I really want to like CBS’s new comedy, Mad Love. For one thing, it’s a relationship comedy about twenty-somethings. For another thing, it’s got one of the most well-credentialed casts of all time, topped off by the perfect cherry that is Judy Greer. And then there’s the premise, which hopes to take the “wacky sidekicks” and instead treat them as legitimate leads.
But (and you knew this was coming), the show just isn’t gelling for me. There’s a few reasons for this. The dialog tries way too hard to be witty (this week’s heavily dropped Moby Dick reference being a particularly painful example), and over all the show feels like a How I Met Your Mother rip off. But I could get over both of these, and other late-breaking-shows have started with the stench of rip off, only to blossom into their own brand of greatness (Parks and Recreation, anyone?).
The bigger problem lays in the four person ensemble at the heart of the show. Jason Biggs and Sarah Chalke play Ben and Kate, a picture perfect couple of quirky good guys who meet in the premier and quickly fall in love. The two have cute, sitcom-y flaws, but are basically exceptionally nice and well-intentioned people, especially Ben who seems incapable of anything more devious than simply having Larry Munsch (Tyler Labine) as his best friend. If the series is to have anything resembling longevity (certainly not a safe bet at this point), this couple is going to have to become more than just good-looking and cute together, and as written I don’t see it getting there. If Mad Love wants to be HIMYM, then Ben and Kate are their Robin and Ted, but without the over-zealous douchebag foolishness of Ted, or the emotionally closed off awesomeness of Robin.
The other couple is played by Greer and Labine, and the show is their love story, supposedly. The two characters verbal sparring is okay, mainly for the conviction that Greer and Labine bring to it, but the show is trying to push the “we hate each other, but will eventually love each other” thing too quickly. I guess, in HIMYM terminology, these two could be the Barney and Robin. By having Labine constantly provide voice over that promises us the two will eventually fall for one another, it’s like watching HIMYM if every Barney and Robin scene came with the accompanying Bob Saget voice going, “But don’t worry! These two crazy kids will eventually get over their issues. They’re totally the two getting married when Ted’s the best man!”
It’s odd, I know, that I’m complaining about the pre-ordained nature of Mad Love when comparing it to a show that LITERALLY is based on the fact that all the events are pre-ordained. But where the tantalizing hints, red herrings, and plot developments of HIMYM only serve to further the intrigue of the plot while deepening our relationships with the characters (see especially this week’s Barney-centric episode), the overly pat conclusion of Mad Love makes it practically insufferable, even while its leads try their damndest to bring life to an inherently blase story.
In all, I’ll probably give Mad Love a few more episodes to make its case, and will be happy to recant my statements here if the series gives me reason to. It has flashes of not-quite-brilliance-but-definitely-decency that make me want it to be better. And god damn if Judy Greer doesn’t deserve to be a tv star already.