As mentioned in the review of Bob Hearts Abishola there aren’t many good CBS sitcoms, Mom is the only one which is definitely worth watching with Bob Hearts showing promise but it’s hard to say just yet as to whether or not it’s definitely going to be anything close to essential viewing. But The Unicorn is a very different sitcom from the type they usually make and it looks like it’ll buck the CBS trend for average bland comedy, for one thing it’s a single camera affair rather than a multi-camera, but also it has a pretty impressive cast with Walton Goggins playing the lead and Children’s Hospital’s Rob Corddry and Casual’s Michaela Watkins in supporting roles.
It’s also created by Bill Martin, Mike Schiff (both of whom wrote for the much missed Trial and Error) and Grady Cooper (who’s worked on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Those Who Can’t) so it has some notable names working behind the scenes, all of which suggests that it won’t be a case of a great pilot and then a show which quickly runs out of steam. The premise is strong too, as Walton Goggins plays Wade, a Dad of two daughters who’s recently widowed but has absolutely no interest in dating again, at least until his friends basically stage an intervention and persuade him it’s time.
Corddry and Watkins play a couple who are close friends of Wade’s, as are Omar Benson Miller and Maya Lynne Robinson, with all also being parents who feel very real and natural, and the show’s strikingly truthful about the difficulties of parenting with it containing some great material about how lying is essential. All of them also want the best for Wade and want to see him get out of his rut and start to look for a partner, and it’s nice to see a sitcom where friends genuinely care for each other, and don’t just use someone for their own end.
Admittedly the dating game isn’t exactly original material for a sitcom but it’s approached here in a refreshingly honest way, with Wade’s female friends helping him fill out his online dating profile and explaining just what women want to hear, which is why they amusingly insist that his favourite thing to do in bed is “Cuddle”. Soon Wade gets a bunch of responses and is confused as to why, at least until it’s explained that he’s a “Unicorn” – a devoted father, who had been a faithful husband, whose only had sex with one person for decades, and unlike most on dating sites isn’t someone having a mid-life crisis.
Another big element of this warmhearted and good natured sitcom is Wade’s relationship with his daughters, which again feels very believable and while complicated is something which isn’t filled with angst for once. Yes, one of the daughter’s isn’t ready to see her father move on but rather than being filled with shouty nonsense it’s tackled in a subtle manner, and very effectively too. All of which makes it even more affecting when the Wade’s first date doesn’t go well as he’s defined by the fact that he lost the love of his life, and he wants to be seen as more than this, and it’s his daughters who come through for him.
Everyone in the cast turn in some of their best ever performances, Goggins has played some pretty over the top characters of late in the likes of Vice Principals and The Righteous Gemstones but in this he’s playing it straight as the grieving widower and is a sympathetic and very, very likeable lead, while all of the supporting cast are on top form too, most sitcoms have the odd dodgy actor or character but for once that pleasingly doesn’t apply here.
When it comes to negatives I’m not sure how many seasons they can get out of the concept of a man dating different women, and whether they can manage to keep it feeling fun, natural and smart considering it’s a network comedy and there will be twenty plus episodes a season, but it has a wide range of characters who have been quickly and efficiently introduced and whose lives will hopefully be explored as well. It could also risk becoming saccharine if they’re not careful, but judging the show by just it’s pilot episode and not predicting potential outcomes there’s an awful lot to like about it, sure it’s still a mainstream sitcom but it is a bloody good one.