Almost funny

Unhitched  just isn’t gross enough
By MIKE MILIARD  |  March 11, 2008

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UNHITCHED: Rashida Jones left The Office for this?

The more I watch shows like Unhitched (Fox, Sundays at 9:30 pm), the more resentful I am that shows like Arrested Development get cancelled. It’s not that the Farrelly Brothers’ new TV venture is especially bad (though it’s far from great). More that it’s incredibly, inexplicably unimaginative. Why do smart shows get the ax while dumb ones take their place?

And Rashida Jones left The Office for this? Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to still have her around every week. But she’s wasting her time with these losers. Jones’s Kate is a divorce lawyer, herself recently divorced, who hangs around with three other divorcees. Jack (Craig Bierko) is a good-looking corporate type whose romantic misadventures include, but are not limited to, getting sodomized mid coitus by his date’s pet orangutan. Freddy (Shaun Majumder) is a meek and geeky Indian surgeon whose exaggerated accent makes Apu Nahasapeemapetilon sound dignified. Tommy (Johnny Sneed) is a crass and classless cad whose ex-wives almost outnumber his empty beer bottles.

If there’s anything to recommend Unhitched to readers of this paper, it’s the show’s setting. The friends hang out in an impossibly well-appointed Back Bay condo. Paul Pierce has a quick cameo in the pilot. (Kate’s dating a guy she assumes is a Celtics exec — but once he’s ensconced her in courtside seats, he runs onto the parquet and rips off his suit to reveal he’s the team’s mascot, Lucky the Leprechaun.) And in the second episode, Kate visits Avalon to see her date perform — only to discover, to her chagrin, that he’s an air-guitarist. Funny, right? (I was prepared to criticize the now-shuttered Avalon’s inclusion as an inexcusable inaccuracy, but later a bouncer mentions losing his job because “the club closed.”)

The idea of four newly single thirtysomethings thrown back into the dating pool without life vests has potential. And the Farrelly brothers — Bobby and Peter produce, Peter has directed one episode — would seem well suited to exploit the excruciating awkwardness of various romantic disasters, be they psychological or physical. Who can cleanse their mind of indelible images like a scrotum stuck in a zipper, or a drop of semen dangling from an ear?

But here the Farrellys seem to be phoning it in. The plots are loose and formless, leaping from one set piece to the next with nary a narrative thread. And the laughs are few and far between. Prior to watching the second episode, I warned my fiancée that the pilot hadn’t been exactly promising. As the 22 minutes wore on, she’d occasionally blurt out, “See, that was sort of funny!” Never a good sign.

That said, the second episode was slightly better than the first. There may be hope. Its funniest scene involves the unexpected removal of a shrimp-shaped “skin tag” from the back of Jack’s date. The procedure, safe to say, does not end well.

If the show can produce more such squirm-inducing moments, Unhitched could end up being worthwhile. The cast, at least, embrace the middling material with admirable aplomb. And, hey, I’m willing to give any show set in Boston a chance. It doesn’t have to be Cheers.

Or Arrested Development, for that matter. In many cases, as LA Weekly’s Robert Abele put it, the marching orders of “Hit your mark, sell your dirty joke, move on” work just fine. But in the meantime, Unhitched has work to do. And it seems even Fox is less than confident. Instead of selling episodes for $1.99 on iTunes, it’s giving downloads away for free. One customer’s verdict: “You get what you pay for.”

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