Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pilot Review: Perfect Couples

Perfect Couples (NBC)
Sneak Preview December 20 at 10pm

NBC decided to showcase the new series that will make up one sixth of its new three-hour lineup in mid-January on Thursday nights in an early presentation, and even if it’s not officially the pilot episode, it’s the first glimpse of this show and, as far as we know, the best indication of the show’s quality given its early berthing. The good news is that “Outsourced” is still the worst show in NBC’s comedy block. The bad news is that this is most clearly the second worst - though I don’t personally like “Community,” I can grasp some of its subtler merits, which it seems apparent are entirely absent here. The 2010-2011 TV season has already given us an adequate sitcom about the trials and tribulations of dating, “Better With You.” This show isn’t quite a carbon copy of that because it centers around three couples all the same age rather than a multigenerational assortment. That only makes it less interesting, however, especially since this is such an original premise. After an obnoxious start that simply packs together as many relationship faux-pas as possible, the episode shows its cards too quickly and becomes highly predictable. One of the couples, Rex (Hayes MacArthur) and Leigh (Olivia Munn) is the token quirky, high-functioning duo whose actions and routine are completely unbelievable and serve to distinguish them from the rest of society without necessarily needing problems between the two of them to exist. Trying to combat jet lag by pre-adjusting and learning Italian are reasonable efforts that high-maintenance people might attempt, but this show goes way overboard with it. The same is true of the attempt made by Amy (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) to get her insanely dumb boyfriend Vance (David Walton) to try therapy by tricking him into thinking he was talking to a real estate agent. Comparatively, the lack of romance between Dave (Kyle Bornheimer) and Julia (Christine Woods) is relatively boring. Bornheimer already tried a romantic comedy show earlier this year and failed with “Romantically Challenged.” I much prefer him when he’s in jerk mode rather than in his much performed role as a hopeless sap, and I suppose it’s at least something that Woods isn’t a confused double/triple/quadruple agent like she was on “Flash Forward.” It seems like both Rex and Vance are being positioned as the annoying best friend, which should prove overwhelming and bothersome. Munn doesn’t have anything to do as her character has no personality, and I don’t know what to make of Ellis. This show doesn’t have much to offer, and there’s one thing it could really use: a laugh track. While most shows would be best advised not to have one, it would be helpful to know that, at least somewhere, there’s someone laughing.

How will it work as a series? I suppose there’s some value in having a show where you don’t have to faithfully watch every week since it seems more than likely than there will be no permanent plot developments of this show and it will all be purely circumstantial, situational comedy. My argument for having a laugh track would make it stick out among NBC’s comedy block, where there are no other shows with laugh tracks, but I don’t think this one is going to be too funny or compelling without it.
How long will it last? Slipping it into the slot formerly held by “30 Rock” is not going to impress viewers who used to tune into that show, but it may be safe for a decent amount of time thanks to its embedding with five other comedies. I can’t imagine it being renewed, though somehow “Rules of Engagement,” a throwaway CBS midseason comedy nestled within a comedy block, is entering its fifth season. The post-“Friends” Must-See TV slot killed more shows than it berthed, so I expect this one to go away come upfront time in May.

Pilot grade: D-

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