Monday, January 3, 2011

2011: The Year of The Relationship Sitcom...Or Is it?...

Television comedies have come a long way since the days of traditional sitcoms featuring equally traditional, nuclear families. Though a lot of fans may credit Murphy Brown for the venture outside of the home and into the workplace, Friends really took the ball and ran with it by featuring a group as close as any company or family but not related by blood. The idea of centering a story around young individuals, separate from any family unit, opened the book wide for story ideas. Suddenly you had dozens of new dynamics and obstacles coming into play because instead of one central couple dealing with the stress of their jobs and kids, you had (in the case of the latter) six people experiencing work and love and life. The permutations for plots were endless!

But with every group of single friends inevitably comes pairing permutations, too. After all, television is at its most interesting when dissecting relationships between characters, and more often than not shows feel the need to look at romantic relationships in order to really explore the possibilities. And this mid-season there is more of that than ever before!

My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture knew the dating memoir craze had certainly taken off in recent months-- hence why I chose to self-publish my own last summer-- but the trend translated to television, as well, and every major network put into production at least one pilot dealing with the relationships of a close group of friends. That may not seem uncommon, but this mid-season every major network will actually be airing at least one such program. And that is a lot of relationship drama for half-hour comedies to take on! And to be honest? All of the characters sound pretty interchangeable, unlike the colorful one(s) in my own very specific, pretty cautionary tale.

Need proof? See for yourself below!

Premiering first, on FOX, is a single-camera comedy called
Traffic Light, based on an Israeli program of the same name. In this relationship show, we have the three quintessential "types": the stereotypical married couple who are so comfortable with each other they openly complain about attending the others' work functions, the newer, younger couple who are still in the earlier, tiptoeing around each other stage of their relationship, and of course, the single dude, who at least in this case, can at least commit to a dog, if not a girl. FOX may have given this one a green for go, but I'm still on the fence about whether or not I want to commit, too.

CBS, on the other hand has Mad Love, a show only focused on four friends, two of which are in the process of falling in love, while the other two hate each other. The pilot was re-shot before the network agreed to pick it up, and now it stars the comedic genius Judy Greer, who admittedly My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture just wants to see succeed. We have yet to laugh at a new comedy on CBS this season, so if have ever been pulling for them, now is the time to shine! With backing humor from Jason Biggs, Tyler Labine, and Sarah Chalke, this one HAS to be smart, right??
No preview assets available at press time; check back later.

NBC has Perfect Couples, which-- you guessed it-- has six friends, three couples, all who think their relationship is miles above the others'. There is the not-so-reformed party guy and his wife, the maternal type, who actually ends up mothering the whole group at times; there is the high-maintenance, high-strung, overly dramatic couple who are so passionate they end up pushing each other in all of the good ways, and the bad ones; and finally there is the seemingly run-of-the-mill, reliable, "will always just be there" couple. The personalities are strong in this ensemble-- both on-screen and off, yet somehow the show falls flat. There's nothing really wrong with it (other than the fact that I can't figure out how one of the couples "works" at all), but there's nothing really right with it either. Story wise, anyway. The show's major saving grace is Mary Elizabeth Ellis who especially shines and seems to be the single-handed factor that ups everyone else's game.

ABC is making us wait until April for theirs, perhaps to see how the others do first. But they won't be able to adjust accordingly, as their entire first season is already in the can. The tongue-in-cheek titled Happy Endings features a group of friends, two of whom are married to each other, two of whom are single (one is straight, a hopeless romantic, and a little bit desperate, while the other is gay, having fun, and a little bit misguided), and two of whom were about to get married when the pilot opens. Unfortunately the girl leaves the guy at the alter, putting a spin on the norm and disrupting the group dynamic. When she realizes the mistake she made, they attempt to push past it and still hang out as friends, but of course the ripple effects are still somewhat felt. Elisha Cuthbert is charming, even though she does kind of a heinous thing in the pilot, but it is Casey Wilson and Adam Pally who steal scenes with their wacky dating antics. Everyone is so vibrant off-screen, I hope they get their chance to really play to their strengths as the series goes on. That is what made shows like Community really pop and become powerhouses, after all.

And oddly, NBC has two more on their backburner as potential replacements for any of their other shows that fail to perform this spring. Love Bites is slightly different in that it is an hour-long show, telling its dating tales through various stand-alone vignettes, all featuring the theme of love as seen by one single girl and her married couple friends. Friends with Benefits, on the other hand, attempts to be edgy by showcasing a couple of friends who found an attraction years ago and continue to exploit it from time to time, though they are not in a relationship with one another.

Will any of these become the next Friends or even the next How I Met Your Mother? Stay tuned to find out!! And feel free to place your bets in the poll below for which you think has the best shot :)

Which new relationship comedy are you already most excited about?

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