Created by Greg Malins, a writer / producer on Friends, Will & Grace, How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls, given his solid yet not exactly inspiring previous work I was expecting this to be a fairly traditional and fairly bland sitcom from the man. But it’s actually a pretty smart and sometimes amusingly odd comedy, which boasts a great cast too in the form of Jay Harrington, Amy Sloan, James Van Der Beek and Jane Krakowski.
The way it introduces it’s characters is fairly innovative as at the beginning we’re watching a televised apology from a Senator Weston (a cameo from Tom Selleck) who’s confessing live on tv that he not only cheated on his wife but that he also used public funds for sex apparatus and that he’s a frequent drug user, with his apology including nicely bizarre lines like “Did I try to return a cheerleader costume after it had been used nine times?” with the answer of course being in the affirmative.
It soon becomes apparent that the one of the two men viewing it from a bar, Spencer (Jay Harrington), used to work for him but is now out of a job. He’s with Ozzie (James Van Der Beek), a friend who also works in politics but whose specific job title is never revealed except that he knows a number of alarming truths about the world that no normal man would, and which this pilot episode gets a lot of strong laughs out of.
They’re soon joined by their friend Sloane (Jane Krakowski) who turns out to be the woman the Senator cheated with, and who we learn has a bit of a problem when it comes to resisting powerful men, as Ozzie comments “It’s you, again?” and Sloane replies “What was I supposed to do? Say No?”, on paper they might not seem like the funniest lines but the actors deliver them perfectly to elicit a big laugh.
It turns out that this isn’t the first time it’s happened to Spencer either as he laments his bad luck as six of the politicians he’s worked for have fucked up, as this is a show with a very healthy disdain for those in power indeed. But then to shake things up a bit and add a slightly more traditional element to the show Charlotte (Amy Sloan) enters the bar, an old school colleague of Spencer’s who is having a shite old time of it being broke, homeless and freshly single, they didn’t used to be friends but she’s desperate for help and is clearly on hand to set up a “Will They / Won’t They” romantic subplot.
The rest of the episode revolves around both of them applying for what they initially presume is the same job with a different Senator, with a couple of cute scenes where independently of each other they’re given advice on how to get the job, with Ozzie bizarrely suggesting Spencer wears pantyhose (it helped soldiers relax in Iraq, supposedly) while Sloane offers up the dodgy suggestion that if Charlotte “pop’s out a boob” she’ll no doubt get the job as “If the guy is a pervert, and they usually are, then you’re in”.
Both of their interviews go badly but thankfully the nudity is off screen rather than on it, and despite the Senator pointing out that Charlotte is a gambling addict and not exactly being impressed by Spencer’s announcement concerning his pantyhose wearing ways, they both get the job – with the big reveal at the end being that they were actually going for different roles and not competing against each other despite what they believed, and now Spencer’s going to be her boss. This last bit is the one misstep out of the entire episode, where it descends in to more traditional sitcom tropes, but it still has the odd funny moment so is no means a terrible way to end the pilot, just a slightly bland one.
Apart from the ending they go to the “Wow, what a slut Jane Krakowski’s character is!” well a few too many times, but otherwise I’ve nothing but good things to say about the show. Harrington and Sloan make for very appealing leads while Krakowski and Van Der Beek are nicely weird supporting roles, and the jokes about all of the things Van Der Beek knows but shouldn’t (it’s safe to drink the water now, someone tried to blow up Disneyland) are strong indeed.
What impressed me the most about the show was how it handled the political element, mild mockery of politicians is nothing new but the knives really are out here, and if the show had carried on in this vein it would have set it out from all of the sitcoms on network tv. That sense of mischief carries on elsewhere in the pilot as well and all in all it’s a really fun sitcom, the set up allows for a lot of smart, occasionally strange jokes, and it’s yet another that you can add to the “Why didn’t they give this a full season? What the fuck’s wrong with them? Jesus I want to hit them with hammers” list of failed pilots.