Mad Love - 101 - Fireworks
Wow, another show about twenty-thirty somethings in relationships. This is getting strange.
I guess network executives know that there is a gap in the market since Friends ended and they want to fill it. As I've noted before How I Met Your Mother is very successful and Hollywood seems to be trying to replicate that show rather than Friends itself.
If you've read the post I wrote about Perfect Couples and Traffic Light (http://www.thetvcritic.org/perfect-couples-and-traffic-light/) I tried to explain there the problem I have with these relationship-centric shows. I talked then about the sense that time wasn't passing and characters weren't growing. After watching Mad Love I see another aspect of these comedies that I don't like which is the exclusive focus on relationships as the centre of the show rather than characters.
Mad Love follows the How I Met Your Mother pattern very closely by beginning the story with a relationship forming and making that the focus of the narrative. For me it's tough to care as much about characters when the side of them we get to know is entirely build on their romantic life and nothing else. Here we have Ben and Kate practically falling in love and we don't even know what they do for a living yet. We have no reason to care about them at all and already we are being asked to invest in a love story. It's clear that we are also meant to root for best friends Connie and Larry to hook up as well which makes the show feel very limited. So far we have only met two other characters and the show feels like a romantic comedy where we already know the ending before we have begun.
By becoming a couple in episode one where is there left for Ben and Kate to go? Are they going to break up and get back together over and over? Are they going to become tedious like Lily and Marshall by going through one freak-out after another but always coming back together in the end? I feel like these shows built entirely around romance are wearing a straight jacket and will find it tough to branch out and write stories that are interesting and funny outside of the romance.
I also don't see much characterization here. Ben and Kate are both generically generic. He works in an office and she dropped her phone down the toilet. That's all we know. Larry is given every fat lazy sleazy guy cliché and Connie doesn't talk like a human being. Almost all of Connie's dialogue was the over stylized, over thematic, rehearsed sounding, supposedly funny put downs that have become increasingly unreal and obnoxious on How I Met Your Mother. "If the only thing produced in the entire world were alcohol. So right now I'm imagining a world where all the textiles and lumber and oil are instead, alcohol. There still wouldn't be enough alcohol in the world to make me sleep with you." Who talks like that? Some Hollywood writer has spent years honing their craft to come up with that?!
How about defining characters as individuals with quirks and foibles and specific traits that drive comedy? Initially How I Met Your Mother did an ok job with that making Marshall over-excited and child-like where Robin was tom-boyish and afraid of intimacy. But as the years have gone on those characters all sound the same as they announce this garbled Hollywood wit instead of being written to respond to their friends as if they were actually real people.
Mad Love seems fine. The four leads are all pretty good. I'm sure most of you know Jason Biggs from American Pie and Sarah Chalke from Scrubs. I haven't seen Tyler Lavine before but have heard good things and I know Judy Greer from a bunch of things (How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, It's Always Sunny, Arrested Development). I have no doubt the four of them will deliver the material given to them with skill. But I have zero faith in the writing after these twenty two minutes.
Did I mention that Mad Love is on CBS? Who also show How I Met Your Mother? Did I mention that Biggs looks and acts just like Ted Mosby? Right down to the "I'm a professional guy in a suit but I will geek out and get excited about Bat Man at the drop of a hat." Did I mention that Sarah Chalke already spent a year on How I Met Your Mother playing Ted's girlfriend? Did I mention that just like HIMYM this show has a narrator, a post-produced laugh track and shots of the New York skyline in between scenes?
I understand that networks like CBS are looking to create successful shows. I know that the easiest way to be successful is to imitate something that already works. So I won't go on a rant about originality and ask why new fresh ideas aren't being commissioned. I already know why.
What I will ask is why is no one learning from good TV? Why is no one going back and watching season one of Friends and imitating that? Or Frasier or Seinfeld? A show about clearly defined people living a full life with families, friends and co-workers. Why do all these comedies have to come packaged as romantic comedies only?
Well that was more rambling and off the point than I usually get. But needless to say I don't plan on writing more about Mad Love unless something very strange happens.