Because “Picked Up, ” the new one from the Neo-Futurists that stages a different television sitcom pilot each week, owes so much of its comedic success to pure nostalgia, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for the too short lived “Strangers with Candy,” Comedy Central’s late 1990s glorious satire on all the situational comedies with which I had grown up. The story of “boozer, user and loser” Jerri Blank, the 46-year-old ex-con-turned-high-school freshman, brilliantly realized by actress Amy Sedaris, “Strangers with Candy” lovingly-viciously skewered everything from pedophilia to mental retardation, religion to physical disabilities. Nothing was off-limits or taboo and in this spirit the revolving lineup of six “shows” that “Picked Up” will present over the next six weeks—from retarded wrestlers to crime-fighting mimes to horny teenagers in space—should make for some hysterical comedy. That is, if the first entry that the press was invited to review, the pilot concerning the retarded high-school athlete who forms a wrestling club called the Unitards (get it?), is any indication. But although the content (read: show) will change from week to week, the framing device will remain the same. The head writers “pitch” their series to the audience, there are some morbidly meta monologues typical of the Neo-Futurists, and there’s an inspired choreographic dance sequence by the writers to the synthesized beats reminiscent of eighties pop band Devo that hopefully will remain throughout the run. As if that weren’t enough, the icing on this very rich comedic cake is the heartfelt honesty and emotional truth with which the writers address their feelings on the desire for creative success in the tainted yet totally addictive commercial world of television sitcom-writing. It has to make you wonder: what would happen if a Neo renegade sold out to the Nielsen Rating. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
At the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland, (773)275-5255. This production is now closed.