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Fourth-episode verdict: Undateable (NBC)

Posted on June 12, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerUndateable.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC

Not that I’m suggesting NBC's Undateable is needy or anything, but after two weeks, it’s already shown us four episodes and is asking for validation. Time to back away and break the bad news to it?

Not quite. So what if its sense of humour isn’t that great and it’s made a few mistakes? It’s really trying and has winning personalities so maybe we should just stick with it until it works out what it needs to be doing.

At a time when just about every drama and comedy is telling men (particularly nerds) that they don’t need to try hard, don’t need to look good, don’t need to be sensitive or consider what women want and don’t need to change, Undateable is giving us something different: a show in which the sensitive guy who tries hard and gets to know the girl wins through, while the cool alpha male has to learn that treating women as disposable objects is a distinctly uncool thing to do.

After a couple of episodes that set up the show’s basic premise and lead characters, episodes three and four again did different something unexpected and interesting: rather than string out the central “nerd pines after woman” plotline for a season or more as any other show would have done (eg The Big Bang Theory), essentially sending out the unwholesome message that if you stalk a woman for long enough, she’ll eventually give in and have sex with you, Undateable followed in Ground Floor’s footsteps and (spoiler alert) simply paired up the two central characters, giving the woman in question (Briga Heelan) a good motivation for doing so at the same time. It effectively nullifies the show’s title, but provides a much needed education to certain members of the audience, so no great loss.

Episode four continued this theme and flipped it on its head, giving alpha male (Chris D’Elia) a taste of his own medicine so that he has to learn from the nerd how to be nice to a woman for a change so that he’s at least in with a chance of a second date with a woman who used him the way he uses women. The supporting cast are getting a little more characterisation, with the English gay character (David Fynn) getting a look in in episode four and the overweight Shelly (Ron Funches) being the focus of episode three, which was also the first episode to properly address the show’s notional location of Detroit.

It's all very worthwhile public information but not quite as funny as it should be. The continued repetition of jokes that weren’t funny in the first place needs to stop. Brent Morin’s nerdy character is a bit of a cock and not especially likable, even if he is sensitive, and while the producers had a good off-screen reason for all the singing in Ground Floor - both Heelan and co-star Skylar Astin have singing training, Astin was, of course, one of the stars of Pitch Perfect and the two characters hang around a karaoke bar a lot - here it feels forced and unnecessary. There’s not a huge amount of chemistry among the cast, either. No one feels especially like a real person and although there are various digs at Fynn’s Britishness (some of which he counters), he feels more like an American with an English accent than someone genuinely English - slightly unsurprising given that his character was originally played in the pilot by American actor Matthew Wilkas.

But it’s trying, there are surprising moments - two male characters, one gay, having a bubble bath together, to prove the straight one isn’t uptight, for example - Heelan’s always worth watching and D’Elia has so far grinned at his own jokes only once, which must have taken iron self-control on his part. Although it’s not quite gelling at the moment, given time and the pedigree of the leads and the producers, it could settle down into a pretty decent ensemble comedy.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Will last a season and might even be renewed for a second one

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