January 09, 2005

TV: Committed

First two episodes of this ran last week, and I liked it a lot. It's a dating-couple sitcom, but the characters are quirkier than usual for TV (some, I suspect, will be annoyed and find them to be nothing but quirks), and the actors are appealing.

Josh Cooke and Jennifer Finnigan star as Nate and Marni, who meet on a blind date in the pilot; the second episode jumps ahead at least a few weeks, and they're now a couple. Nate's hopelessly neurotic, terrified of elevators and obsessively worrying about whether emergency exits are blocked. He's got an Ivy League degree, but works in a used-record store because his family has a history of great success followed by spectacular burnout and early death; "every day I work in that record store is a day I'm cheating my destiny."

Marni is eccentric and unfailingly optimistic, and Finnigan has a very distinctive style. Her vocal timbre and rhythms aren't quite like anyone else, and she knows how to use them to get a laugh even when the joke isn't all that funny.

Each has a sidekick, who thus far aren't terribly interesting, but may develop with time into interesting characters. Bowie (Darius McCrary) works with Nate at the record store, and is not shy about offering advice; Tess (Tammy Lynn Michaels) works as a nanny across the hall from Marni's apartment, and is the show's resident wisecracking know-it-all.

The fifth regular character is the weirdest: Tom Poston as a morose clown who lives in Marni's closet. It's a largely silent role, and Poston plays his sight gags with impeccable timing; he's sort of a slower, older Kramer, walking out of his closet every now and then to interrupt the main action.

The writing has some edge to it; you won't find many sitcoms in which "you can't touch me there; you're my uncle" is a punchline, and the second episode is built around Nate's awkward relationship with Marni's friend, Todd, a black man in a wheelchair.

I think it's probably too offbeat to be a massive hit, but if the writing holds up over time and the supporting characters are developed a bit, this could be a really good one.

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