Sunday, September 17, 2006

TV: 'Til Death, Happy Hour

I've seen two episodes each of Fox's two new sitcoms, 'Til Death and Happy Hour, and frankly, I do not consider my life enriched for the experience. But on the other hand, neither of them were anywhere near as terrible as The War at Home, for which I am thankful.

The lesser of the two, in my eyes, is 'Til Death. It stars Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher as a jaded long-time married couple, and Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kat Foster as the idealistic young newlyweds who move in next door. Hilarity ensues! Well, not really.

I've never seen Foster before, but she's lovely and appealing, and I like the other three actors. But the show is so aggressively mediocre. It does nothing interesting or fresh, it has nothing clever to say. It didn't cause me actual physical pain, but I maybe laughed once in the hour's worth of episodes I watched, I maybe smiled two or three times. It's totally disposable entertainment.

As is Happy Hour, but it still appealed to me a bit more. Many critics picked this as the Fall's worst new offering, and I can't really blame them. But there's something about this show's vibe that connected with me. The show is about a mild-mannered guy, Henry, whose girlfriend suddenly dumps him, after he's quit his job and moved to Chicago to be with her. Henry needs a new place to stay, and finds a space available in an apartment in the same building, as the roommate to a wacky, carefree, charismatic party guy, Larry. They're the original Odd Couple! Well, not really.

The lead actor, John Sloan, isn't so much mild-mannered as just plain mild. Bland, really. He reminds me a bit of my first impression of How I Met Your Mother's lead actor -- only without any of the comedy or acting skills. Another actor, Nat Faxon, who plays Larry's ex-roommate, the severely whipped Brad, is equally awful. Two strikes! But the show is saved for me by Lex Medlin as Larry, and Beth Lacke as Amanda, Larry's best friend (and Henry's kind-of love interest). Medlin has an energy and enthusiasm about him that make me, as a perpetually immature dude, wish I could join in on his daily Frank Sinatra-soundtracked, martini-mixing Happy Hours (yes, they really celebrate the titular Happy Hour in Larry's apartment, which sounds like fun to me!). He's often funny despite the weak writing. As is Lacke, who has an awkward, kind of silly delivery so unusual for a pretty woman on TV that's very charming. The show isn't an overall winner, and it's not getting added to the TiVo, that's for sure. But if I were flipping channels and came across Happy Hour, I'd be inclined to keep watching; if it were 'Til Death, I'd keep flipping.

'Til Death: 4 out of 10
Happy Hour: 5 out of 10

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