February 29, 2008

Reviewed by Eli Keel

“Unhitched” is the new Fox comedy that is like “Friends” for divorced people. No, wait. “Unhitched” is the new Fox comedy that is like “There’s Something About Mary” for the small screen.

Convinced? Me neither, but I’m pretty sure that’s what the folks at Fox are hoping you walk away saying if you tune into the series premier of their new show called, wait, what was it? Oh yeah. Unhitched.

Okay, despite the snarky beginning paragraph I actually kind of liked this show. It’s still hard not to imagine the Fox executives sitting around and using their zero imagination to decide whether or not to give this show a green light. But alas, that’s show business. Despite the fact that you can practically see the wheels turning in those guys heads, the show manages to succeed on several levels. Also while watching the pilot you can’t help but see the promise of just how great this show could be if it doesn’t get screwed up or cancelled.

There are two great things about this show: the premise and the team.

Unfortunately they might paradoxically turn out to be the things that condemn this fledgling effort to the mass graveyard of TV who cares.

The premise: “Unhitched” follows four newly single people living in Boston. At its heart this is a great and fairly original idea. Lot’s of sitcoms have had divorced characters but few have focused solely on this emerging and huge demographic. Anyone who has been single after a long term relationship can personally attest to the strangeness one feels, as well as the huge number of funny and awkward circumstances that arise. Sadly Unhitched is only able to really get a hold of this strange funny scary wonderful vibe once or twice in the first episode. For such rich and brilliant source material they spend way to much time digging into cliché characters and gross out humor.

This brings me to the shows second flaw/possible brilliance: the Farrelly brothers. These guys are great. Even the movies they made that are way below their usual standard still deliver some amazing belly laughs. But can they deliver when they are severely limited in the amount of dirtiness they can get away with? The pilot says no. It delivers consistent chuckles but nothing near the “Oh god I can’t stop laughing I’m gonna puke” laughs that they so frequently dole out in their film work. They do show flashes of being able to grow into their new network type limitations. The line “Take me like a Silverback” is going to get talked about around the old water cooler, but it is the one time in the pilot that they are barely able to catch any of their brilliant humor. The rest of the time you are waiting for the really funny stuff to start.

I should really add a third item to a list of this shows strengths. The cast. Jack “Gator” Gately (Craig Bierko) has you rooting for him from the first scene. He has the nice guy funny charm that made Ben Stiller and Jack Black so great in their Farrelly appearances. Tommy (Johnny Sneed) is the perfect “bad boy” friend. You can’t decide if you want to punch him for being a jerk, or go have beers with him until you pass out. Rashida Jones manages to shine, even though she is very much the token pretty female friend. (Fox, please do not waste the beautiful hilarious talent on stupid leprechaun jokes.) You can also expect people to talk about Dr. Freddy Sahgal (Shaun Majunder). Despite struggling against lame “oh I’m a foreigner and I don’t understand English slang” jokes, he manages to transcend his ethnicity and just be a funny likable fish out of water.

Bottom line, I will tune in to watch this show. You should too. If the actors can gel into a coherent ensemble and if it gets past the first month with decent numbers and if the writers and directors manage to keep the good stuff and lose the mediocre stuff, this show will grow into a rare treat. I personally find it hard to believe it will do so. Network executives are generally stupid or scared or greedy to give a show like this the space it needs to grow. But I will be avidly watching, just in case they do.

Unhitched premieres this Sunday on Fox

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