Written by Christine Yankelunas
On its own, foods like ice cream and pasta can be really good– mixed together: a disaster. This is how I felt about NBC’s Undateable, which premiered last night. Creator Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) did his homework and rounded up a group of very talented standup comedians, but when you put them all together, you’re left with ice cream pasta… so to speak.
The show is set in Detroit, based around a bar-owner and woman repellant, Justin (Brent Morin), who desperately needs guidance in the love department. Like his friends, Shelly (Ron Funches), Brett (David Fynn), and Burski (Rick Glassman), who we frequently see sitting in the bar called, “Black Eyes,” this is a group of self-loathing men who are searching for their Fonzie. Enter, leather-jacket wearing, Danny Burton (Chris D’Elia of Whitney fame). Writers try oh-so-hard to convince us that this suave bachelor pushing 30 is the ultimate ladies’ man. Danny is over-animated and spastic, attempting Jim Carrey-like comedy with bizarre moments of over-acting and one-liners. In this first episode we are also introduced to Danny’s newly divorced and vulnerable sister, Leslie (Bianca Kajlich) — who urges her brother to kick his bachelor lifestyle and settle down.
As new roommates, Justin welcomes Danny into his bar and group of friends – while Danny offers to show Justin the ropes in living the ultimate bachelor life. Did NBC rip off the movie Hitch?! Or, Crazy, Stupid Love?! Justin, who is the funniest cast member in my opinion, relentlessly attempts to pick up women and we watch and cringe as he crashes and burns. His standup capabilities are drowned out by this tired theme that we have seen before, and done a lot better. In a twist of the plot, Danny’s sister ends up hooking up with Justin—but when we find out that the two did not in fact hook up, Danny flips because his sister’s confidence is shattered by Justin’s lack of advances. The whole thing is weird. We watch as Danny and Justin have an overly-emotional fight and then reconciliation—after knowing each other briefly, this is all too unconvincing.
The show tries its very hardest (WAY too hard) to be funny, but talented individuals do not make a successful TV series. This dysfunctional version of Friends fell flat, with many jokes around race and sexuality; the blatant attempts to push the envelope were borderline offensive. The laughing track filled awkward gaps but did not convince me that the overt, poorly written jokes were worth the extra breaths. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Standup comics may not have a future in television, and hey, that’s okay.