'Undateable' Review: An Uninspired First Impression
'Undateable' Review: An Uninspired First Impression
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
With a few exceptions, good and successful comedy series are, if not dead, on life support. NBC is hoping to revive its anemic comic line up with the new multi-camera series Undateable. The show follows the antics of a group of friends, and their lackluster romantic lives. Undateable's cast features primarily young stand-up comics known mostly to their fans and nobody else.

Leading man Danny (Chis D'Elia) is a commitment phobe man-child who, while looking for a roommate, meets bar owner Justin (Brent Morin) who not only needs a place to live but some serious help in jump starting his love life. Danny's recently divorced sister Leslie (Bianca Kajlich), Justin's crush and cocktail waitress.bartender Nicki (Biga Heelan), Justin's recently out-of-the-closet bartender Brett (David Fynn) and barflies Burski (Rick Glassman) and Shelly (Ron Funches) round out the group.

NBC executives and the show's creators are obviously trying to emulate the phenomenal success CBS has had with its comedies: The Big Bang Theory, Mike and Molly, Two and Half Men and Two Broke Girls. Undateable's Executive Producer Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Spin City, Cougar Town) is confident his predominately inexperienced actors are up to the challenge,"The multi-camera skill set involves, first and foremost, being funny. Secondly, being able to vibe off the audience and hold for laughs, and third, acting." Multi-camera simply means that the show is shot indoors with a limited number of sets, and scenes are shot from simultaneous angles. Comedies like Modern Family, The Mindy Project and New Girl are all shot with a single-camera setup.

Unfortunately, for Lawrence and the cast, Undateable just isn't funny. A lot of the jokes feel as if they've been lifted from a ten-year-old stand up routine at the Ha Ha Cafe. This can probably be attributed to the fact that the actors are given a great deal of leeway to improvise. Either the writing isn't very good, or the cast doesn't have much respect for the scripts they've been given. Roseanne, The Drew Carey Show, Home Improvement and Seinfeld all featured successful comedians who integrated aspects of their stand up into the early episodes of their sitcoms, but the shows really found their respective grooves once the ensembles and the writers built upon the initial material.   

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Also, it's important to remember that Jerry Seinfeld had his everyday observational humor while Roseanne Barr focused on the funny aspect of being a blue-collar working mother and wife. Undateable is supposed to have a cohesive thematic premise: that at some point or another in every person's life, for one reason or another, they are unappealing to the opposite sex. The show's tagline is "Every underdog has his day." But, this really isn't the case for most of the characters. Danny starts out as a greasy-haired, ruggedly attractive love guru to this group of guys, but soon the show's focus shifts more to the burgeoning friendship between Danny and Justin. This leaves the other characters, with the exception of Nicki, just kind of hanging around providing less than witty commentary.

NBC has a proud history when it comes to comedies. This is the network that aired Cheers, Friends and Seinfeld. All were ensemble shows with fairly unknown casts (at the time) that wound up becoming long-running, financially lucrative and syndicated. A word of advice to Undateable's creative team: if you don't want to suffer by comparison, don't make one of the two primary settings of your show a bar, a coffee house or a diner.

What's most surprising about Undateable is the show actually had an advantage going in; most of the cast members have known each other for years from the comedy club circuit. They were already friends and just had to translate that chemistry onto the small screen. But it just feels like everybody's looking out for themselves, seeing who can get the biggest laugh.

It speaks volumes how far the once mighty NBC has fallen when Lawrence states that in the world of network comedy, the bar is set fairly low for new shows therefore giving them a better chance at survival. Even with that ringing endorsement, it's unlikely Undateable will hook even the most bored and desperate summer TV viewer. The characters are all underdeveloped. Why bother having an ensemble cast if you're not going to give each member a background, a story arc, a raison d'etre?

So, if NBC's counting on Undateable to resuscitate its ailing comedic offerings, it might be a better idea to just pull the plug altogether.

Undateable premieres Thursday, May 29 at 9pm on NBC

(Image courtesy of NBC)