Having been a big fan of Mindy Kaling from her past gig on The Office and her own show The Mindy Project I always welcome any new work she has coming out. If you are not a fan of her or her writing on either of those shows then maybe Champions isn't for you.
Created by Kaling and fellow Mindy Project partner Charlie Grandy, Champions opens with introducing us to Vince (Anders Holm), a former high school baseball star whose dreams were cut short and he instead ended up running his parents gym the Brooklyn Champions Athletic Club. After many years Vince is feeling stuck in his current situation and decides to sell the gym so he can start a new life in Florida. He even keeps this plan from his brother/ roommate Matthew (Andy Favreau) who is the most loveable and simple-minded guy so it's not hard to keep him in the dark.
The ink is barely dry on the point of sale papers when Vince gets a curve ball thrown at him in the form of his ex-girlfriend Priya (Mindy Kaling) paying him a visit from Cleveland and informing him he has a 15-year-old son named Michael (J.J. Totah). Michael is in New York to go to the Manhattan Academy for the Performing Arts which has been his dream for the entirety of his young life. The only problem is there an unfortunate circumstance with his admittance and they need him to audition again.
This also causes them to take away his housing so Michael needs a place to stay, hello Vince.
The potential for any story where a mother introduces a child to an unknowing father is always ripe for mining comedic gold and in the hands of Kaling's writing it's like walking a wire in the circus without even worrying about a safety net. Priya drops the bomb on Vince, explains to Michael why he was never told about his dad, and gets Vince to help her out by letting Michael stay. Mindy Kaling can dust off her shoulders because we're all good to go.
Now, of course, we know Michael is a Broadway obsessed theater geek and Vince-not being any of that-is going to cause some conflict. Let's also not forget the fact that Vince still has it in his head he wants to move to Florida. But they try getting to know each other even though Michael seems to have a better connection with his new uncle Matthew.
Champions tries to pack in as many laughs as they do plot points to give us the full setup for the series but that is where it succeeds and fails at the same time. It's great that the scenes all move briskly along with energetic and witty dialogue seasoned with pop-culture references but they try to give us SO much information that my head literally feels like it's swelling up like a balloon. Cramming the back-stories of Vince and Priya's relationship, Michael's upbringing, and the history of the gym? Is it necessary that we learn everything about these people immediately?
Even with the barrage of virtual Wikipedia pages coming from the characters the number of times I laughed was worth it. I like the idea behind Champions and I really enjoy watching Totah as Michael who shines in every scene he's in (which is almost the whole show). If for some reason this show doesn't make it this kid is going to have an outstanding career regardless. The show has heart but it also has spunk so there doesn't seem to be any chance of this becoming About A Boy: The Next Generation. Sign me up for a membership, NBC!