Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pilot Review: Bent

Bent (NBC)
Premiered March 21 at 9pm

It’s always useful to have a double-dose of a series right away when it premieres, especially when it’s a half-hour sitcom. This show is an interesting new addition to NBC’s Wednesday night lineup, which is autonomous from but not entirely different from its more stable Thursday night fare. In many ways, it’s a traditional comedy that one might find on any network, yet it still looks and feels like a distinctive NBC show. It’s not wholly funny, but its characters are decently endearing, and it’s hard not to smile every once in a while. I enjoyed Pete’s conversation with his father about their contraception situation, which he deemed “awkward and separate,” and I liked Pete’s rapport with Screwsie, both looking at each other carefully to determine if they slept together. David Walton, seen within the past two years on different failed NBC sitcoms, "100 Questions" and "Perfect Couples," is perfectly at home in the role of Pete, and Amanda Peet is always great, and Alex is another terrific showcase for her. They immediately have a great dynamic, and I look forward to seeing it develop. Jeffrey Tambor, Margo Harshman, and Matt Letscher stand out in the supporting cast, and I suppose I’ll get used to the presence of excessive scene-stealer J.B. Smoove from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Matt Damon-lookalike Jesse Plemons, from "Friday Night Lights," as carpenter’s apprentice Gary. I’m not so impressed with Joey King, who played Jess’ student nemesis Briana in a recent installment of “New Girl,” who portrays Alex’s daughter Charlie as way too precocious and distracting of a character. Premiering this show so late into the spring means that I’ll likely have more attention to focus on it, and it could well become one of my regular shows if it remains fresh and funny.

How will it work as a series? This contract job on Alex’s house can’t last forever, but at the rate that Pete and his crew seem to work, he could be there a while. As their sexual tension builds, there are plenty of situations that can arise, as evidenced by the return of Pete’s ex-fiancée and Ben’s efforts to get Charlie to like him. I think this could be a show that, like “Cougar Town,” evolves past its premise when its characters have the chance to develop.
How long will it last? It may not have that chance, of course, given its poor performance on opening night, coming in lower than the quickly-axed “Free Agents.” With NBC’s other Wednesday finishing up their seasons this coming week, this show could stick around if viewers still want to watch something, but I don’t see it making it past the end of the season.

Pilot grade: B

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