“This show is nothing like anything you’ve ever seen on television before. I think there’s limits that they push in half-hour comedy.”
—Eric Christian Olsen
...well, I suppose that’s partly true. There aren’t many TV shows that have used the word “douche” in more ways than this one.
Truth is, and this is no surprise, The Loop is quite a bit like a lot of things you’ve seen on television before. A typical fish-out-of-water scenario is played out by primary protagonist Sam Sullivan (Grounded for Life‘s Bret Harrison), a 24-year-old hotshot airline exec who seemingly can do no wrong in the eyes of his boss, a bitter veteran named Russ (consummate professional Philip Baker Hall), who seems to give him a bonus/promotion at every opportunity. Even presenting a speech to the board of directors in a Sharpie-generated bra gets him kudos, as Russ sees every “quirky” uncomfortable situation as a sign of the youthful point of view that his prized protégé (who he has amusingly nicknamed “Thesis”, after the inspiration for his hire) brings to the table.
While Sam’s corporate career takes off, however, his home life is in a state of arrested development, as evidenced by a brother Sully (Eric Christian Olsen) who is basically living off of his younger sibling, a dizty bartender named Lizzy (Sarah Mason), and a studious BFF named Piper (Amanda Loncar) who he, like, totally wants, all of whom are still living with him in a four bedroom apartment. Naturally, they distract him from his job, leading to the sorts of wacky hijinks this sort of show requires.
If none of this seems particularly original, it’s because it isn’t particularly original in idea, nor in execution. The single-camera-sans-laughtrack style of the show is very The Office when Sam is in the boardroom, very much an “edgy” take on Scrubs when he’s back at the apartment, complete with irreverent indie-rock background music (including the fantastic theme song “Hockey Monkey” from James Kochalka Superstar) and plenty of bending of the fourth wall.
Despite the lack of originality (not to mention any of the actors’ delusions of such), however, there are a few things that actually push The Loop out of the realm of “loathsome imitation” into “appealing distraction” territory, not least of which is the innocence of Sam and his group of friends. No, they’re not innocent in the ways we would typically define the term; these kids have dirty mouths and dirty minds and they’re not afraid to use them. Perhaps youthful naïveté would be a better term. It’s no accident that one of the show’s catchphrases, uttered by multiple characters as they’re doing something unabashedly fun yet utterly, irrevocably stupid, is “I’m gonna live forever!” It’s a world where irresponsibility often leads to physical pain, but rarely to long-term repercussions. It’s hard not to smile at a device like a zip cord to a falafel cart, quietly thinking about what a good idea it is even as we can see serious injury coming from a light year away.
Away from the apartment, the airline finds its sharpest moments in its satire of a woman’s place in the corporate machine. It’s impossible to get away from the sight of crowds of old men sitting around a table saying yes to each other, even as Russ’ constant second-in-command is the predatory Meryl, a walking case of sexual harassment waiting to happen that nobody seems to mind because of her gender. Even as it is implied that she slept her way to the top, the revelation that she’s more qualified and more mentally together than any of the men that surround her grounds her as a motivated realist. Newcomer Joy Osmanski’s Darcy is perfect as the dry-as-a-bone, bitter receptionist who resents working underneath a same-aged member of the boys’ club that is corporate America. Together, relative bit players Meryl and Darcy present a far more interesting fish-out-of-water scenario than Sam’s none-too-subtle treading of the partying / pencil-pushing line.
The DVD extras, for their part, are basically non-existent, save for a brief, basically useless 10-minute making-of featurette featuring lots of PR-speak and happy actors apparently having lots of fun; it’s unclear whether Fox simply didn’t want to pony up the dough to bring anyone back for commentary or new interviews, or if everyone was just too sore after the experience to want to bother.
The Loop lasted all of seven episodes in its first post-American Idol season / audition on Fox, and despite reports that further episodes of the show are in production and scheduled to show up this summer, it’s hard to imagine that much of anyone other than those who collect these sorts of DVDs will care either way whether it does or not. It’s a bit of a shame, too—as a first-season comedy, it showed flashes of the sort of quick-hit, chemistry-based comedy that could make for a surprise hit. Still, the fact that it did look, on the surface, like just another Fox sitcom in an endless parade of Fox sitcoms that try to “push the envelope” via crude dialogue and pretty partying people, ultimately doomed it to the forgotten land, a “first season” DVD that may, by this time next year, be marketed as an “entire series” DVD. It seems that even as plenty of Sam’s best qualities were reflected in the show that idealized him, The Loop was ultimately done in by too much Russ.