Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mad Love. A Review.

     I want to like it, I really do.  But after the premiere, I almost forgot it was even on the air.  I like the casting- I'm excited to see Sarah Chalke back on a sitcom, and I really like Judy Greer.  The male leads are also good.  But the premise feels played out, sweaty even.
     There were a few jokes in the pilot that made me sit up and pay attention- maybe it would be a good comedy.  Maybe the humor would be from the cunning jokes, and the premise was just fodder; a way to get these four funny people in the room.  Nope, that wasn't it.  They just happened to get a little lucky.
     A lot of the other reviews, written by people who actually review a lot of things and are a bit more analytical than I, have compared it to How I Met Your Mother.  Sure.  It has a similar feel, there's the bar they hang out in, there's a voice over.  But this comparison does neither show any good.  If Mad Love clings too much to its lead in, its runs the risk of never being able to elevate above it.  How I Met Your Mother has gotten sweaty and lame of late, and it's unfortunate that's where Mad Love is picking up.
     I had nearly forgotten the show was one, and the holiday didn't help with me actually knowing what day was Monday.  I wanted to give it enough of a chance to get beyond its pilot.  The second episode was the story of their supposedly hijink filled first date.   Ugh, I don't even want to take the time to recap it, but I suppose I will.  Ben has a great first date planned; he's setting the tone for the entire relationship.  (Is this really a thing?)  He's put an extra bit of pressure on the date, but since the premise of the show is that the two fell instantly in love, I guess the pressure makes sense.  And then, oh no, tragic, Kate has tons of apparently boring work to do so she has to cancel.  Everything is ruined.
     Until half a second later when she comes up with a way to fix it and invites Ben over to her place for their first date, so he can watch her do the paperwork.  Insert awkward "I didn't mean to invite you over for sex" moment here.  1.  The solution came about too easily, especially since it wasn't a real problem.  2.  Apparently the work isn't that important since you feel you can have a date and do the work at the same time.  3.  Playing coy doesn't work here.  You're backing down from being strong independent characters and reverted to tropes of naive 1950s couples.
     Ben plans to do the classic sitcom date thing and cook Kate dinner at her place.   This is something that I've always thought to be a wee bit weird, and doubly so if you don't know the person.  I made dinner for someone at their place once, but it was chicken pot pie, and I knew them really really well.  How would you just show up with a bag of groceries and put together a great meal?  The logistics of it just don't make sense to me.  Anyway, he arrives, grocery bag of food in hand, and what do you know, best friend Connie is still there.  She was supposed to be leaving, but of course, her date is late, because it wouldn't be a kerfuffle if things just worked out.  Ben accepts this, because he doesn't want to be mean, but he's not happy.  No matter- the couple heads to the kitchen, Ben to cook, and Kate to do paperwork.  Kind of.  She either really really knows how to do that paperwork so well she can do it with shenanigans going on around her, or she sucks so hard at her job, the quality of it doesn't matter anyway.
     There's a scuffle about the kitchen door and a system Connie and Kate have set up to prevent the types of things that happen with swinging kitchen doors and small kitchens.  Obviously, every time someone goes through the door, it's going to create a big problem.  Then, of course, Ben's BFF Larry stops by for a file.  A file?  Really?  Ok writers, lets lay it on the table.  You were sitting around in the room- the show runner scribbled "get all four characters to Kate's apartment" on the white board as your assignment for the day.  But also, it was 10cent wing night, so you put your heads together and thought "what do lawyers do?  we don't know, but we bet files are involved!"  So you decided they had to exchange a file, in person, and it couldn't possibly wait; it was probably a murder trial file.   Computers?  Email?  Well, sure, that's how most people exchange information these days, but these two guys are classic.  So you wrote the most ridiculous conceit you could think of just to get out of the room and gorge yourselves on cheap wings and beer, didn't you?  It's ok, I understand.  Wings are good, and most people probably wouldn't notice anyway.
     So, now, all four of them are at Kate's, interrupting their supposed-to-be-romantic setting-the-tone first date.  Connie and Larry are arguing, because that's what they do.  They are actually funny; Judy Greer and Tyler Labine are fun to watch and make their verbal sparring matches interesting.  They take their supporting always-the-best-friend roles and bring them to the next level.  Them, I like.
     There's some nonsense about Kate caring about Connie being stood up and Ben acts like the nice guy, and has apparently made the fastest romantic dinner ever.  A guy with an iguana shows up (Martin Starr from Freaks and Greeks and Party Down) for more kerfuffle.  Ben gets so worked up he puts his foot down and declares he's taking Kate out for a real date.  She agrees.  This is ridiculous, and I now think being a property manager (what she says her job is) is a front for something because she clearly doesn't actually have to do the work she said she had to do.  It's only been about 5 hours since she first said she couldn't go out.  Now she's even further behind, but she's so overcome with romance, the half-assed job she's sure to do now is totally worth it.  My eyes almost got stuck in the back of my head from the massive roll they did.  Normally I hate when actors are compared to their previous characters, but the thing is, Sarah Chalke was great as neurotic Dr. Eliot Reed.  Part of the reason I tuned in was because of Sarah Chalke.  Anybody can be sweet, it takes a talent to balance the neurotic and the sweet, and come out awesome.  Cut the sweet shit, Sarah.
     Five seconds after Kate gives up on her work, the door gag comes back and Ben gets knocked out.  Wee woo wee woo, we're at the hospital.  Ha ha, funny first date, we end up at the hospital.  The patient in the other bed makes a comment about the first date setting the tone, and I still don't think it's a thing, just a conceit put in by the writers to explain, well, nothing really.
     I possibly drifted off somewhere during the 22 minute show.  It's not terrible, and I really want it to get better.  Larry and Connie are good characters, and I keep hoping that the show is actually about them and there'll be a switch about episode 5 where the titular mad love is actually between them, and Ben and Kate are forced to endure being friends with a couple who should be divorced.  But if that's not the case by mid-March, I will forget this show exists.

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