I’m always a fan of the plus-sized odd couple sitcom model- you know, the trope that throws more than 2 people together as roommates even though they have nothing in common. The Golden Girls, for example, or, more recently, New Girl; it’s a setup that often pays off with fun misadventures and heartfelt common-ground-achieving. So, on the merits of that premise, I think TV Land’s newest scripted offering has promise. While the channel’s first big hit Hot in Cleveland has its ensemble of mildly disparate middle-aged (plus Betty) women, The Exes sports a band of wildly disparate middle-aged dudes, thrown in together by their well-intentioned divorce lawyer-come-landlord (played with that lonely-sexy gruff sincerity that superb comedienne Kristen Johnston has perfected). At the moment, the show is merely cute, but with some clever scripting it could grow to an excellently enjoyable level of underrated charm.
Our titular ex husbands are a motley crew in danger of caricature but also fully capable of nuance, given a bit more time on the air. The alpha male of the house is beloved sitcomer Donald Faison, whose undeniable charm lifts a potentially skeezy-meets-cheesy pilot plot wherein his character Phil manipulates his new roommate Stuart so that he can get laid then has a change of heart and gets all supportive and stuff. Stuart, as played with pathetic sweetness by David Alan Basche, is the just-divorced ideal husband of the group. He cooks, he cleans, he sorts, he worries, and he drives his new roommates crazy, which is unfair, but it’s where we’re imagining conflict comes from. Stuart’s inability to function as an unmarried man and Phil’s sensei-of-dating ways will likely take centre stage as the show moves forward, with roommate #3- Wayne Knight’s Newman-like Haskell- chirping in for the occasional one-liner or weirdo B plot. But while Faison and Basche can surely hold down the fort, I’m putting stock in Johnston’s proud but dysfunctional mother hen Holly as the series’ most promising character. Her pint-sized wild child assistant Eden (Kelly Stables) will mostly stir up some drama among the men, but it’s Holly’s own romantic backstory that has me the most intrigued, especially in how it will dictate her relationship with her friends/clients/tenants across the hall.
It may not be the most inspired show around, but TV Land’s Exes at the very least have me interested.