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TV

Unhitched

Series Premiere
Cast: Craig Bierko, Rashida Jones, Johnny Sneed, Shaun Majumder
Regular airtime: Sundays, 9:30pm ET

(Fox; US: 2 Mar 2008)

Singled Out

Unhitched revels in the surrealist absurdity of dating, but can’t make its central friendship ring true. evels in the surrealist absurdity of dating, but can’t make its central friendship ring true. As its title implies, it focuses on four singles, reentering the dating pool after long-term relationships have failed. They appear to have little in common, except a penchant for bizarre dating situations that sometimes turn the corner to the truly gross. The show combines Seinfeld and a Farrelly brothers’ comedy, toned down for a network audience (and indeed, they are the show’s executive producers).


The types are predictable: only lothario Tommy (Johnny Sneed), already on his third divorce, seems to have any luck with the opposite sex. Straight man Gator (Craig Bierko) sensibly seeks love after his ex left him for a Cirque du Soleil performer. The first episode starts with a promisingly ridiculous incident in which Gator’s first date with an animal lover ends with a disastrous run-in with her amorous pet chimp, hilariously labeled “Bicurious George.” Problem is, this gag occurs within the series’ first five minutes, and Unhitched doesn’t reach this bizarre peak again in the first two episodes.


It does, however, deliver more typical sitcom plots. Freddy (Shaun Majumder) and Kate (Rashida Jones) also end up on outlandish dates. Freddy, a doctor, is so feckless that it’s a stretch to believe he made it through medical school. Like other sweet but clueless TV immigrants, from Apu to Cousin Balky, Freddy is naïve to the point of stupidity about American culture, and the portrayal borders on lazy racial stereotyping. Lonely after his divorce, Freddy spends most of the first episode on an extended dream date with a hired escort. The audience knows where this is going—he is really falling for her and thinks she feels the same—but the point is hammered home when an unfunny Johnny Knoxville shows up as her pimp, demanding exorbitant payment and threatening violence if Freddy doesn’t cough it up.


Kate is similarly humiliated in her romantic exploits, one involving a short man with a peculiar job. Jones’ classy presence makes Kate’s lack of romance luck hard to believe: why would she be forced to date a man who makes his living being thrown through basketball hoops before Celtics games?


It’s hard to see why any of these unlucky daters is friends with the others. They revel in each other’s various embarrassments, but show little in the way of genuine connection to balance out the gross-out jokes and general silliness. Tommy likes to hit on underage girls and stand around in Gator’s house naked, but as he reveals no redeeming qualities, we have to wonder why Kate spends any time with him at all.


This is Unhitched’s fundamental problem. The comedy is ridiculous, but the four friends are most unbelievable. At once professionally successful (Gator is merging his finance business with a large company in Episode One) and yet completely naïve when it comes to their love lives, they are not only lonely, but also dim-witted. And if they’re supposed to be invoking Seinfeld, the comparison can only be bad: their jokes are broad and awkward, without bite or cleverness. 


The question is how long audiences will stick with a show that introduces nothing new to the oeuvre of neurotic small screen singletons. Their bits can be outrageous, including butt-shaving gags and that interspecies sexual encounter, but they might easily become tiresome too.

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