be too clingy. Wiseman helps Casey look for a new apartment by directing her to Melissa, who is a real estate agent. Alex plans to go on a weekend trip to The Hamptons with Melissa to help Casey find a new place. Casey decides to talk to Melissa about Alex wanting to end their relationship. She purchases an apartment across the hall from Alex, Wiseman, and Todd. The space was originally used as a storage unit by the building superintendent, Steve.
3"Men Behaving Sadly"Matthew DiamondMike Lisbe and Nate RegerMarch 19, 2002 (2002-03-19)
After Casey's boyfriend cancels a weekend trip to the city, Alex, Wiseman, and Todd encourage Casey to talk to him about their relationship. When the couple breaks up, they each attempt to attract Casey. However, they fail when she reconciles with her boyfriend. Meanwhile, one of Wiseman's frequent patients has sexual fantasies about being naked in the dental chair. However, Wiseman does not notice her sexual advances towards him.
4"Dangerous Liaisons"Matthew DiamondMike Lisbe and Nate RegerMarch 19, 2002 (2002-03-19)
Alex dates Todd's ex-girlfriend, Sydney, which leads to friction between the two men. Todd and Sydney disagree over who ended the relationship but eventually reconcile. Sydney still has romantic feelings for Alex, but Alex and Todd decide to not pursue a relationship with her. Meanwhile, Wiseman becomes attracted to a new barista, Tanya. To get her attention, he has Casey pretend to be his girlfriend so they can publicly break up in front of her. After approaching Tanya, Wiseman believes that she wants a threesome with Casey. However, this turns out to be a miscommunication, as Tanya just wanted to spend time with Wiseman and Casey.
5"Inherit the Windbreaker"Matthew DiamondMike Lisbe and Nate RegerUnaired (Unaired)
Alex, Wiseman, and Todd grow jealous of their neighbor, who continually throws popular parties in an upstairs apartment. They decide to hold a party of their own, but get locked out of their loft on the day of the party due to a dispute with their landlord. Meanwhile, Wiseman is pressured to take his aunt to a play.
6"Losin' It"Matthew DiamondMike Lisbe and Nate RegerUnaired (Unaired)
With Steve's help, Alex, Wiseman, and Todd have stolen cable in their loft; however, they encounter technical difficulties when attempting to watch a highly-anticipated boxing match. Meanwhile, Wiseman is losing his confidence with women after learning that Alex and Todd abandoned him during the junior prom to lose their virginity. He has an unsuccessful date with a woman at a theatre. In response, he plots with Steve to get revenge on Alex and Todd. They have the cable company visit the loft to warn Alex and Todd about stealing cable. Alex and Todd tell Wiseman that they did not have sex during the junior prom, which restores his confidence. He goes on another date with the woman from the theatre.
7"Boy Meets World"Matthew DiamondMike Lisbe and Nate RegerUnaired[b] (Unaired[b])
Wiseman and Todd help Alex babysit his nephew.[a]

Critical reception[edit]

The Random Years received a mixed response from critics. David Kronke of the Los Angeles Daily News praised its focus on post-graduate life, and felt it would benefit from better scripts.[18] Sandell wrote the storylines were entertaining yet formulaic,[3] and Caryn James for The New York Times summed up the show as "not painfully bad, just by-the-numbers and predictable".[19] Some critics dismissed it as a failed attempt to recreate a sitcom similar to Friends,[20][21] while Scott Sandell described it as a pale imitation of Seinfeld.[3] Others responded negatively to its comedy.[2][22] The Chicago Tribune's Allan Johnson criticized The Random Years as "pedestrian", and felt it lacked humor.[2] Scott D. Pierce of the Deseret News wrote that there "isn't a whole lot to hang a series on".[6]

While the Houston Chronicle's Ann Hodges criticized the cast as a "gang of lightweight newcomers".[21] Other reviewers had more positive responses to their performances.[3][4][6][7] Terry Kelleher of People cited Friedle, Murray, and Cigliuti as highlights, though he felt that Ackerman "pushes his oddball caricature too hard".[7] Newsday's Noel Holston wrote that Murray's performance in the strip poker scene was the only highlight of the pilot episode.[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Irvin provides only a limited plot summary for this episode as opposed to the other six.[8]
  2. ^ An alternative title for "Boy Meets World" was "Corrupting Jacob"[8]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Brooks & Marsh (2009): p. 1130
  2. ^ a b c d e f Johnson, Allan (March 5, 2002). "'As If,' 'Random' prolong UPN's comedy drought". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Sandell, Scott (March 5, 2002). "UPN Debuts 'As If,' 'Random Years'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Holston, Noel (March 4, 2002). "Sitcoms for 20-Somethings / A hip-hoppy 'Friends' and a ho-hummy one". Newsday. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Terrace (2008): p. 874
  6. ^ a b c d Pierce, Scott D. (March 4, 2002). "'As If' is just awful; 'Random Years' isn't". Deseret News. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Kelleher, Terry (March 11, 2002). "Picks and Pans Review: The Random Years". People. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Irvin (2016)
  9. ^ "Breaking News Archives". TV Week. January 24, 2002. Archived from the original on September 16, 2018.
  10. ^ Wilkes, Neil (March 3, 2002). "Friedle lands UPN sitcom". Digital Spy. Archived from the original on February 9, 2019.
  11. ^ Johnson, Steve (January 17, 2002). "WB boasts that it's profitable; UPN still looking for answers". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on February 9, 2019.
  12. ^ Adalian, Josef (January 24, 2002). "March sked makes way for laffers at UPN, Fox". Variety. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018.
  13. ^ a b Irvin (2016)
  14. ^ a b Adalian, Josef (March 7, 2002). "Few 'Watching'; UPN laffs a gaffe". Variety. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018.(subscription required)
  15. ^ McDonough, Kevin (March 6, 2002). "UPN debuts two youth-driven shows: Shallow characters, lack of originality hallmarks of both". Charleston Daily Mail. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018.(subscription required)
  16. ^ Schlosser, Joe (January 25, 2002). "UPN temporarily shelves Roswell". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018.
  17. ^ "Random Years". TV Guide. Archived from the original on June 26, 2018.
  18. ^ Kronke, David (March 5, 2002). "Better Scripts and 'Random' May Have a Chance". Los Angeles Daily News. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018.(subscription required)
  19. ^ James, Caryn (March 5, 2002). "That Lovable Sitcom Dad Who Likes to Nibble Bats". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018.
  20. ^ Levesque, John (March 4, 2002). "Need some new 'Friends'? Well, keep looking". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018.
  21. ^ a b Hodges, Ann (March 5, 2002). "Review: New UPN series fail to live up to hype". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018.
  22. ^ Perkins, Ken Parish (March 4, 2002). "Early peek suggests midseason arrivals won't click with viewers". Knight Ridder. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018.(subscription required)

Book sources[edit]

External links[edit]