Television

'Weird Loners' Is Fox's 'Unromantic Comedy'

Judy Hur

The initial set-up contrivances suggest that Weird Loners is not so strange as its title might lead us to think.


Weird Loners

Airtime: Tuesdays, 9:30pm ET
Cast: Becki Newton, Zachary Knighton, Nate Torrence, Meera Rohit Kumbhani
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: Fox
Creator: Michael J. Weithorn
Air date: 2015-03-31
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“At the time this picture was taken, not one of these fourth graders was in a serious or committed relationship.” In a faded class picture, children sit at their desks, each one smiling at the camera. One by one, the children vanish from the picture, leaving behind a relationship status, a blurb that reads “Married in 2004” or “Civil Union in 2009". Eventually, only one student remains, a girl in an empty classroom and without a status. As Weird Loners begins, the child's school photo is replaced with a shot of her current self.

That self is Caryn (Becki Newton), and she's on a date. Her handsome counterpart appears at a distance, the glasses of wine and table decorations creating a wall between him and the overeager Caryn. He edges away from her and the camera, and calls for the check. Her disappointed face provides a new portrait, her relationship status no different from what is was in grade school.

Caryn is one of four relationship-challenged 30-somethings in Weird Loners, a self-described “unromantic” comedy series. All four live in the same building in Queens, an arrangement established in the series premiere. Caryn's grown up to be a high-strung dental hygienist who constantly reminds herself that all her peers are either married or in a relationship. Stosh (Zachary Knighton), a self-absorbed womanizer, is fired from his job and forced out of his company-owned apartment after seducing his boss’ wife. He “offers” to stay with his bizarre cousin Eric (Nate Torrence) and provide him emotional support after his father’s death. Disturbed by furnishings of Eric’s home, Stosh sends him into the city to purchase new décor. Much to his surprise, Eric brings home not only a giant painting, but also its unattached, free-spirited creator, Zara (Meera Rohit Kumbhani). Luckily for Zara, next-door neighbor Caryn just happens to evict her previous roommate, providing Zara with a place to stay.

As such set-up contrivances suggest, Weird Loners is not so fresh as its title might presume. Its protagonists are more familiar than strange, and their stories are clichéd, beginning with the premise that these lovable misfits become "friends". Neither is it news that they form a kind of family; their unconventional situation is now quite conventional.

The term "unromantic comedy” alludes not only to the series' efforts to challenge generic conventions, but also how one can find relationships in mostly predictable and sometimes unlikely ways. The friends' townhome is not only a setting, but also provides easy to read signs for their personalities. Each has a particular living environment designed to reflect their weird loner issues. Caryn, so desperate to settle down, has a kitchen stocked with food. She prepares a multitude of dishes, always unsuccessfully. Zara meditates in a room that is empty and free of clutter, much like her lack of commitment to anything.

Eric’s apartment and behavior are similarly revealing. Traditional in a stifling sort of way, his rooms are filled with relics left behind by his late parents. Quilted blankets drape over couches, framed pictures cover walls and flat surfaces. Whatever space isn’t occupied sits a menagerie of ceramic figurines, dancing women and milkmaids all proudly displaying his Polish heritage. On the other hand, his cousin Stosh doesn’t have a home at all and prefers to flit between Eric’s place and those the women he beds.

Stosh's interactions with his new friends suggest he's going to be learning some lessons from them, or rather, they'll all learn from each other as they repeatedly land in each other's homes. During the first episode, Stosh breaks into Caryn’s kitchen, Eric watches Stosh sleep in his late father’s room or Caryn disturbs Zara as she meditates. While some of us might consider living spaces private, in a sitcom, even an "unromantic" one, homes provide opportunities for intrusion.

Despite Caryn's best hopes, Weird Loners is not about people attempting to settle down. Even as she seeks a boyfriend, she and her cohorts spend a lot of time together, offering comfort and occasional jokes. “What does it sound like when all the pieces fit?” a disheartened Caryn asks after her failed engagement party. She's sitting with her new family on a bench in the park, watching an outdoor wedding from a distance. Their backs are a blur in the foreground while the wedding is clear and bright in the distance.

And so they do what audience members do: they impose their own narratives on what they're watching. “You’re in luck. I read lips,” Eric instigates. And so he and the others attempt to lip-read the wedding, their efforts by no means accurate: “And now, by the powder infested in bees, you may fist with pride.” But the imperfect lip reading reflects the lives of these weird loners. Their separate lives become intertwined, and they end up providing each other friendship and support, albeit imperfectly.

5

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